Nobody buys patio furniture with the intention of returning it. However, returning furniture may be necessary for a variety of reasons. These range from shipping damage to shoddy workmanship. Maybe you just don’t like the color when you finally see it. These are all valid reasons for returning furniture… and often the only reasons customers find out the returns policies of the company they purchased from. Don’t be caught powerless! Before making your purchase, review the seller’s returns policies for the following features: Money back guarantee, Manufacturer’s Warranty, Returns Procedure, Return Shipping.
Money Back Guarantee
This is your first line of defense: the fact that you can return your purchased item for any reason within a certain reasonable time period. Usually, this period is not very long, and the terms are generally pretty strict. For example, one popular manufacturer of online patio furniture will only accept unconditional returns within the first 15 days of receipt, pre-paid (meaning you pay the return-shipping). Furthermore, the item must be undamaged, and it must be returned in its original packaging. (If the item is damaged, then the return falls under the Warranty policy.) As for repackaging an assembled item, well, that can be difficult, but the return will not be accepted otherwise. But let me offer you some reassurance: in over two years in this business, out of over 1,100 orders, we only saw this happen maybe 4 times.
Should you return your outdoor furniture, you will most likely be using the manufacturer’s warranty. The duration of these vary from 30 days to 10 years. Generally, 6 months is sufficient, as shipping damage is usually apparent before you even open the package, and manufacturing flaws are usually revealed with just a few uses (or sometimes using after the first extreme change in weather). Of course, longer warranties are better because it shows more confidence in the workmanship, not mention that some problems can show up later.
Warranty terms generally require some proof of the damage. This could require sending back the broken piece(s) or simply emailing a picture of the damage. Postage or shipping may be paid or reimbursed by either the seller or the manufacturer.
Depending on the situation, shipping is either paid by you, the seller, or the manufacturer. If you are invoking the Guarantee, then you will generally be responsible for return shipping costs. The reason is because no one really did anything wrong. It is true that some circumstances could justify reimbursement by the manufacturer (such as inferior workmanship) or by the seller (such as poor customer service), but these are generally decided on a case-by-case basis independent of the posted policy. If you feel an exception should be made for you, then by all means ask. The worst they can say is no.
If you invoke the Warranty, then it is our opinion that you should never have to pay the return shipping, or the replacement part shipping. However, the posted policies are a contract, and you are bound by them. If they do not want to budge, that is certainly poor customer service on their part, but you implicitly agree to their posted policies the moment you make the purchase and accept the shipped item. And as with the Guarantee, there is never harm in asking. If they want you buy from them again, they will pick up the shipping.
Finally, there should be clear instructions on what to do in the event of a return. Most of the time, a simple phone call or email is enough. However, some companies request you fill out a form online, and others require pictures before they take any action. Frankly, we recommend you send pictures whether they require it or not, because the service will be much better. Another reason is because the cost of shipping damage can usually be recovered by the manufacturer from the shipping company (assuming the packaging was adequate, and the manufacturer makes it a practice to insure their shipments).
Anyone can provide good customer service when nothing goes wrong. But accidents happen, and that is when good customer service is the most important. You can get a feeling for the kind of customer service you will get from reviewing their policies and terms. Are they clear? Are they reasonable? Are they written to take care of you first, or themselves? Is the company easy to contact? Try calling them to get clarification of their policies. In the unlikely event that you must return your patio furniture, being familiar with their policies before making the purchase will make the return process that much easier.