How to Buy Office Furniture Online

More and more, box stores like Wal-Mart and Office Max are unable to carry a large selection in the stores, and hordes of customers are choosing to buy their office furniture online. But how do you do that successfully? What pitfalls are there to avoid? Office furniture expert Kevin Scott shares his thoughts on the best practices in buying for your office online, as well as how to assess online companies in your search.


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    Figure out what you're looking for. There are thousands upon thousands of desks to choose from, and hundreds and hundreds of websites you could buy those desks and other office items from. So what is the place to start? It is in figuring out what you want. Start with the desk, and start browsing pictures of office desks. Figure out if you want a wooden executive desk, or a desk with a hutch, or a modern glass desk, or a corner computer desk. Once you know what you want, it will be much easier to continue your search for those sorts of desks. Further, it will simplify finding other office furniture products you might need, like bookcases or filing cabinets, since many times desks offer matching products in the same look or wood finish.
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    Once you know what you're looking for, start shopping. Browse through the desks offered on some of the top office furniture websites. Chances are you will find a desk you like on one of those sites.
    • When you find a desk you like, check at the other sites you have been scouring for the same product to make sure you find the best price. You should be able to locate the same product either by the product code (SKU) or by typing in the name of the product's "collection" (Manhattan Collection, for example).
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    • If you can't locate the product on other sites, it may be exclusive to a particular site. But more likely that site has changed the name or product code to make it appear exclusive. If you are having trouble, the best way to locate the item to be able to compare price is to ask for the manufacturer's name. They will give this to you when you ask, and you can look for an accurate product code on the manufacturer website.
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    • Any product worth its salt will definitely have a manufacturer with an active website where you can view the product. However, most manufacturers in this space do not sell directly to customers, which is good for the consumer because retailers typically provide better customer service, and the competition drives the prices down.
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    Once you have decided where you are going to buy the product from, it is very important to read the website's terms and conditions very carefully.
    • Every website with items for sale will list their legal terms and conditions, which you agree to when you purchase from that site. Usually these are fairly standard and harmless, but it is very important to read the fine print.
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    • Look specifically for their return policy, and for how they handle issues related to damage. You should have complete assurance from the company that if any damage occurs, they will make it right and replace all damaged parts quickly and for free. If that is not stated, stay away from that company.
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    • There are many advantages to buying office furniture online (convenience, price, no tax, selection) but one of the downsides is that it costs companies a lot of money to ship the items to you. This is not a problem for you the consumer except when it comes to returns.
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    • It is not a simple thing to return a 300 pound product. Many companies just say returns are not possible, and others try to accommodate but explain that there will be fees associated with returning an item. Just know going into it that this is the major challenge buying online, but the benefits outweigh this negative.
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    • The main thing to know is that you need to do your "research" on the front end, BEFORE you complete your purchase. This means making sure the furniture will fit in your space, making sure the furniture is built by a quality manufacturer, etc. Ask lots of questions until you are satisfied first of all in their product and second of all that you are getting fast and good answers (showing you are working with a quality retailer).
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  • Ask questions about the product(s) you are looking at, making sure it is a quality product (ask what it's made of, if there is a warranty on it, if there have been lots of issues with defect or damage, etc.).
  • Call the retailer you are planning to buy from at least once. If it takes 10 minutes to speak with a human, RUN! Companies who aren't good at answering the phones for potential sales will be TERRIBLE when it comes to any issues with your order.
  • Pay a few extra dollars to a good company rather than save a few bucks by going with the cheapest (but potentially worst) company. Make sure that the company you are buying from is top-notch; there are great companies that sell office furniture and there are terrible ones, and the company you buy from is second in importance only to choosing a quality product.
  • Ask if you can get a discount, or if there are any coupons running. In 99% of the cases the retailer will offer some sort of discount. If they don't I actually would be inclined not to buy from them. If they are priced competitively they may not be able to offer more than $10-$15, but that's something. And all it takes is to ask!
  • If you are outfitting an entire office, ask for a custom quote. If, for example, you need three desks, a couple bookcases, and a few filing cabinets, call one of the companies we've listed and tell them what you need and ask them for an all-inclusive quote to get you those items. They should certainly be willing to provide that quote, and you will save lots of money when compared to simply buying them all at their listed price. The reason they can give you a substantial discount in many cases is because they save money on freight when items are shipped together.
  • Remember, someone is always paying for freight costs. Just because Amazon and many of these sites offer "free shipping", it does not mean shipping is actually free! It just means they are eating the cost of shipping, or including it in your price. FedEx is making their money! So remember that pricing strategies are different on every site, but if you call for a custom quote, stores should always be able to give you a breakdown of the costs.


  • Shop around at Amazon, but be cautious of Amazon sellers. Because it is a "marketplace" each individual seller can be either great or terrible.

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Categories: Furniture and Cabinets | Shopping Online