Friday, November 03, 2006

Day 3: Why IKEA Sucks

Everyone who knows me, knows that IKEA drives me insane.

The house I live in was a flipper. Meaning, the guy who owned it before I bought it, bought it from a nice family that had owned the place for more than 50 years. Thus, when he bought it, it was long ago paid for, so he got it for a scream. It was also old and in need of some love. He gave it that love and totally renovated. The result: a basement garage became a family room with a 3/4 bath and a laundry space, the main floor became one large room instead of three tiny rooms, and the upstairs got a brand new bathroom complete with a bathtub in a closet.

In renovating the kitchen, Tom decided to go with IKEA cabinetry. All fine and dandy. Their stuff looks nice on the outside and is practical. Sure, it's not custom cabinetry, but then if I was flipping a house, I wouldn't go custom either. Having said that, though, Tom didn't give a ton of thought to functional usage. As a result, I have two cabinets that are 15" wide and 24" deep. What this means is, you can't see where stuff is and when you dig it out, you don't want to put it back because it involves pulling everything out and restocking the cabinet. Not fun.

So, yesterday, I ventured to IKEA to purchase the sliding shelf systems they have for just such cupboards. And that's where my insanity begins.

Having been to IKEA before, I was hoping to thwart the usual system of labyrinths, mazes, and circular disarray by finding what I needed in their catalog. So, I went to Returns & Exchanges, which is where the catalogs reside. I'm thumbing through, trying to find my part, when an IKEA associate comes up and in her Maryland drawl says, "May I help you?" I explain the part I need (because I know what I need) and she tells me I'll have to go upstairs to the Kitchen Department. This is exactly what I DON'T want to do.

When it becomes apparent that there is no other way, though, I stalk off to the Kitchen Department. This being IKEA, I can't just look down a long aisle, find the one marked "Kitchen" and walk right to it. That would make sense. Oh no, no, no. This is IKEA; the Mecca of Consumerism for Yuppies and Students (and cheap bastards who flip houses and don't want to spend a lot.)

I trudge half a football field to the escalators that only go one way: UP. Upon disembarking, I find myself standing right in front of EXACTLY what I need. I'm so excited, I whisper a little prayer, "Please IKEA God, let there be a catalog number with this thing that is EXACTLY what I need and let this be painless. Amen." But no. There is no identifying tag or number or even part name that I can write down and then ask an IKEA associate to look up nor is it a part I can simply pick up from the self-service warehouse. And, at this stage, there isn't an IKEA associate any where. Following the arrows, I go to the Kitchen Department and am finally helped by a Kitchen Specialist.

I get the parts ordered that I need and pay for them right there, thus saving me time standing in line at the registers. I'm thinking, "Okay, this is positive. I'll be able to walk through the store," (which alone takes 10 minutes or more because they send you everywhere and nowhere to get to your final destination) "and my stuff will be ready to pick up when I get downstairs" You'd think, right?


I spend 15 minutes navigating the unholy labyrinth of IKEA and arrive at pick-up expecting to see my number--757--on the electronic board indicating my measly order is ready. Alas, it is not.

In the end, I had to wait another 20 minutes for them to bring me my stuff. Like I have 20 minutes to wait?! And even if I did, I don't want to spend those 20 minutes in an IKEA.

And that, ladies and gents, is why IKEA sucks.


Swizzies said...

But IKEA has yummy meatballs...? At least you have escalators - here it's all stairs! And there are secret shortcuts, you know, between the departments, so if you know the way, you can be at the checkouts in no time...

But yeah, when crowded, IKEA does suck. Ours is never *that* crowded. Small town, ya know. :-)

Mary Ellen said...

The meatballs and the lingonberry sauce over cheesecake make the in-IKEA experience far more palatable.

The one in Burbank had no nearby parking lot and a patrolled lot for warehouse pickups. Shopping solo sucked because you had to drag your purchases down the block and across the street to the parking garage.

Even with the downsides, I would give a lot to have an IKEA closer than Houston.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

I think I remember shopping at IKEA in Vienna. Is my memory right?

I'm sorry you had such a fun time. I hate shopping, especially in moments like that. Sheece.

ticklethepear said...

Ikea is evil anyway, it turns out.

mmafan said...

Ahh..The joys of Ikea. I live in Silver Spring, and believe it or not, I spent more time at the smaller store in Woodbridge than the larger and newer one there and in College Park. I really liked the smaller IKEA's a lot better for some odd reason. I feel they designed these newer stores to keep people IN. It seems as if I'm walking in a never ending maze to nowhere.

Like you mentioned, the stores, at least the updated ones are extremely hard and frustrating to navigate, and that is compounded on weekends and holidays when the stores are jam-packed. To top that off, the service at the College Park location STINKS. You have literally close to a hundred people trying to check out, and there are maybe 3 registers open, not counting the self checkouts that malfunction every 5 minutes. Now, I only go if I need something, and only during the week if I am off on a particular day, and early to boot.

Janet M. Kincaid said...

Swizzies: I wish someone would give me the secret handshake and a map of the shortcuts. If I had those, I might consider venturing over there more readily. As for the meatballs, they're not worth the nightmare that is the College Park IKEA.

