Think twice before purchasing light fixtures online

After we purchased the home we now live in, one of the first things I wanted to change was the kitchen light fixture. It had a serious case of the uglies, and the light cover no longer sat snugly against the ceiling. I looked for a replacement at chain home improvement stores (both in person and online), but nothing there was a good fit for my kitchen.

Next, I began a search for a classy and unique lighting fixture on the Lamps Plus website. This showroom has a huge selection of beautiful lighting options. After exploring numerous choices, my husband and I settled on one we thought would be a perfect fit for our kitchen. We measured the space in our kitchen and compared it to the fixture’s online measurements to ensure the end result would be what we wanted. The light fixture wasn’t cheap, but the price seemed fair, and free shipping made the purchase more attractive.

When the light fixture arrived, the design was what we expected. The fixture itself was new as advertised and well-packaged. However, after we installed it, we realized it would not provide as much light as we needed, so we knew we had to send it back.

The packaging clearly stated customers must obtain a return authorization number to return merchandise, so I called the Lamps Plus customer service number to request one. After being on hold for 11 minutes (an unacceptable length of time in my view), my call was answered by a customer service agent who disconnected me about 10 seconds into our conversation. Not wanting to sit on hold again, I emailed the account representative who had been assigned to me at the time of my purchase. She promptly sent me the return authorization number. I repackaged the lighting fixture exactly as it had been sent to me and headed off to the UPS Store to send it back.

After the UPS Store agent measured and weighed the package, he look at me regretfully and informed me it would cost $100 to send the light fixture back, even using the slowest shipping method – that amount was half of what we paid for the fixture. He explained that the problem was the size of the box and the distance it had to be shipped—from the Midwest to California. Because the box had so much vacant headroom on the inside, I asked if making the box shorter would help. He said that would save me $30 and graciously assisted me in making the modifications.

I thought about keeping the fixture, but I really had no place I could use it, and I didn’t feel selling it on Craigslist would net me any more money than I would get returning it.

Would I buy a light fixture online again? Probably not. Even though I did my homework by measuring for the fixture, there was no way to be 100 percent sure it would meet my needs until it was installed. I can’t afford another testing session like this one.

In fact, I’ve learned an even bigger lesson—avoid buying large items online unless the company offers free return shipping or returns to a local store or you’ve seen the exact same item in person or used it previously and know it will work. Spending money on return shipping is like throwing it down the drain.

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Filed under Customer service, Shopping tips

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