Surviving IKEA

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The other day my son Paul suggested something so disturbing, so cringe inducing, so horrific, I had to hold onto my kitchen counter for support.  “I need a new bureau. Let’s go back to Ikea.”  All I could do was shake my head, repeating the word, “No.” I cannot.  I will not go back to IKEA for these 9 reasons…

#1First, they lure you in with Swedish meatballs and Lingonberry parfaits.  Don’t fall for it. Their cafeteria, located in front of the store, is light-filled, cheerful and Scandinavian. Colorful bins brim over with red, yellow, blue and green potholders, pencils, teapots and plate mats.  You think what a fun, wonderful place. But then you enter the rest of the store…

#2 – It’s designed in this confusing labyrinth.  Explorer Ernest Shackleton would get lost. You need to scatter breadcrumbs to find your way out.  Not to mention all their furniture has Swedish names with seventeen syllables and no vowels.  Half the time I couldn’t remember where I was or what I liked, let alone how to pronounce it.

#3 — There are no salespeople. Usually sales people at furniture stores are like wolves circling baby goats.  You can’t move two feet without hearing, “Can I help you?” Not at IKEA. It’s like invasion of the body snatchers.  You walk for miles and slowly realize there are only tired, confused-looking customers.  No employees are anywhere.

#4 – Wait, there’s one!  Finally, after an hour we stumbled upon a hollowed-eyed woman wearing an IKEA tag who looked at me like she’d never seen a human before.  When I asked how I went about buying furniture she pointed to an odd plastic pouch hanging from a sofa.  “All information’s there,” she said and wafted away.

#5 – Those odd plastic pouches.  All IKEA items have a baggy with a bunch of order forms and one stubby pencil.  This is their system.  It dawned on me why they charge so little.  You do everything yourself.  And I mean…everything.  An uneasy feeling started to grow.

#6 – The “I can’t assemble things” shaming  – After filling out the sales ticket, we stood in a long line to pay.  When I voiced concern to the casher I didn’t know an Allen wrench from Pippi Longstocking, she looked at me like I’d just shot a puppy.  Sighing, she handed over a paper with the name of a local assembler.  Phew, I thought walking away. We’re almost out of IKEA’s clutches.  Little did I know, the worst was yet to come…

#7– The warehouse— Remember those galley ship movies as kids?  Dozens of sweaty men chained to benches, rowing? That’s what IKEA’s warehouse reminded me of, except you’re expected to sit down and pick up an oar.  After realizing we were completely on our own, Paul and I secured a trolley and I asked one of the few, tired-looking workers where we could find the Koppanghemnes bureau.   “Row 270-B,” he said, jerking his thumb toward an area the size of 10 airport hangars.

#8 – The massive body strength required.  Half hour later, Paul and I found the Koppanghemnes bureau, unassembled in three flat boxes, just high enough to qualify as an Olympic event.  We struggled to get them onto the trolley, went through another long line to check out, and finally exited, blinking in the bright sunlight.  Three hours had gone by. I wanted to stand there, arms in the air, like the triumphant prison break scene in “Shawshank Redemption”.

#9 – You have to store everything before (head lowered) having it assembled.  We finally got home and once again, lugged those effing boxes to our garage where they sat till I called the wonderful man who magically turned this stuff into an actual bureau… for another fee.

Needless to say, I won’t be returning to IKEA in the near future, even if they do have Lingonberry parfaits.

And yes, I know I’m treading on thin ice here.  Many people love IKEA.  I’d still love to swap war stories. Thanks for reading and if you like it, please share!  Thanks.

46 Comments

  1. My IKEA shopping strategy — go online and write down any and every possible number, code, anything you see for an item you're interested in. I think I just printed everything out I could. Armed with exactly what you're looking for, then it's a little quicker trip through the maze and you find the pieces you want. Then write down MORE info (where to find the damn thing in the warehouse), then you… Hmmm on second thought, this isn't much of a strategy. We don't go to IKEA much.

  2. I have not had the (dis)pleasure of the IKEA experience yet. We are looking into a wooden bed frame with storage drawers. I saw several options on the IKEA website, but I was afraid to go forward. I have heard others say that the Swedish meatballs are the bait on the hook and it's downhill from there. Now you've confirmed I have reason to be afraid.

  3. I've only been in Ikea once, years ago, and do not feel a strong pull to go back. I got lost and thought I would never find my way out of there! I am directionally challenged so that could be my problem but still……I've heard they have good ice cream/frozen yogurt? Not sure if that's true but even that would not be enough. My sister, on the other hand, shops there all the time. Go figure.

  4. It's a 50/50 proposition. Some love it. Some won't go near it. Maybe if I'd never stumbled into that dreaded warehouse, I would've liked it more. I'll never know.

  5. Anonymous

    We have always enjoyed our trips to IKEA and our furniture purchased in 2010 is still functioning well and looks great.

  6. The only reason I ever go to IKEA is because they sell really cheap bars of hazelnut chocolate that my kids love. We travel right across town, walk in, buy 20 bars of chocolate, and leave. Six months later, we do the same thing again. Apparently they also sell furniture.

  7. The only reason I ever go to IKEA is because they sell really cheap bars of hazelnut chocolate that my kids love. We travel right across town, walk in, buy 20 bars of chocolate, and leave. Six months later, we do the same thing again. Apparently they also sell furniture.

