What You Need to Know Before Buying Furniture on Wayfair
The Truth About Wayfair
Two years ago, we moved to an area with better schools, which meant smaller bedrooms for the kids. For months, I was unsure about what to do with their cluttered rooms. Because the rooms were small, I decided that under-the-bed storage was a good solution. If the kids could store all of their clothing in drawers underneath their beds, there was no need for a dresser taking up space in their room. I visited multiple furniture stores and either didn't find what I wanted...or what I did find gave me sticker shock.
I had heard about Wayfair, the online furniture store, but had been reluctant to go that route. Finally, unable to find what I wanted at a price I could afford, I decided to give them a try. Here's what I discovered.
Is Wayfair Legit?
If you somehow haven't heard of Wayfair, you might wonder if it's a legitimate company or just some online scam, but don't worry: Wayfair is legit! By that I mean that it's a well-known and respected company where you can buy things with reasonable assurance... although there may be mistakes, damage, or delays, you will eventually get what you paid for.
Benefits of Using Wayfair
The great thing about Wayfair is that you'll find more furniture options and a wider range of prices than you'll find in most furniture stores. That's a big positive: You are more likely to find what you need at prices you can afford. Comparison shopping online can be much easier than driving from store to store. Shipping is usually free, and all items will be delivered to your door.
What I bought at Wayfair and how much I paid:
- I searched "beds with storage" and found multiple options, many that came in more than one color. I settled on two "Allenville Storage Platform Beds" in espresso and walnut. I bought a queen and full size bed for $835, including taxes. Shipping was free. I also got one year financing.
- Instead of a bedside table, I bought a tall 11.6" by 11.6" shelving units to put by the beds. Each shelf cost $26.
- I also bought new desks and chairs. Those came out to $300.
- For about $2500, we were able to provide both kids with new furniture, and now their rooms look tidy and spacious.
The Pros and Cons of Buying on Wayfair
Vast inventory of design options, colors, and materials.
You won't know if the item is comfortable or good quality until it arrives.
The website makes ordering quick and easy.
Shipping is often quick, but it still takes time.
Replacement parts or missing items will be shipped for free.
You must report problems within 30 days of delivery.
Online, it's easier to shop around for a better price.
Assembly is required for most items.
Free shipping for most items.
You'll have to pay to return anything you don't like.
Delivered to your door.
Don't forget to factor in the negative environmental impact of the gas and packaging.
The Problems With Wayfair
If I had to summarize the problems of using Wayfair, I'd say this:
- It's difficult to make an informed decision before you buy something online. Since you can't touch that sheet or sit on that sofa, you don't really know if you're going to like it once it arrives.
- As a result, you'll need to be prepared for the added effort and cost of returning items, and in order to do this successfully, to follow the strict rules and deadlines.
- You'll have to wait longer to enjoy your purchase, since delivery takes time.
- Most items will require assembly. You'll need tools, time, patience, and a little knowhow to put it all together.
- Sometimes, items go missing or get damaged in the mail, and fixing these problems requires extra time and effort.
- It's great to have things delivered, but all that wasteful plastic and cardboard they use in the packaging is bad for the environment and difficult to get rid of.
In other words, all the possible problems of shopping on Wayfair apply to shopping anywhere online.
Obviously if you buy online, your furniture will come in multiple pieces which have to be put together by you. (Although Wayfair does offer assembly as well, powered by handy.com, and the cost varies by item.) But if you do decide to put everything together yourself, here is what to expect.
- Each bed we bought came in five heavy boxes. Two beds meant a total of ten boxes.
- UPS delivered the ten boxes over about five days, so we had giant boxes stored inside our doorway and in our downstairs office as we waited for all the pieces to show up.
- Because the boxes were heavy, I opened them downstairs and made multiple trips upstairs with various parts of whatever I was building.
- The instructions largely consist of pictures showing how each piece goes together.
- When I built our full bed, I started first with the headboard. Before putting anything together, I verified that I had all the required hardware. I then studied the assembly instructions and connected each part on paper to each item I had laid out on the floor. Once I was confident I understood the instructions I put everything together. It was surprisingly easy. Each bed took about two hours to assemble.
Are instructions for assembly included?
The furniture for the most part doesn't come with written (text) instructions, but they do provide easy-to-decipher visual instructions for assembly.
Is assembly hardware included?
Yes, they should send everything you'll need to assemble your furniture. If they forgot, just file a report within 30 days of delivery and they'll send those parts or hardware for free. Each box actually came with spares, and lack of hardware was never an issue.
Open Your Wayfair Delivery ASAP
Because you only have 30 days to report a problem and get it fixed for free, make sure to open your packages and check the contents upon delivery to make sure everything was included and nothing is broken.
Is assembly difficult?
When I was putting together the beds, everything was problem-free until I got to the storage drawers for the queen bed. The front of the first drawer was defective with misaligned parts, so I couldn't use it. The second drawer would not align to screw the pieces together for reasons I could never figure out. After carefully studying the problem for about ten minutes, I decided to try a workaround, which fortunately did work. So I was able to get one drawer built.
I still had a defective drawer front to deal with. Because I was assembling the drawer in the evening, it was too late to call, so I tried to request a replacement online. I filled in the form and hit submit, which returned me to the login screen. I don't know why the request didn't go through, but I decided I would just call the following morning.
