The Pros and Cons of Shopping in Used Furniture Stores

When we set out to search for used furniture, many of us first think of the used furniture stores.  Of course, we expect to find used furniture in them.  However, quite often we are somewhat disappointed to find a large variety of cook stoves, a few used refrigerators, and lots and lots of beds and bed frames.

Do not despair.  Most used furniture stores make a large portion of their profits from used appliances.  That is a good thing.  The owner/operator will be far more interested in selling his used appliances than the old wood dresser pushed back into the corner.  In some cases, he probably purchased the old wood dresser as part of a deal to buy kitchen appliances and a few odds and ends.  In his opinion, regardless of what he may tell you to make a sale, the old wood dresser is just taking up his real estate.  He wants to get rid of it as fast as possible.

The other item that seems to be in abundance in used furniture stores is the bedroom suite.  Most are relatively new, meaning they were made within the last ten to twenty years, have a lacquered finish on something that looks like a plastic coating, and at best are pressed wood with a cheap veneer finish. 

Depressed yet?  Ready to give up on shopping for used furniture?  Look from the bright side.  The items that most interest the owner/salesman are the things you are least interested in.  Conversely, the items you are most interested in finding are the same items the owner wants out of his store.  Get the idea?  Bargains waiting to happen.

How to Shop a Used Furniture Store

There is a technique for shopping used furniture stores, especially to get the best prices.  Shop wisely.

Do not be in a hurry.  That is the first rule of thumb.  Never rush when shopping for used furniture.  The experience is not the same as going to a retail furniture store at the mall and pointing out the pieces you want and handing your credit card to the salesperson.  That is, unless you want to pay retail store prices in a used furniture store.

 Do not enter the store as if you are a know it all.  Instead, keep your knowledge in your head and listen to what the salesman tells you.  Most have an exceptionally interesting sales pitch.  Do not try to ruin it for him or her.  It will cost you if you do.

Browse the entire store, especially if this is the first visit.  Get a good idea of what the hot sales items are.  If half the store is filled with cook stoves you can bet that is where the profits are made.

Spend a few extra minutes looking at those items you would never buy.  You could learn something.  And, it you will gain the interest of the salesperson.

Wander to the area where all the older wood pieces are kept.  In some cases, the best used furniture pieces are poorly displayed because most people who shop used furniture stores do not want “old stuff.”  Their loss, your gain. 

You may notice that some items do not have a price marked on them.  Ask the price, but do not appear too interested.  Items that are not priced are usually priced on the spot by the owner or salesperson based on what he thinks he can get out of you.  That’s right.  The salesperson has been deciding how much he thinks you can pay.  He will quote a price he thinks you will take on the spot and it is usually a little higher than he expects to get or you should be willing to pay.

I always suggest that the novice buyer spend a few weekends browsing and pricing items.  You are in no hurry, or you should not be.  Learn what you are buying and compare prices from one store to the next.  Make friends with the people in the store, but remember you are not there to share your knowledge.  You are there to listen and learn.

When you are ready to buy, predetermine how much you are willing to spend and take cash to make the purchase.  Used furniture salespeople know that cash doesn’t bounce and cash costs them no service fees like credit cards or debit cards. 

And, whether it is right or not, most used furniture stores keep books very poorly.  Sometimes if you pay in cash the owner may pocket the money and never report the earnings.  So, always take cash to make purchases in used furniture stores.  Cash gets better deals.  So pull out a little cash as if you are looking to see if you have enough money to make the purchase.  The owner will notice and then you can negotiate.

Keep your cash in two separate places on your person.  The first cash you should expose should be somewhat less than the asking price.  Many salespeople would rather discount an item further than lose the sale.  If you decide to pay the full price, and with experience and practice you will do less and less of that, walk outside the store and out of sight as if you are going to your car or to the bank to get additional cash.  Often the salesperson will make a deal if he thinks you may not return.  Remember he only has so much room in the store.  If you are buying something that will free up some of his real estate he knows he will make a bigger profit on the next deal.

Be certain that you have a means of removing the furniture from the store as soon as you pay for it.  You are not dealing with a large retail store that delivers of has extra storage space.  Take the purchase with you.  The salesperson will remember that if you return to the store for a purchase later.

Negotiate — Haggle

Salespeople in used furniture stores often expect a good negotiation.  Some are disappointed if they don’t get a good go at it.  Most items are overpriced hoping someone will walk in and pay the full price.  Do not disappoint the salesman.

Negotiating is easy.  Start by asking, “Is that the best price you can give me?”  Most often the salesman will say, “yes.”

Look at your cash and shake your head as if you can’t go the full price.  The salesperson sees the cash and knows you are ready to buy.  It is his job to get the most he can of your cash.  The last thing he wants to see is you putting your money back in your wallet.

Decide how much you are willing to pay and ask if he can take that amount.  Often he will say he can’t discount the item that much, but often he will change his mind if you appear to be leaving.

Sometimes, you are going to walk out of the store empty handed, without making a purchase.  It is hard to leave behind a piece of furniture that you really want.  The first real lesson in shopping for used furniture is that there is plenty of it.  Just because you like one item does not mean you won’t find something you like better.  Learn to be detached from your purchases.  It’s just furniture.