Right after Christmas, my family and I headed out to the furniture stores near us to look at bunk beds. The thinking went that the boys would have more room to play in their room if they had a bunk bed, and that made sense. Plus they were very excited at the idea.
We were not trying to obtain bunk beds to be part of our heritage – we simply wanted sturdy, non-ugly beds. I was astonished how much the beds cost at the places we looked – Bassett, Raymour & Flanagan, and Thomasville, for example. It immediately brought me back to a 1997 trip to Ethan Allen when my wife and I were looking for acceptable looking bookshelves. Ethan Allen wanted about $500 for such a thing, and I beat a hasty retreat. Similarly, these outfits all wanted to sell very modest furniture at not modest prices, complete with ‘sales’ that never end, and free delivery today only offers, and several other retail gambits that drive me crazy.
As we left the last of the stores, the kids were excited as ever for a bunk bed, and I was certain the internet could offer a better alternative. Sure enough, some googling rapidly turned up all sorts of bunk bed stores on the net. Since our goal was very simple – sturdy, simple, not ugly, and wood – I figured this might work, and from the prices it was clear we’d save several hundred dollars.
We wound up buying an Ethan bed from SimplyBunkBeds.com, which is part of NetShops. I found a few complaints and frustrations about them on the web, but I found far more satisfied customers, so we read up on the bed, reviewed the assembly instructions online, and ordered one, along with a trundle bed to go under it.
It arrived more than a week before it was due (although the trundle remains back ordered) and it appeared in three heavy boxes. Several of the reviews of the bed had indicated assembly was time consuming, so rather than start it in the evening, I waited for Saturday morning. Dismantling the boys’ room, vacuuming out the dust bunnies, and gathering up the toys and debris from under their beds took longer than it should have, partly because housework can be slower with kids ‘helping.’ Still, we cleared the workspace and brought the pieces upstairs.
The directions were adequate – not great, but adequate. I found that one adult could make nearly the whole bed alone, although having my seven and five year old hold a few things was helpful. Where it really required two people was – no surprise – when we needed to bunk the top bed onto the bottom bed. The other two-person part, that was a surprise, was when we were screwing the slats down between the sideboards. The sideboards were both bowed and so we needed one person to push the sideboard in while the other drove in the screws to hold it all together.
Apart from that, it was really very easy. The kids thought it was a lot of fun to watch the bed go together, and since I had known going into it that it would take a couple hours, we hadn’t started the job at 4pm.
This adventure in internet shopping has shown to me one more time why retail has a huge problem on its hands. With more choice, a lower price, substantial convenience, and much higher value, I cannot imagine anyone able to turn a screwdriver choosing to buy something like this in a retail store.