Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CHECKOUT OR CONTINUE SHOPPING?

You're just going to have to trust me on this one, sometimes good things come in small packages!  I've just spent more time trying to re-size the above photo than its taken Joe to fly from New York to Los Angeles this morning.  So, where was I?  The last two months I've had the pleasure of helping two very different clients fill new homes with bright futures.  Along the journey, I discovered my favorite place to shop where you're allowed to wear pajamas, slippers and sip coffee (or wine if you prefer) and there aren't any lines to stand in.  ONLINE shopping can be an incredible tool or a total nightmare.  While my clients are polar opposites in age and taste, they both had one very similar request; they didn't want to wait three months for furniture to arrive.  Because many chain stores (and certainly custom pieces) take up to twelve weeks to deliver, my clients both requested that I source products that were readily available.  The choices are few and far between, so searching for quality pieces was about as tricky as finding truth in politics.  For both clients I ordered everything from bath towels to chandeliers and everything in between, so I thought a good way to judge these online stores was to follow the trail of similar products (hard to compare a sofa that takes three weeks to arrive and a lamp that ships the next day).  I decided this bright idea would follow lamps ordered from different retail giants..after all, I've ordered 46 between these two clients alone.  So, below is what I found in quality, price, time to ship, arrival condition (how different was the product from the online images, etc.) and ease of returning if need be.  Before you click "checkout" you might want to read on...
SHOP TIL YOU DROP (these are in no particular order, but I might as well start with my favorite..)
CRATE AND BARREL: I ordered my first Crate and Barrel product about ten years ago when I moved into an apartment in West Hollywood, California and needed a cool, adult bed.  That bed still stands proud in one of our guest rooms.  I've always been impressed with the product, they've always delivered when promised and associates are as kind in your home as they are in the store.  In this case, my lamps arrived in three days, were a great price and the client fell in love.
POTTERY BARN: One would think PB would be right up there with Crate and Barrel, but I've not been this disappointed since Meredith Viera left the Today Show!  The lamps that arrived looked nothing like the online images (if you can squint, the photo above are lamps I ordered for $179/each and found better quality at Home Goods for $45).  Shades were mismatched or broken and replacements took weeks to arrive, and when the finally did were the wrong size.  Calls to my personal customer service rep often went unanswered, so I returned $700 worth of lamps to our local store where a gum-chewing, totally annoyed, teen aged mutant hissed and moaned at me for bothering her with a return.  NEVER AGAIN!
HORCHOW: This Neiman Marcus-owned company lived up to their mother store.  Lamps were expensive and tasteful, packaged beautifully and arrived promptly.  However, the $699/each price tag might not be for every one's budget. www.horchow.com
WORLD MARKET: I love, love, love this Pier-1 like store on the west coast (but World Market has wine and other goodies).  Furniture products have been okay in quality (on par with Ikea), but the lamps were another story.  Again shades were either broken or mis-matched and when I called customer service in Fresno, California a young man answered and sounded like I'd interrupted his video game.  I asked him to repeat my return/exchange request a few times and a week later received the totally wrong items...and five of them. But, I'll go back for tchotchkes, ornaments, etc. www.worldmarket.com
WEST ELM: I often like this Pottery Barn off-shoot, but furniture quality is not great for the price you pay.  Lamps, however, are okay, reasonably priced and arrived within a week.  My client, however, didn't like that the lamps weren't three way bulb compatible, so back they went..we are still waiting for West Elm to pick them up (15 days later). www.westelm.com
CB2: Crate and Barrels young hipster is another one of my favorites.  Products are well priced, well-made and arrive in as little as three days.  www.cb2.com
ONE KINGS LANE: I blogged about this great store the other day and can't say enough about it.  Products are fresh, hip and (so far) service is excellent.  Be warned, however, that OKL sells other stores products.  The side tables I ordered came from an east coast retailer called Saffaveigh.  So, there are no OKL branded products, but I'm happy so far. www.onekingslane.com
OVERSTOCK: Don't overlook Overstock.com.  If you are searching for an expensive modern piece, for example, do a quick search at Overstock to see if they have something similar.  Products ship for $2..YES, $2 and arrive in reasonable time.  www.overstock.com