You Get What You Pay For:  The Up’s and Down’s Of Shopping On-line

You Get What You Pay For: The Up’s and Down’s Of Shopping On-line


Has anyone ever told you that sometimes the lowest price doesn’t always mean it’s the best choice for a project?  I know that I’ve heard it from my parents, my contractors, and other designer friends, “You get what you pay for.”  I even pass on these words of advice to my own clients.

But with the ease of internet shopping and today’s supply shortages, it’s so easy to hop on-line to find exactly the look and color you want.  With the ease of comparing prices from one vendor to another and faster delivery times, who wouldn’t want to give it a try?  After all, ordering a custom sofa, or even having your old one re-upholstered can take several months.

We all can think of a few things for our home that we would pay almost anything to have.  It’s beautiful, the quality is excellent, and the color is exactly what we need to make the room go from drab to fab!  When it’s finally ours we’re so happy and excited that we can’t wait to share! 

Then there are the other things that we need for our projects that aren’t so important to us.  They might be a filler piece to finish off the room.  Or an appliance that we know we won’t use every day.  That’s when finding a bargain really gets our excitement flowing.

A while back, my words of advice came back to haunt me when I did my own on-line shopping.  Let me tell you a story of my first experience…..

When I was staying in Singapore several years ago, I bought a beautiful  hand knotted tribal carpet runner.  It’s made with vegetable dyes, which I love, and the colors are deep and rich reds, blues, and ivories. This rug has traveled with us from house to house, and I still have wonderful memories whenever I look at it.

Tribal runner

Imagine my surprise, when I was browsing through an on-line weekly sale and saw a small area carpet in the same exact pattern and the same exact colors.  And the best part was that it was more than half of the price I paid for the runner!

While I was thinking it was too good to be true, I checked their return policy.  Good to know that not only was shipping free, the return freight was free.  Once I discovered that important fact, it took about a minute to hit the “order now” button…and it was mine!!!!

My excitement mounted as I waited for the package to arrive.  Finally, 4 days later, it made it to my front porch.  I ran for the scissors to cut the bag.  I pulled off the bag.  I unrolled the carpet.  And then…..a total disappointment over the purchase.

Online tribal rug

You see, what I couldn’t have guessed by looking at the on-line photograph, was the dull colors.  They were the same reds, blues, and ivories, but definitely not as vibrant.  The patterns are almost identical, but there are many more knots per inch on the expensive carpet than on the bargain carpet.  And lastly, the height of the tufting doesn’t compare with the runner.

By itself, the “bargain” tribal carpet would look beautiful in any home.  But because I wanted to show them in the same room, it just wouldn’t work.  The comparison in color intensity and quality would have always bothered me.

Tribal rug comparison

Since that first experience of on-line shopping for our home, I’ve made several other purchases.  Some were perfect, and others not so perfect.  Items have been returned because they didn’t look like the on-line image or the description.  An accent rug was kept simply because it met the criteria we were looking for: fast delivery, washable, inexpensive, and puppy-proofed. 

It all comes down to what you value most at the time you’re ready to purchase.  If it’s something you need to replace because the one you have is broken, waiting 3 months for a perfect quality piece might not be an option.  But if it’s an item that you really love, then waiting for a piece of furniture that is customized for your room is worth it.

on-line counter stools

When we discovered that our custom made counter stools couldn’t be repaired and the finish was discontinued, it was finally time to decide on a replacement.  With a newly renovated kitchen, and company coming, what I valued at that point in time was a swivel stool that looked good, in colors that would work with our cabinets and countertops.  For me, it was more important to have them delivered within the week than to wait months for custom stools

After carefully reading the specification to make sure they would be the correct size, the order was placed.  They arrived within the week, just in time for our guests!  Are they exactly what I would have chosen given patience to wait for custom? No.  But for now, the color is perfect and the seats will be covered soon in a fabric that coordinates with the other fabrics and colors in the space.

These stools, when compared to the custom swivel stools we had, are definitely a “you get what you pay for” purchase.  I mean, they were a lot less than a custom stool would cost.  But because I carefully read the product details, and studied the on-line image, I knew what to expect and wasn’t disappointed. 

Lessons Learned:

  • If your design project requires you to have two or more items that are identical or even remotely similar, buy them at the same time.
  • If the price is really low, it just might be too good to true.
  • Carefully read the product description and specifications for length, width, seat depth, arm height
  • Seeing a product in person so that you can touch it and feel it is a good thing.
  • On-line shopping is great!  But make sure the return policy is one you can live with.
  • Keep a list of what you need or want for your next design project.  And from that list decide what you’re willing to splurge on and what you would rather bargain shop for.
  • Don’t buy your main upholstered pieces online unless you’re familiar with the manufacturer. 

When it comes to shopping online, there are good deals to be had, especially during sales.  But remember to do your research, read the fine details, and decide if settling for less than your dream is worth it.  After all, no one wants to be told “you get what you pay for.”