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Helpful Tips When Buying School Furniture
By: Steve Noxon

Are you contemplating purchasing furniture for your school? If so, become an informed buyer. Before you place your order for classroom furniture, here are some helpful tips you will want to keep in mind and questions you should ask before making your final decision.

1. Research distributors.
In addition to reading this magazine and looking through the numerous catalogs you get in the mail, another good source of information is the Internet. Using your favorite search engine, type in keywords such as “school furniture” and “classroom furniture,” and you will find countless choices of distributors’ Web sites to explore and gather information.  Oftentimes, their Web sites offer many more products than their catalogs, and many vendors offer promotional discounts and “Web specials.” If you can’t find what you’re looking for, be sure to call the distributor and ask if they carry the product(s).

2. Place your order early.
This is especially true if you order your school furniture in the summer to arrive before school starts. Keep in mind that the manufacturers’ normal lead time is two to four weeks, and that’s just for the product to be manufactured. In the busy summer months, lead times can extend out to four to six weeks.

You also have to allow some time for the shipping. Transit time with a freight carrier is normally three to five days. 

Many manufacturers offer some of their best-selling products as “Quick-Ship.” This usually means the product will ship in two weeks or less. Although the Quick-Ship offering has limited color choices, this option can bail you out if you put off ordering your school furniture until the last minute.

The best advice is to order early!   

3. Order your school furniture in standard colors and models.
Although it seems like a great idea to order your new classroom chairs in the hot, new colors, resist the urge and stick with standard colors. Not only do these designer colors carry a long lead time, they are oftentimes more expensive. It is also much more difficult to match these designer colors when you need to reorder more school furniture down the road. 

4. Order the correct height furniture for your students.
Getting the right height chair is very important, since most student desks and tables are height adjustable. Here are some suggested chair heights by grade level for students of average height and weight.

* Pre-school to kindergarten: 10”, 12”, 14”
* Grade 1: 12”, 14”
* Grade 2: 14”, 16”
* Grade 3: 16”
* Grade 4: 16”, 18”
* Grades 5-12: 18”

If at all possible, measure the heights of a representative sample of students in each grade prior to each school year. This will help you more accurately determine your specific seating needs as time goes by.

5. Select quality manufacturers with good warranties.
Do some research before buying your school furniture. Ask yourself (or your distributor of choice) these questions:

* How long has a particular manufacturer been in business? 
* Does this particular manufacturer specialize in school furniture?
* How long is the warranty and what does it cover?
* How does a particular manufacturer service their warranty claims?

6. Bundle your order.
It is always a good idea to order as much as you can from one particular manufacturer.  Not only will you realize some freight savings, you may be able to qualify for better pricing as your order size increases. It also makes it much easier to coordinate colors and styles throughout your school. 

7. Ask questions.
Make sure you purchase from a distributor that can answer all your questions and make you feel good about your order. This seems basic, but, many times, purchasers don’t ask enough questions and then are surprised when their furniture arrives. 

Here are a few questions to ask:

* Will my furniture come fully assembled?
* How long will it take to receive my furniture?
* Because I am ordering a large quantity, am I eligible for a discount?

If there is one grey area in the school furniture ordering cycle, this is it. It is very important to understand how your new furniture will be delivered.  Let’s start with understanding some industry terminology:

Tailgate delivery
The driver will bring the merchandise to the tail end of the truck, and the customer is responsible for getting the furniture off the truck and inside the school. This is the most cost-effective way to have your new furniture delivered.

Inside delivery
Available for an additional charge, the driver will bring the merchandise from the truck to the closest point inside your facility. Keep in mind that the driver is not responsible for distributing your new furniture throughout the school, only to the closest point inside the building from where he unloaded the merchandise.

Lift-gate delivery
Available for an additional charge, the driver is responsible to get your freight to the ground. A lift-gate is a device used to raise and lower items from ground level to the level of a tractor trailer. If your delivery location does not have a loading dock or fork-lift, or the item is too heavy to remove from the trailer by hand, then you may need a lift-gate.

Call before delivery
This service allows the carrier to contact you to schedule a delivery appointment at your convenience and allows you time to arrange for people to help unload the freight from the truck. Since some furniture vendors charge for this service and some do not, be sure to check with them when placing your order. Remember to include all of the contact information on your purchase order.

Note:  Be sure to have a contact person to help coordinate deliveries in the summer months. Most schools have limited hours or days they are opened in the summer.

Receiving Your Shipment
Here are some guidelines once you have received your furniture shipment.

Verify count.
Make sure you receive as many cartons as are listed on the delivery receipt. If any shortage is discovered, note exactly how many cartons are short on the carrier’s delivery receipt and have the driver note the shortage on your copy.

Carefully examine each carton for damage.
If damage is visible, note this fact on the delivery receipt and have the driver clearly note the damage on your copy.

Inspect cartons for concealed damage.
Any concealed damage should be reported to your vendor immediately. Be sure to keep the original carton as well. According to ICC regulations, failure to report concealed damage within 15 calendar days of the delivery date could result in the carrier denying the claim, and replacement costs may be your responsibility.

Steve Noxon is the general manager for furniture4schools, www.furniture4schools.com.

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Christian School Products