Beautiful photos, unusual and exclusive products, high Google rankings, and much lower prices – is a furniture store offering all the above too good to be true?

With e-commerce the norm in 2023, and parallel importation into New Zealand of goods like furniture becoming more common, knowing how to buy safely is important.

Shopping directly from other consumers, on platforms such as Trade Me and Facebook Marketplace, has known risks, but what about when you’re dealing with what at least appears to be a professional business?

With high-end products at low-end prices, New Zealand furniture website Kor Home’s offerings appear high-up in image and product search results when browsing with keywords such as “buy white couch NZ”.

The Boba Sofa by Kor Home uses the same product imagery as one from Mitten Studio.

Kor Home / Mitten Home

The Boba Sofa by Kor Home uses the same product imagery as one from Mitten Studio.

Their extensive product range offers a roll-call of trendsetting pieces, from boxy, minimalistic linen daybeds to sculptural cloud-style sofas; cane feature armchairs to Mid-century tables and sideboards.

A few weeks ago when shopping for a white linen couch, I almost became a customer myself . . . until their Google reviews hinted at another story.

The reviews are polarising, in some cases putting out the warning to “buyer beware”. Nearly all cite poor communication and extra-long wait times.

Miriama Kamo/Instagram

An advocate for reusing, recycling and low waste decor, Miriama Kamo and her family have giving this piece of furniture a lot of loving and living.

Cosmetic Tattooist Alana Meikle purchased two chairs from Kor Home for her studio and had to kick up a huge fuss in order to actually get them.

Supplied

Cosmetic Tattooist Alana Meikle purchased two chairs from Kor Home for her studio and had to kick up a huge fuss in order to actually get them.

Alana Meikle, 21, director of Lans Artistry cosmetic tattooing in Auckland, purchased two chairs for a total cost of $525 (including $55 shipping) from Kor Home for her new beauty studio on April 27.

”They came up really quickly in Google and their photos were really nice,” say Meikle.

Due to relocate to her new premises in five weeks time, she ordered the chairs thinking that she would have only a week to wait for delivery.

Meikle purchased this chair from Kor Home for her cosmetic tattooing studio.

Supplied

Meikle purchased this chair from Kor Home for her cosmetic tattooing studio.

Seven-and-a-half weeks later, she was still waiting, without any idea of what was going on. Responses from the retailer were either murky, “didn’t make sense”, were “like something from ChatGPT”, or straight up “radio silence”, she says.

Delays were explained by “shipping problems” and the volume of freight. It wasn’t until Meikle persistently messaged a mobile number she had obtained that her delivery was made.

A colleague who received the delivery said the delivery person appeared scared.

“I’ve sent them so many texts, because they don’t have a number that you can call, it just says ‘Please text’.

“At one point, I got like really psycho. And I was like, ‘I’ve already paid for these items, this is theft.’ I was like, ‘I will take legal action.’ And then they said ‘Oh no don’t worry, we’ll deliver it today.’”

One of the chairs purchased by Meikle for her studio.

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One of the chairs purchased by Meikle for her studio.

Meikle says the quality was acceptable. After all the fuss, “they look just like the pictures,” she says.

Other customers remain dissatisfied.

Auckland-based accountant Nick, who did not want to give his full name, was due to move into his first home with his partner in June. In March, he ordered a bed and bedside tables for $1800 from Kor Home.

“On Google, they’re almost one of the first sites to pop up,” he says. “And the images that they use were of a reasonably high quality, it looks like it was all like professionally shot and the prices were quite reasonable (…) probably on the cheaper end, for solid oak furniture.

“Before buying, I was a bit nervous about the fact that it [the company] seems quite new. And there weren’t any reviews of the website at the time back in March.”

He was comforted by Kor Home’s “About us” section on their website, which describes the firm: “We are an online store run by a group of young Kiwis who love life, leading our own family-owned furniture manufacturing family business with over 20 years experience in furniture development and production.”