ME: See above comment vis-a-vis meatballs and lignonberry sauce. As for your experience, why does something that's supposed to be so great, actually so difficult? Talk about poor planning. And what was Burbank thinking in allowing a mega box store like IKEA to build without including a parking lot?!

SML: Yes, I think you're remembering correctly. I can't remember where it was in Vienna, but I seem to recall passing it a time or two, too. My friend, Monica, who's from Sweden, says the experience in Europe is vastly different and more pleasant that the U.S. IKEA experience. She doesn't care much for IKEA over here, either, except as a "Sweden Fix" when she's feeling a touch homesick.

TtP: Thanks for that. I'll have a look ASAP.

mmafan: The one in Woodbridge is better? I might have to check that out. It's an hour and a half drive, but it might be worth it. I purposely avoid IKEA on the weekends. Going during the weekdays makes me insane. Going on the weekends would make me homicidal.

Red said...

Oh I love Ikea! I have learned the mazes and ways to get through them. There is always a shortcut if you are brave to try it.
My daugher even sing our Ikea song when we go. It' to the tune of the Chia Pet song.

I-k-k-k-kea, I-k-k-k-kea.

Ph said...

One of the first times I went to IKEA in college park I purchased this stump like chair. It's plastic and serves no purpose other than that it's neon green and looks like a tree stump (I had received a great deal of money from IKEA, long story, another time). Since the stump was new, I had to wait for it to be's now in the self service area, though I can't imagine why the still have it as I was probably the only person to ever buy one.

So I waited for like 15 minutes for them to bring this plastic stump out. They finally bring a single stump on a huge cart. I looked at the man pushing this cart, which was hard to push simply because their carts are impossible to push. He looked at me. I looked at the plastic stump at the center of a huge cart. I looked back at him. I smiled, reached over, picked up the stump with my index finger and walked out of the store.

In short, they're ridiculous sometimes.

Janet M. Kincaid said...

Red: I'm glad there are some folks out there who cherish IKEA. I suppose I'm more of a Home Depot gal. Loved your story about you and MiniRed and the fire alarm. Glad all are safe and thanks for stopping by.

Ph: Oh, yeah, the shopping carts. Don't even get me going there! Why does IKEA provide carts with wheels that go everywhere and not in the direction you want to go? Is this a European socialism thing or what? As for the product I needed, they're so easy and marginal in weight, I can't fathom why they wouldn't be in the self-serve area? I could have been in and out in one-tenth the time I actually spent in there. Grrrrr. Love your haiku and your friend, Ned. Great blogs! Thanks for stopping by.

kimmmmm said...

My favorite Ikea moment:

So my roommate and I had spent what felt like approximately 10 hours at that godforsaken place buying bookshelves and pots and we're in the line, at the very end of the journey, waiting with the rest of humanity.

One woman turns to another in line behind us and says "Oh that's cute, is it a rug or blanket?"

My roommate turns around and snaps, "Does it even matter anymore? It's all crap anyways!"

Janet M. Kincaid said...

kimmmmm: Okay, it's official--you win the prize for the very bestest "Worst IKEA Experience" story evah (to steal a word from your blog!) That is so classic! Thanks for stopping by.

Liseysmom said...

We bought a dresser at IKEA for my son a few years ago. The plastic track broke last Summer. I figured I'd just take the track back to get it replaced. After waiting for 15 mins to get my number called, I take the part up.

"This plastic track in my son's dresser broke. I need a new one."

"Okay. Hold on."

*Disappears in back, reappears 5 minutes later*

"We don't make this type of track anymore. The guy back there told me these kind of tracks kept breaking so they switched to a different track system."

"Okay, and how does this help me, who bought a dresser with the apparently shitty kind of track and now it is broken?"

Janet M. Kincaid said...

Lisey's Mom: See! That's what I mean. Unhelpful. I mean, if you're going to replace a track system, replace it with a part that is the same design, but better material. How hard can that be?! Ugh!

Anonymous said...


First time here at your blog.

I live about three miles from the Woodbridge IKEA... I have never had a negative experience there, ever. Unless you count the christmas lights that my wife bought there about 6 years ago... they didn't work, so I took them back and they gave me a new box in about 30 seconds, no questions asked.

We love IKEA!(we aren't house flippers or students... does that make us yuppies?)

Janet M. Kincaid said...

Welcome, Gunfighter!

Oooooh. I hate it when I get caught in broad generalizations! I suppose that, yes, I'm calling you yuppies. But that seems a bit unfounded, since I've never met you and I know nothing about you except what I read on your blog.

And that reading leads me to believe, you're not a yuppie. You're a family man with a good career who aspires to be a novelist and is encouraging everyone to vote Democrat. (That's something I can 100% stand behind.) Combined with all of that, you're a deeply spiritual man. Your Election Day prayer moved me deeply.

I suppose from an IKEA standpoint, you fall in the "I've had a good experience at IKEA and managed to make it work and have a good time" category. To those of you who fall here, too, bravo. I think I'm going to start hiring out my IKEA errands to those who really enjoy it!

Thanks for stopping by, Gunfighter!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Janet!

In fairness, I suppose we are yuppies... depending on the definition in use. Having said that, I think we are the benign yuppies... not the malignat type.

Glad you liked the prayer. It came to me very early this morning.