Casco Bay Furniture – What’s so Hard About Doing a Great Furniture Delivery?

My name is Richard and I handle the delivery part of the business for Casco Bay Furniture. Four years ago, I had a full head of dark brown hair. Now I’m all gray…like all the presidents (Clinton, Bush, Obama).

As any online furniture retailer will tell you, the biggest problem in this business is shipping your product quickly and free of damage. Every online furniture retailer is part of the global supply chain. We all do the best we can, but at Casco Bay Furniture we don’t own the delivery companies and we can’t completely control the delivery time

There are a few different ways for an online furniture retailer to deliver your order. By the way, any online furniture retailer wants you to receive a good delivery. A bad delivery is as upsetting for the retailer as it is for you. The job of the retailer is to choose the best delivery service they can and to keep miss-steps to an absolute minimum.

One rule of thumb that I have discovered (and you may not be happy to hear this), the faster the delivery, the more damage you are going to get. A private, in-home delivery company is going to give you the best delivery, but it is going to take the longest.

Big LTL Carriers (Less Than Truckload) and the Curbside Delivery.

The curbside delivery is the fastest delivery and the least costly for a retailer. What’s good about it? It’s fast. Your order is packaged up generally very substantially (sometimes double boxed) and then it is picked up by a large freight company such as Yellow Freight. If, for example,your ordering is travelling from High Point, North Carolina to Dallas, Texas. The LTL carrier will pick up your order within a few days of its completion and immediately begin the process of shipping it. The problem is that it will go through 3 or 4 freight terminals before it reaches you.

At each terminal, it is unloaded from one truck and then loaded again onto another truck. We have found all this handling to be a recipe for disaster. The orders are insured, but should damage occur, it is a real pain in the you-know-what to file a claim and collect your money.

When your order is delivered to your home, it is dropped at the curb. You might say,“Well I saved some money. What’s wrong with this?” The problem is that, when it arrives, you are not allowed to open the box to examine it. You are asked to sign the papers and the truck leaves. Then you have to carry it into your home with your own helpers…hundreds of pounds of furniture.

After all this work, you may examine your order and find it is damaged. The problem you now have is that you have signed the bill of lading (receiving papers) as received in good condition and you now need to make a claim. It’s an uphill battle. At Casco Bay Furniture, we never do curbside deliveries for this reason.

The COMBO Carrier (LTL and in-home delivery compromise)

With the Combo Carrier there is a long haul shipper and a local delivery company. An example of this service is Home Direct who is probably the largest furniture in-home delivery company in the country and used by the largest retailers. In this case, more care is taken than the curbside delivery and you can choose different levels of service, including a local in-home delivery company. The problem here is that there is also a lot of handling and terminals and possible damage. If you have to file a claim, it can take months, literally. If you do use this type of service, my advice is to take out an all risk insurance policy. The insurance is costly, but worth it if you have a claim. At Casco Bay Furniture we do not use “The Combo Carrier”.

The Private In Home Delivery Company

This is your gold standard. There are quite few companies that provide this type of service in North Carolina, most of which do a pretty good job. Here’s how it works. The in home delivery company provides free local pick up at the factories in North Carolina to the retailer (at Casco Bay Furniture pretty much all our products are North Carolina based). Most of the delivery companies pick up once or twice a week from the local factories. The delivery companies run trucks to the various parts of the country. The same two drivers that load your order on the truck will  be same two drivers that carry it into your house. Your order is not handled that often and the drivers are responsible for your order the entire time. Generally, the same two drivers do the same route all the time.

What’s the rub with an in-home delivery?

Here’s the rub. The delivery companies will not run their truck if it’s not full. Fuel is very costly. The trucks need constant maintenanceand the drivers are well paid. If the truck is not full, they won’t go…no matter how much the retailer pleads with them that they have an important delivery or an upset customer. Most of the companies that are in this business go to each area in the US about every 2 to 4 weeks. This usually works out well, with one exception.

Let’s say you live in Oregon and your order was coming from North Carolina. The truck only goes to Oregon every 4 weeks. Imagine that your order was finished and picked up on Thursday but the truck left the day before. You will have to wait for the next truck 4 weeks later. Some customers get upset, which I understand. About the only thing your retailer can do is to try to find another truck. Most deliveries are pretty timely, but sometimes deliveries are delayed.

We recently had an order that we moved between two delivery companies to speed up the delivery. The problem with this delivery was  the order was going to a remote part of Canada and the customer was picking it up on the US side. The delivery companies rarely go to this border area. They can’t run an 85 foot tractor trailer many hundreds of miles for one order. In this case the order was for a single loveseaat. They must wait until it is feasible for them to do so. Many deliveries of new furniture are for special occasions and a delayed delivery is an unhappy customer.

What should you do if you have a delivery problem?

Like I said, a bad delivery is as upsetting for the retailer as it is for you. If there is a problem, call your rep and have a conversation about your problem. There are often more possibilities than you can see, and if you work together, you just might be able to come up with a solution.

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5 Comments

  1. Thanks for your very informative article Richard. You mentioned that you did not own the delivery company and could not control the delivery time. I think this fact needs to be impressed on all consumers as no single job will pay the IC enough for him to do only one customer’s job on any day. Many retailers promise consumers they can deliver on any date and time the customer chooses. We both know this cannot work. Customers need to be properly informed that they need to make themselves (or another responsible adult) available all day for their deliveries. These faulty promises made by retailers cause numerous problems between the ICs and the customers. Keep educating your customers!

  2. melissa

    How do I know if the furniture I order will fit through my doorway?

    • Richard

      Melissa if the back cushions can come off, you need only measure the ht of the hard back. Most newer homes have doors which are 34-36″ wide. Also when carrying through a sofa through a door if you carry it in, in the shape of a “V” you can also gain about 2″. It is important to know if you are in a single family house or an apartment. Is there a hallway in front of the door? Are there any obstructions on the interior side of the door? If you need any further help give us a call. Richard

  3. Thank you so much! I am in the process of buying new furniture and I now have a better understanding. We had our first experience with a white glove delivery service ( Sun) and it was wonderful…not a mark and they really cared…posibbly because they knew they were totally responsible for the load from beginning to end.

    • Richard

      Joan we have used Sun and they are a very good company. Our only exception with Sun is that they prefer to unwrap sofas prior to the final delivery and then they re-wrap the sofas in furniture blankets. We have found that our packaging on most of our sofas is exceptional. In the hotter months we wrap our sofas in a special heat resistant paper, sort of like a hospital gown. Then we wrap them in foam and then shrink wrap and carboard. We have found it better to leave the sofas in their factory packaging.

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