The furniture I bought during the New Year’s holiday finally arrived. By the time they arrived, I almost forgot what they looked like. I’m so used to comparing products online. Buying furniture proved to be an entirely different experience.
Although many stores sell furniture, there is actually very little information online. Many furniture stores don’t put their inventory on their website. Those that do omit meaningful information. They give the furniture a nice-sounding name: a “Madison Park” collection or a “San Marco” dining table. Who makes it? They don’t tell you the name of the manufacturer. What’s it made of? “Select hardwood and veneer.”
When I buy shoes from Zappos or Endless, I see them in six different angles. When they show furniture that costs many times more, I only get to see one picture. How tall are the drawers? They don’t tell you.
So much for looking for furniture online. Off I went to the stores. It’s not any less confusing at the stores than shopping online. What am I supposed to look at? Just the style and the dimension, like women’s clothing? Or the quality of the material and workmanship too? How do I tell good quality from bad? I have no idea.
No worries, stores have design consultants, aka salespeople. They are like full-service brokers. The service is “free” as long as you buy from them. Their readiness to help gives me the impression that there’s got to be at least 100% markup in the prices.
Ah, prices. Unless I go to stores of the same chain, no two stores sell the same pieces. Strict apples-to-apples price comparison is out of the question. Is this piece at store A more expensive than that piece at store B because it’s better quality, or is it just more expensive for no reason? How much is quality worth? I have no idea.
Like jewelry in mall department stores, furniture is always on sale. 30% off is an everyday event. Sale ends on Sunday, but don’t worry, there will be another one on Monday. And the strangest thing is, with that kind of markup, furniture stores go out of business all the time.
Although I didn’t know what I was doing, I had to make a decision. I spent a non-trivial amount of money based on limited judgment. Some investors must feel the same way when they face thousands of investment choices at different price points.
I still have to buy furniture for a couple more rooms. Do you have any tips about furniture shopping? Or are you just as confused as I was?
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