Let’s face it. Sometimes, you make a purchase and you decide you can’t live with it. In an ordinary commerce environment this would not be much of a problem at all. You’d simply return the item to the store where you bought it, or, maybe even a closer location of the same store if you’re lucky, and you’d be done with it. It’s not even a gamble to buy something just to see how it fits in your home because worst case scenario you have to run an extra errand the next time you’re out in the next 30 days. Unfortunately, with secondhand furniture the return process is not so easy. In fact, it’s not really a return process at all.

Take, for instance, the story of Kyle and my kitchen table.

We have a very long kitchen, as you can see above. I don’t recall the exact dimensions of it but it was originally two rooms before we remodelled. One small kitchen and one awkward and kind of large laundry room in a terrible location in the house. It took us quite a while to figure out what was going to work in the eat-in side of the kitchen. We left it empty for the first month we lived here. Then, at Thanksgiving or Christmas, we bought a six-chair counter height white table from Craigslist near my parent’s house. We paid only $50 for the table and we were pretty sure that we could have sold the stools alone for at least what we paid for the table, so it was an okay risk. When we saw the table, we thought it looked a little smaller than we thought it would when we measured the space for it. Sure enough, when we got it home, it was way too small. We kept it anyway through the new years when we had our first and only dinner part on it. The last week of January, we found a harvest table at a friend’s antique store and picked that up.

On our local Craigslist, we were able to sell the table and chairs for $60 — not a bad deal at all.

The key to our luck on craigslist is that Kyle is pretty good at writing posts. We always write a good, descriptive title like “white counter-height table with six barstools” and includes a picture or two along with a good description including any minor flaws in the furniture. We also let people know we’re motivated to sell. I don’t like to include the message  “I want it gone this afternoon” unless I really do need it gone by then, but I do let people know that we’ll accept the best offer.

Craigslist isn’t the only way to get rid of something. You can also try eBay, or if you’re into really moving furniture getting a booth at a local antique store or consignment shop. We’ve investigated both options are on a wait-list at our favorite antique store. The nice thing about a booth is that you don’t have to be 100% available to the whims of a buyer and you can hold on to stuff for a little longer. There also is a lot more pressure to sell though and you need to be committed to rearranging and making your space look nice and fresh. I hope that someday Mary or I will have a lot more to contribute on this topic because it’s definitely something we’re interested in!

If you don’t have luck, you can make lemonade out of lemons, so to speak. I actually decided in May that I was going to give up on trying to sell Kyle on the harvest table. After a week or so, he hadn’t really liked it still and he was refusing to give in to my suggestions to buy chairs for it. So, we found a table we both really liked (and still love!) and decided to give the harvest table a whirl on Craigslist too. We weren’t able to sell it that day and instead of relisting it, I started scheming.

I really loved the look of our harvest table but it had a break in one of the pieces of wood that made up the table top and a problem with an unstable leg. Plus, the longer I considered it, the less I thought I wanted to eat breakfast on a table top that wasn’t smooth.

While thinking it was maybe time for us to relist the harvest table, with a much better photo of it than the quick snapshot we took above, I was reading Poetic Home and came across a post about DIY reclaimed wood headboards. I especially like these two:


So maybe my harvest table doesn’t need to be returned. It just needs to be reclaimed. Sounds like a project for a future post, yes? While I think about those plans, you make sure you’re staying safe whether that means paying attention to you methods of receiving money via eBay or just using your head about when, where, and how to meet a potential buyer you met through Craigslist. These methods offer a lot more options than placing a newspaper classified in that you don’t have to give away personal information to the buyer until you trust them but it’s also easy to get over confident about your safety. When possible, meet in a public place and take a friend with you. Most importantly: use your head!

For more advice on choosing secondhand furniture (that you hopefully won’t need to return or reclaim), check out our sweet roundup of our choosing secondhand furniture series.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger... #, #, #, #, #

3 responses to “Choosing Secondhand Furniture: DIY Return Policy”

  1. […] Jess had some great tips for staying safe in her DIY Return Policy post. And there are also plenty of apps to help you out with this on your iPhone or even on your […]

  2. […] July 12, I discussed ways to get around the non-existent return policy with secondhand furniture and try to make the best of your purchases that don’t work out by reselling them or turning […]

  3. supriya says:

    Thanks for the great post on your blog, it really gives me an insight on this topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome to So Eclectic

So Eclectic is a blog dedicated to great ideas for home design. Austin, Texas-based writer Mary Marcum and Savannah, Missouri-based writer Jess Rezac feature affordable decor, decorating solutions, and inspiration. At So Eclectic, we experiment with design together. So Eclectic posts new content every weekday.

More About So Eclectic »
About Our Authors »

Hope Chest

In our hope chest, we share products that complement our home aesthetic or make us excited about the directions of new design.

© 2011, Mary Marcum and Jess Rezac at