More than anything else in your home, you use your furniture continually. Sitting, lounging, computing, chatting or sleeping, you do it on your furniture.
All those actions don't have to remind you regularly about how you were shafted buying furniture in Cuenca. Continue reading to learn how to buy furniture here the right way. And enjoy your furniture!
In North America and Europe, you walk into a store and order what you want. It's then delivered that day or the next. If you order custom furniture, you receive a completion date, by which time you usually have your new sofa set, recliner, or bedroom set.
And you usually pay in full, up front.
In Cuenca (and this holds true for all of Ecuador), if you pay in full, there's a good chance you'll never receive what you ordered, receive only part of your order, or receive it with such poor quality that you don't want it.
At that point, it might be easier to squeeze juice from a rock with your bare hands than it will be to have things rectified by the furniture makers.
To avoid this, never pay the full amount for any furniture being made for you, whether it's completely custom or simply a copy of something in the showroom. In fact, don't even pay half. If the business really wants your business, they'll be willing to accept about one-third of the total cost, basically enough to cover the materials.
Ecuadorian culture is a haggling culture. Unless it's a small item and has a price tag on it (food in a supermarket, clothes, etc.), you're expected to haggle.
If you're embarrassed about haggling, consider how much your embarrassment could cost you. On $1,000 of furniture, it could cost you $200. Do you really want to be that unembarrassed?
You'll also be telling the shop owners that you're not another stupid, rich gringo who overpays for everything. And they'll respect you for it. Trust us, we've seen it happen.
Also be sure to get a piece of paper that says what the total price is and how much you've paid.
What if you can't speak enough Spanish to haggle? Contact Lulie (using the form below) to go with you and do the negotiating. The money you save will more than cover a few hours of her time.
Some of the higher end furniture stores may not haggle, or may not go as low as you'd like. In that case...
Don't be afraid to ask for an extra something. When we went shopping for a sofa set, we ordered a full sofa, a loveseat, and two large chairs. When the store owner wouldn't go as low as we wanted, Lulie convinced her to throw in a very large ottoman and 6 accent cushions.
Maybe you saw a piece of art decorating a wall in the store. Ask for that. Or perhaps you liked a rug used in one of the settings. Ask that they add it to your order.
If negotiations have stalled, don't be shy about leaving, or at least looking like you're going to leave. Unless your expectations are set unrealistically low, the owner will likely agree to your price, or at least come down closer to it.
Many of the smaller furniture shops don't accept credit cards, so you'll need to pay with cash.
The higher end, larger stores do accept cards, but you'll get a much cheaper price if you pay with cash. Why?
Because credit cards are fairly new in Ecuador, and merchants aren't used to having to pay a service charge.
So they make you pay for the privilege of using your credit card.
If your furniture order comes to $4,000, for example, ask how much they'll take in cash. Don't be surprised if they'll drop the price to as low as $3,500.
Be sure to have plenty of tens and fives when it comes time to pay the balance. If you don't, you could end up "tipping" someone a five or a ten!
Find yourself a good tape measure (one with metric measurements) and measure where you want the furniture to go. This is especially important in smaller apartments.
Many condo buildings here have odd little nooks and crannies (mostly due to vertical water pipes). If you plan on putting something into those tiny spaces, know what will fit.
Write down the measurements for width and length (and height if necessary) in centimeters or meters, exactly as it says on the tape measure. There are 100 centimeters in a meter, and each meter is approximately 39 inches.
Then take your measurements with you to the furniture store, with your tape measure. Measure the furniture you like, to ensure that it will fit where you want it.
Bed sizes are based on mattress sizes, which are the same as mattress sizes in North America. They just have different names:
If you want a queen, tell them that you want a bed for 1.5 meters (uno y media metros). For a king, ask for 1.8 meters (uno punto ocho metros).
If you want a California king, you'll likely be buying two twin mattresses since 78" beds are very rare here. If so, tell them it's 2 meters (dos metros) that you need for the bed.
If you've ordered furniture that they're making for you (custom or a copy of a display set), tell them that you want to visit the shop or factory to view it before they deliver it to your home. If you find flaws or something else is wrong, it will be easier for the owners to accept the issue and fix the problem than to have to return it to the shop.
This happened to us. We ordered some furniture from a small shop. We ordered a dining table and six chairs that were in the shop. We also ordered a sleigh bed after we were told that they could make anything in the old US catalogues they showed us.
Lulie told them that she wanted to inspect the bed first, but they arrived at our building anyway. After bringing it all up in the elevator, and moving almost all of it into the apartment, we realized that what they'd made wasn't what we ordered. The girl in the shop had shown the owner a different bed from the catalogue.
He and his wife loaded everything back into the elevator and took it back to their shop. And then they had to make us a new bed, since we hadn't paid for it yet (see the #1 rule, above!).
At a minimum, even if you can't inspect it before delivery, do not pay the balance until you've inspected and approved of everything. Then, and only then, pay the balance. And make sure that you receive paperwork saying that you've paid in full.
Buying furniture in Cuenca doesn't have to make your life miserable, either during the process or, more importantly, once it's taking up space in your home.
If you never pay in full up front, never pay full price, ask for something extra, are willing to walk away, pay with cash, have measurements on hand, and inspect your order before you pay the balance, you'll never regret buying furniture in Cuenca. Or anywhere else in Ecuador.
If it all sounds too overwhelming to do on your own, Lulie can help. Complete the form below and she'll get back to you quickly to work out a shopping schedule.
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I just want to thank you both soooo much for creating this web site. I am originally from Cuenca but moved to New York 11 years ago and have not being back since. My husband and I are planning on visiting Cuenca over the Summer and this web site has helped me a lot.
When I came to the US we still had the "sucre," the bus ride cost 1,000 sucres and a pack of trident gum would cost 3,000 sucres. I am very nervous to go back, but thanks to your web site I now know what to expect.
My husband is American and Captivating Cuenca has taught him a lot about what my great city has to offer, things that I had forgotten about myself! :)
Thank You both so much! I cannot wait to visit Cuenca!!