What if parts are damaged or defective?
Two out of the eight items I ordered were either damaged or defective. And for both, it took several days to get replacements. When considering Wayfair, take into account how much time you need for shipping of the original item and add a couple of weeks to that in the event you need a replacement part.
Is it easy to order replacement parts?
When I called, an automated message informed me that they were experiencing high call volume, so I expected a long wait. But I immediately got through to someone who was very helpful. I told her what part I needed and she told me they would send it out. However, I called on a Friday. She told me the piece would likely ship on Tuesday. which it did. But I didn't receive it until the following Monday. So I had to wait 11 days to receive the replacement piece. However, I didn't have to ship back the defective piece.
Thankfully, I wasn't in any hurry to put the drawer together. I had one drawer and I had put the kid's old dressers into their closets to use as storage for things they don't use often. So my older child was able to use her dresser, even though it was awkward to access, until I was able to get the second drawer assembled.
How long did shipping and assembly take?
Since the items arrived in so many boxes, assembly took quite awhile, especially since I had to wait 11 days to receive the replacement piece. If you're buying furniture that you need to put together in a hurry, like if you're building a bed for a guest, you may not be able to get it assembled in time if something does go wrong.
Tip: There Will Be a Lot of Packaging to Get Rid of
Your furniture will come in lots of large boxes, so you'll have lots of cardboard to dispose of. It took me weeks to get rid of all the cardboard. I cut up enough each week to fill the recycling bin and leave enough space for other recyclables. Your trash disposal company may offer a bulk pickup of all the boxes if you call them and arrange it in advance.
How to Buy Furniture Online (and Avoid Mistakes and Returns)
The biggest trick to buying online is to get exactly what you want so you don't have to return it. Here are ways to avoid mistakes:
- Carefully study all of the photos. Manufacturers usually include several photos taken from different angles. Make sure you look at every one so you can "see" what it will really look like before it arrives.
- Read the descriptions very carefully. Manufacturers include important adjectives and details in those descriptions, so don't skim them over. Consider durability, construction, and cleaning instructions. Follow and study all tabs and links to specifications and/or diagrams.
- Measure over and over again. It's hard to imagine how a piece of furniture is going to fill a space, and you will definitely need a tape measure for this. Consider using tape to recreate the exact dimensions of the item you're considering. And don't forget to consider how you'll get a bulkier piece into your home from the street, up stairs, around corners, and into that specific room!
- Read the "Questions & Answers" and "Reviews." This is where you'll find additional information from real people like you.
- Pre-order a swatch of fabric if you can. Before you commit to buying, see if you can get a free swatch of the fabric to make sure the color, pattern, texture, quality, and durability of the fabric is right for you.
- Use Wayfair's 3D room planner. Their tools allow you to "create your own room" or choose from one of their templates for bedroom, living room, or dining room.
- Consider using Wayfair's design services. If you really need help, there are three design packages to consider: a consultation (the cheapest), "lite" services, and "classic," which offers extra design assistance for those who need it.
- Understand the return policy before you buy. You really don't want to pay to return an item, so be fully aware of the policy before you make any purchase.
What Is Wayfair's Return Policy?
It's a bit of a gamble buying a sofa you've never sat on or a bed you haven't tested. However, if you don't like your purchase for any reason, you can return most items for a refund or store credit within 30 days of delivery. Still, you have to pay the return shipping costs and the item must be in its original, unassembled condition and package. However, clearance, "non-returnable," and personalized items can't be returned, and you can't return items that you've already assembled.
However, if your reason for wanting to return the item is because it was damaged, defective, or completely different from the item you ordered, Wayfair will accept the return and may pay for return shipping. Here's a full description of Wayfair's return policy.
Does Wayfair Sell Quality Products?
Wayfair doesn't manufacture anything itself, they just host listings from various suppliers. Since the quality varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and since Wayfair hosts so many different suppliers, the quality of their items will vary accordingly. You'll find a wide range of quality, from Ikea-like stuff to high end pieces.
The furniture I bought looks nice and is sturdy and has remained in excellent shape for over a year. I expect my kids will live at home until they graduate from college. That's twelve years from now for my youngest. Hopefully, the furniture will last that long.
Why Is Wayfair So Cheap?
Because they're selling online and therefore don't have to pay for salespeople or rent or real estate in the more expensive and well-trafficked areas, suppliers can save money on overhead. As a result, they can pass that savings on to you. That's why you'll often find the most competitive prices on Wayfair.
Does cheap mean cheap, though? You get what you pay for, right? That's usually true, but you can find some decent-quality furniture for a decent price on Wayfair. It won't be heirloom-quality furniture, but for the most part, the furniture will be sturdy enough to survive at least a few years of use.
What Is Wayfair, Exactly?
Wayfair is a site that hosts listings from many different suppliers. Wayfair doesn't design, manufacture, store, or ship anything itself: instead, like Amazon, it's a "middle man" between the seller and the buyer. When you make a purchase on their site, they purchase that item from the supplier, who then ships it to you (aka "drop shipping"). Wayfair charges those suppliers to sell on their site.
And it's a huge company—the largest online-only retailer in the US. They currently run five big-name retail websites: Wayfair.com, Joss & Main, AllModern, Perigold, and Birch Lane.