Submitted by Furniture Professor
How do you determine if your furniture salesperson knows his stuff? There are 3 simple questions to ask your furniture salesperson.
I have to go into the hospital for brain surgery. Not really. But, if I were, I would check out the person wielding the scalpel very carefully. Although it is not brain surgery, or even toe surgery, I want to know that the person standing in front of me, trying to convince me to part with a large chunk of my cash, knows more about the furniture that he/she sells than I do.
Here are some questions that you can ask that will help determine the knowledge level of your home furnishings assistant for the day:
1. Is most upholstered furniture pretty much the same under the fabric?
If the answer that you are given is, “Yes”, start running.
2. What are the three most common types of seat suspension used in upholstered furniture?
If the salesperson can’t come up with at least two suspension systems, take off. A well-trained sales person should be able to tell you about eight way hand tied springs, no sag (or sinuous) and webbing. If he or she gets those, ask who makes the webbing used in most of the lower priced furniture in America. The answer should be Pirelli.
3. What is Bonded Leather?
Bonded leather is not leather. Bonded leather is vinyl with a cloth backing. The only leather in Bonded Leather is waste product that is ground up into a powder, mixed with a chemical substance and sprayed on the cloth backing. A piece of furniture with bonded leather has no leather on its top surface. None.
The inability to explain any of this thoroughly is indicative of a furniture sales person that lacks knowledge and experience or one that just doesn’t care. In either case you will be much better off excusing yourself, seeking out the sales manager and requesting a more seasoned sales professional.
1. What kind of wood is this?
A sales person should be able to tell her customer what kind of wood a piece of furniture is made from. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Some manufacturers mix woods in one collection either for visual effect or to save money in the manufacturing process.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. A store in your town is selling the XYZ dining collection. The set consists of a table and four chairs and is advertised as being a cherry finish collection. The top may have cherry veneer over an MDF substrate. This construction will help to avoid cracking, bowing and warping and it will help keep the cost down. The legs or base of the table may be made of solid rubber wood, a hardwood. With today’s technology, the stain on the legs may look identical to the stain on the top of the table, even though the woods are very different and take stain differently. The grain in rubber wood is a very light and fine grain. If you don’t know what to look for, you could miss the fact that there is very little cherry wood in your table. The chairs may be solid rubber wood through and through. Learn more about quality features of wood furniture.
What difference does this make? Although rubber wood is a hardwood, it is not as stable a wood as solid cherry is. You may get some season cracks, bowing, warping or twisting with rubber wood. You may not, depending on how you care for the wood and how well it was cured and finished. You should be given this information so that you can decide if you want the furniture or not.
2. That brings us to the next question. The sales person or the product information sheet should tell you what type of finish is used on the product.
If the furniture has an oil finish, you will have to oil it on a regular basis, possibly every month to maintain the warranty. If the group is done in a lacquer finish, it will require less care but you will want to know what care should be given the furniture. A lacquer finish should be polished with a furniture crème. Furniture crème has no abrasives to scratch the finish. It will clean and shine your wood pieces but it won’t sit on top of the lacquer trapping dust as oil will if applied to a lacquer finish.
3. Finally, the last question that I would ask the sales person would be, “What effect will seasonal climate changes have on wood furniture?”
He or she should be able to give you a fairly reliable description of how wood will react to winter dryness, spring humidity, exposure to sunlight or the heat of a fireplace. Wood is a dynamic substance. It is constantly adjusting to humidity or heat by taking on or giving off moisture. Even sealed wood exchanges moisture with its surroundings. Because the end grain of boards contains the cells that used to move water to the leaves and branches, the end grain is where the shrinking and expanding of the wood is most apparent. It is not a defect in a leaf table for a solid wood top to meet at the ends and have a gap in the middle of the top in the summer. Likewise, it is to be expected that in the dry winter weather, where the two halves of the table meet, the end grain will have shrunk in width causing the ends of the table halves to gap and the middle of the table to meet. The best way to avoid the movement of the wood is with humidity control. A humidifier in the winter and a dehumidifier in the summer will minimize seasonal changes in the wood.
Well-trained sales people should know the answers to the above questions. Consumers need good basic information about what they are buying. They won’t get that information from somebody that hasn’t been given adequate training. Let the novice sales person learn on someone that doesn’t care.