  8. The only reason I ever go to IKEA is because they sell really cheap bars of hazelnut chocolate that my kids love. We travel right across town, walk in, buy 20 bars of chocolate, and leave. Six months later, we do the same thing again. Apparently they also sell furniture.

  9. I’ll never forget the look on my then boyfriends face when he proudly showed me the queen sized bed he had assembled for my daughter and I said “Where are the drawers?” Yep. We had to dissassemble it and return it and get the right bed. It was – um – a strain on our friendship.

  10. BKT

    Love the blog post. I think the enterprising Swedish folks who brought America IKEA must be laughing at us. Just look at the effort and money we exert for these disposable items. Millions walk the labyrinth. Some even seem to be expert, even though I do not think most could find Sweden on a map.

    I’ve built one piece of furniture. It was an item that a friend bought. It went pretty well relative to the many stories that I hear from others. The IKEA stuff isn’t going to be a family heirloom. I don’t know how long this particular piece lasted,as the friendship collapsed even more quickly.

  11. Everyone laments the challenge of assembling the IKEA stuffs—-I can’t even make it to that failure point 🙂 I become paralyzed the moment I walk through the store. I lose all ability to make any sort of decision or purchase 🙂

    • Laurie Stone

      Carla, me too. I’m not a shopper to begin with and I find the experience overwhelming. Forget having to assemble the product after!

  12. i am seriously afraid to comment, as I am pretty sure bad talking IKEA is just as dangerous as disrespecting THE OPRAH. but – got our46- months ago we got our first IKEA here on the Coast of Illinois – i have still not walked through the doors. I am too terrified of the possible presence of lutefisk!!

  13. Haha! I actually DO like Ikea, in that I like their choice, price & functionality. However, it is overwhelming and confusing, a nightmare to try to do on a time schedule, and the warehouse is horrific. &, yes, there are no staff!

  14. I loved this – and the fact that IKEA is the same the world over – I couldn’t believe it on my first visit there – how you couldn’t find your way out – it just felt like I was wandering in meandering circles. Then when it was finally time to get out we had to find the right section in the warehouse, and then the right flat packs and then the check out and then the car…….I’m just glad my husband did the assembling or I’d have been a complete wreck. I still haven’t had their meatballs yet!

    • Laurie Stone

      Leanne, I know people who love IKEA and I admire their grit. Your husband assembled? You’re already ahead of the game.

  15. I have never been to IKEA there isn’t one near us. But I have always been intrigued, especially by those meatballs! After reading this though, I’m not sure it is worth the trip. 🙂

  16. What a hilarious post, sorry to say, sad but true in many ways. If you want inexpensive furniture for which you don’t have to take out a second mortgage, AND you have talent to build it, then IKEA is your store. After our room addition last Fall, we went a few times. It is a little bit of a drive (20 miles). Plan to make a day of it and for God’s sake go when it’s toddler nap time, like 2pm on a Saturday. Most of the screaming kids and harried parents have fled. Then plan to eat dinner there because you will need the energy. I learned that if I needed small items from the floor, to just go in through the back door to the section you need. I recently bought pillow cases and cushions and there was no need to go through the maze of horror. You really can’t order anything from their website either–I tried. I still maintain their meatballs are to die for (and their chocolate bars).

    • Laurie Stone

      Terri, There are back doors? I knew there were secret passages I knew nothing about. Will file away for future knowledge. Thank you.

  17. I’ve got a confession. I’ve never been to an Ikea store. But I can rest assured that my engineer husband would love it and be able to assemble anything they can put in a box. If he needed help he could enlist my engineer son. All this while, I sip on a glass of chardonnay. Yes, I am spoiled.

    • Laurie Stone

      Molly, You truly are living the dream. You not only save lots of money with IKEA, but aggravation with your engineering crew. Nicely done.

  18. I love IKEA, but I 100% agree that their customer service leaves a heck of a lot to be desired. Sometimes getting assistance, real assistance is like trying to cry out the large echoing cave, the reverberating sounds are the cries of help from the customer’s around you.

    In the future, like suggested above, just find what you need online, jot it down, and head directly to the warehouse though to me, I go for the showrooms so that cuts out all the fun. I’m an experience nut, I love experiencing all the innovative living spaces!

    I’ve never had trouble finding assistance in the warehouse, always some man around to lug my shelving unit onto the flat bed for me, but it is the most overwhelming and underwhelming part of the adventure blended into one!

    And something has got to be done about the check out line. There has been so many times that we’ve endured the entire pilgrimage and when we reached the checkouts just dropped everything at the sight of the clustered masses and head on out the door anyway.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention bagless, they force you to purchase their giant blue bags, but perhaps you only got the furniture. 😉

    • Laurie Stone

      We only got the furniture, so I escaped the bagless part. The only way I’d use IKEA again is to order upholstered furniture that needs no assembling. I just can’t handle that warehouse.

  19. I have always found a trip to IKEA daunting – then about a year ago I read an “adult” book called Diamond Club (an alternative to 50 Shades of Grey – my book club’s choice) that had a chapter featuring the main character & her friend visiting IKEA – let’s just say, I look on IKEA’s meatballs in a different light! 😳
    Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments! 😊

    • Laurie Stone

      Linda, Laughing. I would love read that kinky IKEA scene! Glad you agree with my assessment. Some brave people love it.

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