Goldilocks and the three chairs…

Faced with a potentially huge selection of furniture, it is easy to see how consumers get confused and find it difficult to make the right choices. Furniture sellers themselves recognise the concept of buyer fatigue which can occur even more so when purchasing a big ticket item – consumers can be quite simply overwhelmed.

What if it is too big?The Association of Master Upholsterers & Soft Furnishers (AMSUF)
What if it is too small?
How can I get it just right?

At The Furniture Ombudsman, we are often faced with complaints which are subjective in nature. These can be particularly difficult to manage when the law has an objective standard. Sounds a bit legal? Let me explain what I mean.

We can all sit on the same chair or view the same dining furniture in store and react very differently to it in terms of our personal preference for comfort and aesthetics. I would probably buy a differently tensioned mattress to you and find it comfortable and we would almost certainly disagree on the colour of my sofa. We are all different and have differing needs and requirements and we all see the world from a different perspective.

So what tips would I give to help you make sure you are buying the right furniture for you? I have 5 Golden Rules relating to the questions that I would recommend you ask before you enter into a contract to ensure that your furniture will be just right – for you.

Do your research, ask: Is it fit for my purpose?

There are many different products on the market and one size certainly does not fit all. Do your research before even visiting the store. It is a legal requirement that the goods are fit for usual and common purposes, but do you have a specific purpose that you need the goods to address? Certain fabrics may be less advisable if you have children or pets; certain fillings may require more maintenance; you may have a particular purpose which you want the furniture to fulfil. If you do, make this known to the business and get them to make a note of this. If the business is aware of your specified purpose and the goods do not work as intended, you may be able to claim a remedy in respect of this, but you should keep a written record of what has been agreed as evidence.

Can I maintain it?

All furniture requires some maintenance and this can be to quite startlingly differing degrees. So, make sure you know what is expected of you and that you are happy that you can carry this out. Some goods need significantly more maintenance that others and not following the care instructions can shorten the life of your furniture and may invalidate any claim.

Will it fit in my house?

Whether the goods can actually be delivered into your home is your responsibility. So you should make sure that the items will fit; it is safe and practical for the delivery team to access and make the retailer aware if you live on the third floor of an apartment block or down a narrow country lane. You should also take care before the arrival of the delivery team to move any precious or items with a sentimental value from the delivery route – accidents do happen. Taking measurements away and double checking these, before entering the contract, is advisable – something I have learned to my own cost!

What happens next? 

You should never leave a store not knowing what happens next…
– When will it be delivered (this will only be an estimate unless the business has agreed to deliver within a time which is essential to you), and by whom?
– Will the retailer be contacting you again before booking in the delivery?
– Can I cancel the contract if I change my mind and if so, when do I have to notify the business? Remember, unless you enter into a distance contract there is no automatic cancellation or cooling off rights, so you may want to ask whether there is there a cancellation charge.
– Do I have all the relevant documentation?

What if I have an issue after the goods are delivered?

Ask the business whether they are a member of an Ombudsman or other redress scheme – this is a good indicator that they are committed to good customer service and will give you the peace of mind that you have an independent forum to review any issue which the business is unable to address.

Being organised and taking the time to ask questions before you buy and knowing what you are looking for will help you get it right first time. Never feel rushed into making a decision and ask as many questions as you need to – that is what the sales staff are there for.

Goldilocks learned an important lesson about buying furniture when she entered the house of the three bears – not all furniture is suitable for everyone. The market reflects that we are not all the same and the selections which are available cater for all our tastes. Follow the 5 Golden Rules and make sure that find the right choice for you, be it large, small or just right.

Judith Turner
Head of ADR & Senior Ombudsman
The Furniture Ombudsman

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