June 18, 2004
ALERT: TIPS TO MAKE BUYING FURNITURE A COMFORTABLE EXPERIENCE
of furniture and mattresses frequently generate consumer complaints:
items are not delivered when promised, items
are damaged or defective, and the terms of returns and refunds
are disputed. In the latest issue
of his Consumer’s Edge newsletter, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. offers tips
to help furniture buyers have a satisfactory experience:
• Pay the smallest deposit acceptable. If you are ordering furniture
and paying in full is not required, put only a small deposit down.
That way, less of your money is at risk if the store should go
out of business. Paying the deposit by credit card also gives you
Check out the return policy. Under what circumstances are refunds
given, and is the total amount refunded? Refunds may be given in
store credit only. Furniture stores often charge a “re-stocking
fee” (which can be as much as 20 to 25 percent of the item’s
price) for items that are returned due to the consumer’s
change of heart. Also, many stores do not take returns of custom-made
furniture, as when you order a sofa in a special fabric–so
be sure you can live with your choice.
Think about financing offers carefully. “0% financing/no
payments for a year” offers are only a good deal if you are
certain you will be able to pay off the total amount before the
year is up. If you don’t, you are usually charged interest
retroactively from the day of the purchase.
Get an estimated delivery date in writing. Under Maryland law,
if a dealer fails to deliver your item within two weeks of the
latest estimated delivery date, you have the right to cancel the
sale and receive a full refund or a credit equal to your deposit,
negotiate a new delivery date, or choose something else to purchase
instead of the original item. However, these provisions don’t
apply if the delay is caused by the manufacturer. In that case,
the dealer must promptly inform you of the delay and give you written
notice of a new estimated delivery date.
• When arranging for delivery, ask if there are extra charges for
flights of stairs, and if the delivery team will assemble or set
up the furniture for you.
Don’t sign for acceptance of the delivery until you have
made sure that all the items are there and you have inspected them.
If an item is defective or damaged, you can refuse to accept delivery
or accept it but note the damage on the delivery form. Either way,
contact the store and ask for a replacement or repair.
Your furniture may come with a manufacturer’s warranty–for
example, the springs and frame of a sofa may be warranted for two
years. However, all goods purchased in Maryland are covered by
an “implied warranty” that they will perform for a
reasonable period. A chair should not fall apart within a month,
for example. You can ask the store from which you bought the furniture
for a refund or replacement under the implied warranty.
Floor models and closeout items are often sold on an “as
is, all sales final” basis. That means you
are accepting the visible condition and any disclosed
defects. However, hidden
defects are still covered by the implied warranty.
complete issue of The Consumer’s Edge on furniture
buying, and previous issues on consumer topics, can be found