Though "a bit nervous", the price-to-quality ratio at Kor Home seemed too good for an Auckland couple to pass up. They have not yet received their bed.

Stuff

Though “a bit nervous”, the price-to-quality ratio at Kor Home seemed too good for an Auckland couple to pass up. They have not yet received their bed.

After placing a call to the number displayed, Nick thought Kor Home “seemed legitimate.” Four months later, after being messed around and ignored, he was still waiting for his furniture to show up.

His concerns about Kor Home mounted after he was contacted after the purchase and asked to pay additional funds due to an incorrect online listing price. He also received no or slow replies to emails and voice messages, and was disappointed that the company did not come through on its promise to furnish an open home in April as a showroom.

“I tried calling, tried emailing, tried Facebook messaging … nothing happened. That’s when I was probably resigned to the fact that I had been scammed,” he says.

A complaint to Netsafe “didn’t come back with anything constructive”.

“[Netsafe] didn’t propose any action, but they did provide some useful guidance, like what drop-shipping is, where the retailer sort of extends orders and then outsources shipping to all production to the party.”

He believes lodging a police report, giving a negative Google review, and lodging a claim with the Disputes Tribunal were actions that finally secured him a refund from Kor Home. After receiving his refund, the claim to the Disputes Tribunal was withdrawn.

“I consider myself very lucky in the sense that I did get a refund because I was resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t see those funds again,” he says.

Lorien Gugich, CEO of Chromatic Pie Games, is still waiting for her Kor Home couch and armchair to arrive.

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Lorien Gugich, CEO of Chromatic Pie Games, is still waiting for her Kor Home couch and armchair to arrive.

Lorien Gugich, 30, chief executive of Chromatic Pie Games, is waiting for the couch and chair she purchased on May 26 for $3565 (including a cost of $640 in freight to her Napier home).

She has also experienced patchy communication and has been given the excuses of missed shipments, and unforeseen freight delays.

“I just want my couch,” she says. “It’s just very inconvenient for me. I could go out and buy a cheap couch just for the sake of having a couch. But I don’t want to do that. I like to shop intentionally.”

Gugich bought a couch from Kor Home for her new place because she thought she was shopping local and wanted a specific design that she would love.

Supplied

Gugich bought a couch from Kor Home for her new place because she thought she was shopping local and wanted a specific design that she would love.

After “doing some digging”, Gugich unearthed the same products, with the same photography, being sold in Thailand by a brand named Mitten Studio.

For Gugich, the possibility that she was unwittingly buying a parallel import added insult to injury.

“I would have just loved to have been in the know about it before I hit ‘send’, especially because now they’re saying that, ‘Oh, I missed the shipment’, and blah, blah, blah. And it just, it just gives off a very unprofessional vibe, you know?”

“You’d like to be able to trust New Zealand companies,” says Gugich. “But I am definitely a bit miffed that they didn’t explain on the website that it is from overseas.”

The chair Gugich ordered from Kor Home, along with a couch, neither of which have yet turned up.

Supplied

The chair Gugich ordered from Kor Home, along with a couch, neither of which have yet turned up.

Stores like Kor Home occupy a grey area in which it’s difficult for consumers to know their rights. Fine detail in the company’s shipping policy states: “According to the actual situation of the product, delivery is allowed within 6-8 weeks after the order is shipped.”

Jessica Walker, spokesperson for Consumer NZ, confirms that “retailers need to ensure goods are delivered within the time agreed, or within a reasonable period if a delivery date hasn’t been stated.”

“When the product is defined as shipped or when it’s due to arrive, in a business model that appears to rely on leaving customers with as little detail as possible, appears to be as good as anyone’s guess,” says Walker.

“If a retailer accepts your order and fails to meet the deadline or takes an unreasonably long time to deliver the goods, you’re entitled to cancel and get a refund. Your refund should be a cash refund, not store credit. If you can’t get a refund from the retailer, contact your bank and ask for a chargeback.”

Kor Home and Mitten Studio have been approached for comment but have not replied in time for publication.

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