Shopping for Furniture?
Consumers in the United States spend close to $100 billion annually at furniture stores. It’s not a small investment and when you do go shopping for furniture, you expect what you pick out at the store to be what is delivered. The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) created the tips below to help you when you shop for furniture.
Before You Go Shopping
- Know your rights. These tips will help you know many of your rights when shopping for furniture.
- Determine your budget. It’s best to go shopping knowing exactly how much you can spend so you aren’t tempted to spend more, or to sign up for a store credit card, or to arrange financing like a loan or a payment plan. Don’t forget about the tax and delivery costs, and the cost of an extended warranty if you want one. If you need help creating a budget so you can determine how much you can afford to spend or build savings before you buy, visit an NYC Financial Empowerment Center for free, one-on-one financial counseling. Book a free and confidential appointment with a professional financial counselor by calling 311 or visiting nyc.gov/TalkMoney.
- Research what to look for in furniture. Learn how to tell if what you’re buying is high-quality or not. Features to consider include the item’s materials and the construction or how it’s made. Think about what style of furniture you like so you know what you want when you go shopping. You may have to pay for return shipping and/or a re-stocking fee if the item doesn’t fit or you decide you don’t like it.
- Research the stores. Read reviews of the stores where you plan to shop and call 311 to check on a furniture store’s complaint history with DCWP.
- Measure your space. Write down the measurements of your space, including the doorways and narrow stairwells or elevators. Take the measurements and a tape measure to the store. Consider using a free space planning tool to see how the furniture will look and if it will fit.
- Compare prices and check for discounts. Some stores offer similar furniture at different prices so shop around to compare prices and look for discounts. Some stores offer free delivery or zero percent financing, but may instead add the delivery fee or interest costs to the price of the furniture.
Furniture Store Payment Options
Be informed before you consider financing (a loan from the furniture store), rent-to-own plans, a layaway plan, or a store credit card. Remember, you can get free financial counseling at an NYC Financial Empowerment Center to create a budget that will help you save for your furniture purchase.
- Store Financing: Many furniture stores offer “interest-free financing.” This is often “deferred interest,” which means the loan is free but, if you don’t pay the loan off entirely during the free period, you pay retroactive interest for the entire period of the loan. The interest rates for furniture stores are often 20 – 30 percent. For example, if you buy a $3,000 couch and get 24 months “deferred interest” and pay the bill in full before 24 months, there’s no interest. But if you pay the bill in month 25, and you might owe close to $1,000 in interest.
- You have the right to decline financing or a loan through the store.
- You have the right to know the details of your financing agreement before you sign anything. Some stores might try to enroll you in a financing agreement without you understanding all the details or without our consent at all so be careful.
- Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com and correct any errors.
- Rent-to-own and Lease-to-own:
- In a rent-to-own or lease-to-own transaction you don’t own the furniture. Instead, you are borrowing the item from the furniture store and making regular monthly payments that allow you to keep using the item. The item only becomes legally yours at the end of your rental contract and some lease-to-own agreements require you to pay an additional buy-out price at the end of the lease period. Note: If you fall behind on monthly payments, the store can repossess, or take back, the furniture.
- In many cases, the total price of a rent-to-own or lease-to-own arrangement is higher than the price you would pay to buy the item outright.
- Learn more about New York State rent-to-own regulations at ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds/rent-own.
- Layaway Plans: A “layaway plan” is an installment payment plan that requires at least four payments for an item costing more than $50. A store must disclose in writing the terms of the layaway plan, including:
- Full description and total cost of item and the tax;
- Additional charges, if any, for delivery, layaway plan use, and cancellation;
- Duration of the plan; payment schedule and any late charges or penalties for missed payments;
- The store’s refund policy; and
- Where and for how long merchandise will be held for the consumer (e.g. at the store, at a warehouse, at the manufacturer).
- Store Credit Cards:
- Store credit cards often have higher interest rates than other credit cards. Depending on your credit score, you may be able to get a better deal on a credit card elsewhere.
- If you have had problems with credit in the past, it’s a good idea to be wary of store credit cards. Store credit cards are sometimes available without a credit check. But just because you can get a credit card doesn’t mean you should. An NYC Financial Empowerment Center counselor can help you budget for a purchase and choose the best option for building your credit.
- Some store credit cards can only be used at the store or chain that issued the card. If you want to be able to use your credit card at other retailers, make sure to ask about the terms of the store credit card you’re considering.
At the Store
- Don’t rush and don’t let the salesperson rush you. Buying furniture can be expensive and you should be able to take the time to make sure you’re buying what you want and are paying a fair price. Some stores will negotiate the price with you if you ask.
- Check if the furniture is used. Stores must clearly disclose if an item is not new by saying if it is used, antique, floor model, demonstrator, remodeled, or rebuilt in any advertisement.
- Check the refund, cancellation, and damage policies. Stores are required to post their refund policy and any conditions that may apply. If the policy is not posted, a refund must be made within 30 days of purchase. Make sure you can cancel the order for a full refund if the furniture isn’t delivered on time or is damaged.
- Read the terms for any “protection plans” carefully. These insurance plans can guard against damage, stains, etc. but they can be expensive. Check for any hidden fees and/or limitations or exclusions. Some plans are prorated so you pay more for repairs as the item gets older. Some stain protection plans are actually a chemical that is applied to the furniture so you might want to consider if there are potential health concerns.
- Get a receipt and save it. Stores are required to give you a receipt for purchases of $20 or more. All receipts must include the total amount paid, date, business name and address, and the make and model of the items you bought.
- Get a delivery date in writing and don’t pay the full amount before delivery. Stores selling furniture (and major appliances), must give you a written estimated delivery date or a range of dates on your receipt or contract. A deposit of one-third to one-half before delivery is standard. Be suspicious of any retailer who demands full payment before delivery.
- Write out the full year when signing and dating documents. If you abbreviate the year 2020 as “20,” scammers can easily add digits to shorten or extend the intended time period; i.e., adding “19” or “21" to make it appear to be 2019 or 2021, respectively. Avoid financial headaches and write out the full date for time-sensitive materials.
- Be extra careful shopping online. Be sure to only purchase from a reputable business and check the URL for the page—it should start with https (not http) to indicate that it is a secure website.
- Check for damage before you sign. If the furniture is damaged, you do not have to—and should not—accept or sign for the delivery. Once the delivery is refused for damaged furniture, you will not be responsible for payment.
- What do you do if your delivery is delayed? If the delivery is delayed, the store must notify you immediately in writing, provide a new delivery date or range of dates, and explain your options if the delivery is not made by that date.
- What do you do if your furniture is not delivered? If the furniture is not delivered by the delivery date, you have a right to the following (unless the item is custom-made or the failure to deliver was caused by you – e.g. you were not home):
- Cancel with a full refund or store credit, which must be given within two weeks;
- Get a new delivery date; or
- Select different furniture.
- File a complaint with DCWP. If you have a problem with a furniture store, file a complaint with DCWP at nyc.gov/dcwp or by calling 311.