With many of us staying at home now, it is inevitable that we take stock of our surroundings.  We can’t go to stores to buy things, so we use the internet to get the items we need to repair, add more or replace what we need in our homes.

As a professional interior designer in Bergen County, NJ, one of my services is to help people gain the knowledge they needed to avoid making big mistakes.

Let’s discuss what you need to know to avoid the pitfalls of buying online.

Happy shopping with knowledge!


There are tons of things to consider when you are buying an item online.  It’s confusing.  It’s intimidating.  It’s frustrating.  Trying to find what you want or need can take hours of looking. 

Lots of retailers don’t provide enough information.  Sometimes you are buying for price, thinking that will help get the kind of quality you want.

But you need the right information to know what to look for before you purchase.

Here are the GENERAL terms you need to know:


How long will a manufacturer give support for this item?

What is covered under this warrantee/guarantee?

What if you need to return a damaged product?


This can range from total assembly or just putting on the legs.

Read the fine print.

Read the reviews.

Sometimes you need specific equipment to assemble the item.

If you must put it together, the quality of the piece is critical.  If you read that the holes did not line up in a review, understand that the manufacturing process is very poor.  You may need professional help to get this thing to work!  Maybe even a drill!

If you need to pay a bit more for a product that comes assembled, weigh that in your decision.  It is likely that product is better quality than the other that needs a lot of attention.


This is critical.  Knowing the size of the object will help determine if it fits.

If you are purchasing something large, you also need to consider the width of the doorway it is going to have to squeeze through.  So, think about the height of the object and its width.

Do you have to go up the stairs with this item?  Do the stairs turn or is it a straight run?


This is something to read about before you purchase.  If the company policy has a restocking fee, you will have to leave some money on the table to return the item. 

For example, if there is a 25% restocking fee on a $100 item, you will only get $75 back. 

Let’s say you ordered tiles.  You may only be able to return a full, unopened box.  And there is probably a restocking fee on that.

Not great.

If the procedure for returns is complicated, you might have second thoughts about buying from this company. 

There should be ample time to make a return. 


Most companies list their shipping policy in their FAQs or About pages.  Different manufacturers or stores offer different shipping and handling rates.  Make sure you understand their charges before you buy. 

Look for free return shipping.  If the item is heavy, and you must pay to return it, it can be quite costly.


Most websites have complied with the new rule to secure their websites.  Make sure that you look to make sure the website is secure before you buy online to reduce the risk of identity theft.  Check the URL to make sure it begins with “https” that indicates it is a secure site. 


When people write a review, it cuts both ways.  Some people give glowing remarks and others are scathing in their evaluation.  Sorting it out is important.  If there are more negative than positive comments, think it out.  The quality and durability might not match what you want.


Don’t just scan.  Read this through.  The words used give you the information you need.

For example, you might see “veneer” or “composite wood” in the description of a piece of furniture.  You have to know what that means for durability, construction and cleaning the item.


Most sites do everything they can to show the true colors of an item accurately.  Photography can distort the true colors, however.  If you are viewing something dark, such as expresso finish, it is darker on some sites than others.  Your computer also enters into this equation and can alter the way you see it.

Read the reviews to see comments from people who ordered that color.  Was it what they thought?  Greener or bluer than the image?  You can get a lot of insight from this.  If there are no comments, you take your chances that the item is darker or significantly lighter when it arrives.


There are options for delivery of larger items.

          Front door delivery.

Your item is delivered only to the front door.  You have to unwrap and carry in the piece to your home or have a helper to assist you.  This may be ok for something like a dining chair or an ottoman.  Not a good option for a sofa or large chandelier.

          Inside Delivery.

Costs more.  The Driver brings the furniture inside your home.  It may include bringing the item to the room you designate.  The driver doesn’t open the box, inspect the item, or help you set up the item.

White Glove Delivery.

This is the full package.  The driver brings the box inside, unpacks the box and removes the packaging, and sets up the furniture for you and places it where you want it to go.  It is more expensive.  This is a great option if you can’t lift heavy items and would have difficulty with assembly that may be needed.

Store Pick Up.

If the manufacturer has a brick and mortar store, you might be able to order online and pick up at the store.  But you may need helpers to bring it into your home and the correct vehicle to fit the item in to drive it to your home.  While we are staying home, this is not the answer!

It takes time to find high-quality items online for the best price, but these tips will help you make solid buying decisions.  Choosing the website carefully will help protect your investment. 

If you want/need a second opinion, give us a call!  We love consultations!