Wednesday, February 17, 2010


As mentioned previously, last weekend, lovers and likers everywhere celebrated Valentine's Day. Some celebrated their relationships with a romantic dinner, or a weekend getaway, or going to the local mall and mocking the lonely singles sitting alone in the  food court.

Perfect Wife and I came up with a unique new way to  spend the day. A way that both tested our feelings for each other, and confirmed that we are a perfect match.

We went furniture shopping at IKEA™.

For those of you who are not in the furniture-buying loop, IKEA™ is a giant furniture store chain that started in some obscure foreign country (Sweden). They claim to specialize in affordable, cheap furniture that you have to haul home and assemble yourself (more on this in a minute). If you are unfamiliar with this chain, you can read all the thrilling details about them here.

Last Saturday, PW decided that she needed a bureau for her clothes. Apparently, the metal file cabinet she had been using to store her delicate underthings was no longer acceptable. We were going out to do errands that would take us past our local IKEA™, so we decided to shop there. In retrospect, we should have thought this plan out a little bit more.

For one thing, IKEA™ stores are huge! If a Wal-Mart™ Superstore feels a tad big for your tastes, know that IKEA™ makes Wal-Mart™ look like your local bodega. We also went on a Saturday, when virtually every other person in Southeastern Massachusetts was also looking for furniture. As if the surging flow of humanity wasn't bad enough, with the exception of PW and I, it seemed nearly every shopper had brought a least one child with them. One child who was far too young to enjoy a trip to a furniture store. There were shrieking children everywhere.

I know, crowds and noisy, unsupervised wee ones are an expected part of the weekend shopping "experience". We knew that, and we would have been fine with it, had it not been for the rest of the IKEAshopping experience.

You see unlike other stores,  at IKEA™ you can't just go to the department you want and select the item you need. Here, once you enter the store, there is no turning back. You must follow a path through the entire store and into every department until you find the item you need. They refer to this as a "one way layout", which I think is Swedish for "rats in a maze". After you have found the item you wanted, you might think you can now proceed to the checkout, pay for your selection and leave, right? WRONG! You are at IKEA™! They have a unique shopping system all their own, which I hope never catches on at any other retailers. 

Instead of putting your selections in your cart, at IKEA™ you are given a pencil  and a piece of paper, and when you see an item you like, you write down the information posted on the product and proceed to the "warehouse". Once there, you hunt through a bunch of shelves for the item you want, load it into a cart and finally proceed to the checkout. If this sounds confusing and you think you might need help from an employee, you're in trouble. While there are plenty of employees around and they do seem very polite and friendly, they are all masters of disappearing when you need them. If you get lucky and happen to nab one, they will most likely inform you that they cannot help you with your particular problem, and suggest you go find another employee in another section in the store to assist you.

Once you have cleared all these hurdles and have purchased what you came for (as well as a few of the impulse items stacked near the cash register), you ain't out of the woods yet. You still have to get your purchases home. Unfortunately, a lot of IKEA™ customers aren't very good at estimating the square footage of their car's interior. One of the only joys of shopping at IKEA™ for me, is watching some poor soul try to stuff some huge object in a tiny vehicle. Last weekend we saw a great example of this, as a fat guy sweated and swore trying to squeeze a king-size mattress into a Volkswagen Rabbit®, while the rest of his purchases rolled around the parking lot.

Once home, of course, you still have to put the furniture together. This is one of the ways IKEA™ "saves you money". Instead of having some exploited worker in a foreign land assemble your items for pennies an hour, the company has you do it yourself, and passes the savings on to you! This wouldn't be a big deal, IF the assembly instructions had some written explanations instead of  being in cryptic sign language, AND if all of the parts needed for assembly were included in the package.

That's right, after leaving the store and vowing to never, ever return, the next day we had to go  back to IKEA™. Apparently, missing parts is a common occurrence at this chain, as we met many, many fellow customers with the same problem. The staff also treats it as an everyday thing. They didn't even pretend to be surprised by or apologize for our problem. We also once again pledged to never set foot in an IKEA™ again. So far it has been four days, and we haven't broken that vow yet. Keep your fingers crossed.

There were some good things we took away from our shopping trip: Once we got the furniture together, it was pretty nice. Also, PW and I rediscovered that we are annoyed by all the same kinds of things and people, and renewed our vow to only leave the house when absolutely necessary. Happy Valentine's Day!

PW also has a new appreciation for the lawn furniture and milk crates that used to furnish my bachelor pad.

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Blogger Sharon G. said...

By "staff", you mean the two clueless ladies who tried to manage the swarms of people on a busy President's Day weekend? It appears that their philosophy is to help you check out and spend your precious money without much stress; however, if you try to come back to return something or complain--you get to take a number like at the deli of a supermarket and wait in a long line to be called to discuss your "issue" with the skeleton staff they put in that department. As you can tell by the tone of this comment--I was quite miffed at having to drive back to IKEA (a 45-minute drive) because what I bought did not have the necessary screws, etc. to put it together. Not my fault, but they don't care. Of course, there is no way to discover this at the store since all boxes are sealed shut in the warehouse. How about maybe a free lunch or an offer to federal express the necessary parts to me to show what great customer service they have? Nope--they simply don't care. They just figure their stuff is cheap and people will keep buying it because of that. I am not an IKEA fan, and I apologize wholeheartedly for dragging my poor husband with me on Valentine's Day. At least he got some bookcases out of the whole fiasco to display all his action figures. I guess I'm a glutten for punishment...

February 17, 2010 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger Bill White said...

Wow, it sounds like you have a really fantastic spouse! What a lucky, lucky woman you are.

BTW, drop the "I should get a free lunch", thing. You've eaten there- Do you really want one?

February 17, 2010 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger P.L. Frederick said...

The food at Ikea is pretty good, as long as you don't try to return it.

I never thought of metal filing cabinets for storing clothes. It sounds so retro-cool modern... but maybe a bit Unhappy Hipsters?

P.L. Frederick (Small & Big)

February 17, 2010 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Chris Sabatino said...

I'm afraid to comment because I love IKEA.
I also love how you scanned real instruction illustrations into your post cartoon, Bill!

February 18, 2010 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Bill White said...

P.L.- I usually do return IKEA's food- In a round white bowl in my bathroom.

Chris- It's okay to like IKEA. To each his own. Some people, for example, actually like corn on the cob! Go figure.

Actually, I do have to admit, IKEA has a cool drafting table with a built-in lightbox that I covet. If I can figure out where I would put it, I might have to eat crow and return there and buy it.

February 19, 2010 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Chris Sabatino said...

I think I know the table you're talking about! I want to live in one of the displays at IKEA!!

February 19, 2010 at 11:00 AM  

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