"Aren't all websites the same? I mean, none of the furniture websites produce their own furniture, so it makes no difference where I buy a desk from, right?"
This is a valid question. You might find a particular desk you like on any number of sites all over the web. So it is understandable that many would assume it makes no difference which site you purchase from.
On top of that, some products ship from central manufacturer warehouses. In that scenario, many retailers ship the same product from the same warehouse to wherever their customers are. That certainly suggests that a customer should simply buy a desk from the site they can get the cheapest price from. It is logical to assume they should try to save as much money as possible on the purchase, since it's the same product and is shipped from the same place.
But there are two problems with this line of thinking, and we want you to understand them - because it could save you a whole lot of heartbreak and hassle.
On every purchase, customer service (or lack thereof) comes into play.
Even if a product is shipping from a central warehouse, buying from the cheapest option is dangerous because it often means you are buying from a company with nothing invested in customer service.
Generally, people want to know when their product ships. They want a tracking number. They want help if something goes wrong with the shipment (it is lost, damaged, etc.). And if you buy from the cheapest option, you often sacrifice on customer service. You will have a hard time reaching anyone on the phone. You may not hear back on emails for a few days. You may wait on hold for an hour.
From my personal experience, such hassles are not worth saving a few bucks. The other day I waited on hold for an hour just to get reimbursed eight dollarson an order that never arrived. I had to, because they didn't reply to any emails. That is just unacceptable. I would have gladly paid extra and not had to waste an hour of my time on hold.
So buying from the cheapest option is often just not the smartest way to go. Buy from a company that is reputable, that shows you their customer service skill by replying to your pre-order questions quickly and with intelligence. Give them a small order and see how they do, and then reward them with more business if they show they provide world-class customer service.
Shipping causes more negative issues on an order than anything else, and that is the main differentiating point between companies who are shipping you the same product.
Let me give you a clear example. Two companies sell you this nice desk from Euro Style:
Company A (not us) ships to you with the cheapest freight option (we'd like to tell you what many of them are called but would rather not get sued). The names of the cheap freight companies are indistinguishable from the great freight companies - you've likely never heard of the great or the terrible ones, because larger desks like this cannot ship with FedEx or UPS Ground. Small parcel shipments have a 150-pound limit, and a size limit. So heavier or larger desks have to ship with a freight carrier. Company A chooses the cheapest carrier, and they pay $200 for the shipment (though like most companies they advertised "free shipping"). The total you paid them was $840, and after buying the desk and paying for cheap freight, they made $20 profit on the order.
Company B (let's say it's us) ships to you with the highest-quality freight option, with a company like R&L Carriers or SAIA. Those are fantastic carriers, and have quick shipping times with extremely low damage rates. The cut-rate carriers can take 2-3 times as long to deliver their shipments, and have damage rates 10 times as high. Let's say we chose R&L Carriers, and paid $350 for freight. The total you paid us was $995, and we made $25 profit on the order.
The shipment from Company A arrives three weeks after the order was placed, and it is badly damaged, nearly unrecognizable. You try to call and ask for a replacement, but can't reach anyone. They don't reply to your emails either. After a couple weeks of great frustration, you finally go through the annoying process of disputing the charge.
The shipment from Company B arrives a week after the order was placed, and is in perfect condition. You start using your beautiful desk right away!
Most want to save money on the front end, but in that scenario, wouldn't you much rather spend an extra $155 and get the desk you want, sooner and in perfect condition?
That truly is the vast majority of the difference in pricing on sites around the Internet - customer service and freight charges. If you want excellent service and high-quality freight companies, you need to find excellent companies who do things the right way. Focus less on the exact amount you're paying up front, and instead focus on what you're getting for your money.
Because, as we all know, you get what you pay for!
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