Free Shipping of Furniture is Never Free


Narrow staircase white walls free shipping

We’ve all seen them – the ads from places like Wayfair for free shipping and delivery. And boy, that does sound great, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t like free, FREE! But, are we being penny wise or pound foolish? The fact it, nothing is ever free.



Ooh – so easy to spend $49 dollars to get FREE shipping! Except… * The asterisk is telling us something.

free shipping

Okay, so, mostly everything is going to be free shipping, right? Well, it depends on the physical size of your package.

“Small Parcel” deliveries will be completed by UPS or FedEx. Now, if you haven’t noticed, UPS and FedEx have regular guys and gals in a regular smallish box truck. And it’s one guy or gal. So, small package means something small enough that a single person can drop on your door step, or by your mailbox. These packages are delivered free in a standard time frame (continental US only, sorry Alaska and Hawaii). Expedited shipping obviously brings added charges, which only makes sense. So, not bad, truly.

Okay, so what about “Large Parcel” deliveries? This would be the rugs, sofas, tables, chairs, etc. etc. that we see so well advertised on tv with happy couples putting together their pretty new rooms? One person in a box truck is not delivering these items.  So, your delivery choices are:

Curbside (You unload)

Curbside (We unload)

Outside Front door drop-off

Inside home entrance drop-off

Room of choice delivery

Room of choice delivery & packaging removal

All-inclusive delivery & assembly

Okaaaay… so, basically. There is pretty much no free shipping / delivery * on larger items (anything bigger than a FedEx or UPS delivery) and what you do pay is tiered to how far off the truck they are willing to carry the item. (* unless they are trying entice you to complete a purchase).

free shipping

Okay, so an interesting thing. When I first looked at the sofa page, it said Full Service Delivery $119.99. But when I looked at other pieces and went back to the sofa, the page suddenly said “Free Delivery”.  This means they are tracking you around their site and changing the offers to entice us to buy. Except – do you really want a sofa, which is fully boxed and packaged, dropped off on your front porch? You might, and that’s okay. But my point is – it’s not free. If you’re a single person, you will need to bring in friends to help – which means beer and pizza, at least. Or, you will be hiring someone to help you.


Also, what about inspecting the item? The delivery guys won’t wait around for you to open the package and inspect your sofa to make sure it’s all in good condition and is what you expected. What if it’s not? Wayfair is well known for good customer service – they easily take returns and replace defective merchandise – which is great and good for them. But, you’re the one dealing with this – and time is money. Meanwhile, you have a sofa in your front hall, or you’re holding onto lots of packing materials pending return instructions. Or, what is very common with Wayfair, they don’t even take the return, they simply ship off a replacement and you’ve now got to figure out what to do with the defective item.

upholsterer furniture maker tufted sofa free shipping

This is all a long-winded way to say – Free is not really free. Now, full disclosure, it’s still generally less expensive than designer level “white glove” delivery. But, white glove is the bomb – especially if you’re spending lots of money on your new furniture. What is white glove? When you work with a designer (and some retail stores), you receive what’s called “white glove” delivery on custom furniture items. This is not free and if anyone is telling you it is, they are either losing lots of money, or the price is simply built into your furniture cost. With white glove means is that the furniture is shipped from the manufacturer to a local receiver who unpacks and inspects the item for defects. Your designer will be in contact with the receiver and will be notified if they think there are any problems. We also check to be sure that the right fabric was used, etc. This can be done in person, or usually via a photo.

For you, the client, this means that broken or wrong items will never be delivered to your home for you to have to deal with. Your designer will (should) have already determined that the furniture will fit in the door and into the designated room.

Fit? Hold up… when you place your furniture order on line or at a store, have you measured your space to be sure it not only fits in its final destination, but that it will get in the front door and up the stairs? No one will ask you that when you place  your order, it’s all on you.

As a designer, my job and responsibility is making sure that furniture will fit where it’s meant to and I’ll take responsibility if it does not. And professional movers (not the UPS guy and not the types of movers who drop furniture curbside) know how to get bulky items up narrow stairs without causing harm to house or furniture. Plus, they will happily remove their shoes while they do it so as not to mess up newly installed carpets.

Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings Hingham Sitting Room and Home Office 2

I recently designed this custom sofa and ottoman for a client in Hingham, MA and had it delivered with white glove level delivery. They had to go up a flight of stairs with a turn at the top. While I worried over this detail for weeks before it was delivered, I really knew it would all be fine. Before delivery to the client’s home, my receiver unpacked and inspected the pieces for obvious defects and sent me photos so I knew they were what I ordered and the fabric was the right fabric. The day of delivery two nice men brought in the pieces all unwrapped and zipped them right up the stairs in their stocking feet to protect the new carpet. And guess what? All that planning, and there was still a problem. The animal print fabric on the top of the ottoman was seamed when it didn’t need to be and they didn’t even match the pattern. You can see it above.

It’s a beautiful piece and the one thing I could’t see in the photos I’d received was the seaming issue. It’s a small detail, but my clients paid good money for the cocktail ottoman and for the white glove delivery. So, what they get should be perfect. The upshot is, I worked with the manufacturer and the problem will be corrected. They will be picking up the ottoman and reupholstering it correctly and will return it. Aside from having to deal with the additional pick up and re-delivery, and being without it for a period of time, my clients didn’t have to do anything or pay anything to get this fixed. This is the value of quality services – which they paid for. See, nothing is free.

Another “free” service we see a lot are stores that offer free interior design services. This is a standard service offered by stores for many decades. My parents used store decorators who came to the house with measuring tape and fabric swatches. But, it’s not free. The in-home designer is a sales person, make no mistake.  They are working on commission and their income depends on how much they sell to the customer. Now, may stores only hire designers with design backgrounds and education, so that’s a good thing. I’m not personally against this offering – I think it’s smart for the store.  But the consumer is paying for it – it’s built into the cost of the product and it’s covered by sales designers working on commission. No sale, no commission.

Additionally, store designers can only sell or talk about merchandise that they carry. They will help with a floor plan and perhaps help select paint colors. But that’s pretty much it. If you want their advice on an item from another store or on a bathroom or kitchen tile, they can’t help you. So, it’s not only not really free, it’s also limited. But, if you’re not looking for a full-service level of design and you’re happy only purchasing from one store, then it’s a good service. But you are paying for it one way or the other.

All of this is to say that buyer beware. Free isn’t free. What you’re getting isn’t terrible, but it’s not free and it’s not first class.

You might also enjoy:

What is Designer’s Net Pricing and why is it ok? 


2 thoughts on “Free Shipping of Furniture is Never Free”

    • Hi MH – thanks! Unfortunately, it’s part of the little drama around this ottoman that I didn’t go in to, but the fabric had been discontinued and there was very little stock left. It was Duralee 1265. Meanwhile, my clients wanted pillows out of it and and I needed 2.5 yards for the ottoman, so I bought up what little they had left. Sorry! It is still available in pink, black and blue colorways.



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