Buying flooring over the internet? Buyer beware…

Buyer Beware

As a brick and mortar retailer it is important to understand the risk/reward of purchasing flooring products over the internet. One of our suppliers “Provenza Flooring” a manufacturer of wood flooring has an internet site that outlines some of the risks involved when purchasing over the web.  The site starts by telling “buyers should be careful when considering the purchase of a Provenza Flooring product through an internet source.” The site goes on to say that the Provenza warranty will only be honored if the flooring purchase is made through an Authorized Provenza Dealer and the installation is performed by the purchasing dealers’ local authorized installer. Any installation by a third party installer will void your warranty.

Let me first say that not every manufacturer follows the same set of rules but each and every day more are. While the internet can be used very effectively to locate products it is not a substitute for seeing the product and understanding everything required to properly have a product installed in your home or business. With an alarming degree of regularity products purchased over the internet are counterfeit and /or not first quality. Oftentimes it is difficult to determine whether or not the product is actually real or a knock off of the real product. False comparisons happen all the time as many retailers change product names and colors to make if difficult, if not impossible, to determine if the buyer is comparing apples to apples. For that reason alone a large number of manufacturers specifically refuse to provide any warranty at all to products purchased over the internet.

Today’s customers, more than ever before, use the internet to shop and in many cases are more comfortable shopping using e-commerce than traditional shopping. Internet shopping may make sense for commodity purchases. But when buying a product that requires installation, delivery and most importantly often varies in color and quality the benefits seem to disappear when compared with the apparent cost savings. In fact, oftentimes once shipping, restock fees and receiving charges are factored into the cost using a local brick and mortar retailer is often less. Most flooring products are extremely expensive to ship due to the weight of the materials. Additionally, many online companies ship by a common carrier which requires the receiving party to off load the materials from the rear of the truck. It is not uncommon for a pallet of tile to weight more the 1000 pounds or a 12 foot wide piece of carpet to weigh 600 pounds. Many common carriers charge additional fees for shipments to residences.  Drivers will deliver without calling first to make sure that there is someone present to accept the delivery. Without the proper equipment to offload and store the material a buyer can expect to incur significant additional charges in order to make this happen.

Another item to consider is that with flooring there is absolutely no substitute to handling the product. There is absolutely no way that a buyer can accurately determine the true color and quality of the product by viewing a picture on a website. While internet shoppers will argue that they can request a sample unfortunately there is little that guarantees that the sample will accurately represent the final shipped product. Many carpets come in various weights. In fact, the good, better, or best product offering is one of the staples of the flooring industry. When purchasing from an unknown internet service provider who is to say that the quality provided will actually match what was ordered?

Finally, it is easy to claim to have an easy return policy but who knows if that is really the case. How easy is it to reach a customer service person when you don’t have an address and you are dependent on an 800 number or email address to contact the seller with a question or problem? Returning broke tile, defective wood, wrong color of vinyl or any wrong material is extremely difficult. It is not like putting the shoes in a prepaid box and returning them to Zappos. I am not talking about shopping on Amazon for a golf shirt or a table cloth. However, I am talking about internet sites such as,,, and to specifically name just a few.

So the next time you think it might be wise to purchase using ecommerce in order to save the tax, save on shipping or just get the lowest price perhaps it would be wise to consider all the costs and whether or not the manufacturer will warranty the flooring you have purchased when you are unhappy with the way it’s installed or performs in your home or business.

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