Online shopping in Latvia

Since moving into the new home, Alex and I have spent a LOT of time browsing both bricks and mortar furniture shops, and their online counterparts. At times I’ve been on the verge of tears – coming to a standstill mid-shop-floor surrounded by an odd mix of blinged up, faux Rococo sofa sets, plastic chandeliers, uniform laminate shelving systems and animal print everything.

It’s at times like this that we let our cursors hover over the ‘buy’ button on websites like Mebstyle that offer an Ikea delivery service. But then the little snob in me hesitates. “No, no, no, we should at least try to buy local and keep our flat looking at least a tad less mainstream.” So we keep looking.

Until now, very few inquiries made online have resulted in a purchase, and the purchases that have been made haven’t been easy to make. Online shop owners, take note!

After weeks of deliberation, we’d finally found a dining room chair we both seemed to like. In my first inquiry I requested more detailed measurements since it was important for us to know the height of the seat. The response? “We’ve actually stopped stocking this specific model because the factory doesn’t make it anymore.” Cue groans and eye rolling.

Lesson #1 – Save both your own and your customer’s time by making sure all product descriptions include exact measurements.

Lesson #2 – Remove items that are no longer in stock from your website to avoid disappointing customers.

Having settled on a second best dining room chair, I made another inquiry. Since the image on the website was a bit blurred, we couldn’t make out what fabric had been used to cover the seat. Cue another quick email asking to clarify this.

Of course, the shop’s reply was flagged up as junk so it took me a couple of days to find it. The reply was brief but not impolite – “We only have access to the same images you see on the website so we don’t know what fabric it is.” Needless to say the inquiry didn’t result in a purchase.

Lesson #3 – Insist on getting only the best images and detailed information from suppliers.

Lesson #4 – If you want them to buy from you rather than your competitors, find out the answers to your potential customers’ questions.

So that was the chair saga but we also have a bed saga. At the time of writing we have a half built bed frame in the bedroom. Again, after lots of browsing we’d finally set our hopes on a locally made wooden bed frame. I placed the order via the website without making a payment – it’s not uncommon for online shops in Latvia to accept cash on delivery or issue an invoice rather than to have an integrated online payment system.

The confirmation page informed me to expect a staff member to get in touch shortly so I was happy to receive a phone call the next day from an unknown number. Sadly, the caller had rung to tell me they no longer stocked this particular bed because the supplier had proven to be shoddy. See lesson #2. Instead, I was offered to check out his mate’s website to see if there were any bed frames there that we might like.

One of them seemed suitable so I phoned back and placed the order. The bed was made to order and it arrived this morning. Of course, I’m not entirely happy with it because not only had one of the parts been made incorrectly, but the colour isn’t what we thought it would be – the photos of the different varnish options on the website are dire and totally inaccurate. See lesson #3.

After our disappointing attempts at buying chairs online, we finally bought a set last night at an actual bricks and mortar furniture shop only to discover that one of the chairs was missing a few vital details but that’s a different story. We have chairs – hurray! Sadly, they are not made locally because Latvian made wooden chairs seem madly expensive (sigh). Perhaps when we win the lottery we’ll get our hands on a set of beautiful Wenden chairs but for now we dream and we don’t intend on buying any more furniture online in the near future.

Have you had any online shopping nightmares in Latvia?

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