I’ve never been a huge fan of the furniture for my own purposes. It can look great in other people’s houses, but I’ve never liked it in my own. (The obvious exception being the display cases, though that’s more about affordability than style.)
I’ve also never trusted a company that builds complexes that sprawling. It’s exhausting to even contemplate a trip through that store, let alone actually completing one.
And these feelings were only intensified by my trip there on Friday. They’ve now been solidified into a congealed mass of anger and frustration that can only be described as out-and-out hatred.
Finding my way (there)
I encountered the first problem almost immediately: The phone took me via surface streets.
Now, that isn’t Ikea’s fault. Technically, it’s my own. In trying to be helpful to Tim — who is paranoid about getting trapped on the freeway at rush hour — I had set the phone to “Avoid highways.” And then forgotten that useful fact weeks later when I set out for a place 30 miles away.
I would have gotten to Ikea in 26 minutes via highway. The route I took was 63 minutes, and it even took a bit longer than that thanks to hitting literally almost every single red light I came across.
Again, not Ikea’s fault, but Ikea and that debacle of a drive are now inextricably linked in my mind.
Finding my way (in the store)
This should have been easy. I needed three of one particular item — and I even had its exact location in the warehouse. All I had to do is find where the furniture was kept.
Upon entering the store, I saw an escalator, a sign for the showroom and a sign for the restroom. Nothing else. So I asked at the daycare whether all the furniture was kept upstairs. She, apparently assuming I was asking for examples of furniture rather than the actual pieces, directed me to the showroom.
Thankfully, I grabbed a pamphlet as soon as I got upstairs. Otherwise I would have gone all the way through the showroom before finding out that what Ikea calls “self-serve furniture” was downstairs.
Instead, I’d only made it maybe 1/8 of the way through the showroom (after around five minutes, just to give you an idea of the scope of the place). Frustrated, I doubled back to the elevator. The frustration was exacerbated by a sign in the elevator about ordering online and picking up in store. That option wasn’t mentioned any of the times I did a test checkout to find shipping fees. *
Thus I got off the elevator somewhat agitated and very ready to get my furniture and go. Instead, I was at the beginning of the marketplace.
I furiously (in both senses of the word) navigated the section, constantly trying to spot the next sign so that I could stay on the path — because this store is ridiculous enough to have a path — and decrease the amount of walking I was having to do. Even so, I almost missed the turn for the furniture section. I would have if not for a helpful fellow customer.
If you’ve never been to an Ikea, you might think I’m blowing the walking out of proportion. So know that I was walking at a brisk pace whenever people weren’t in front of me (and scooting around people whenever I could) yet the marketplace still took me around 10 minutes to get through.
Even if you vastly underestimate how brisk my pace was, this means I walked at least — at least — a quarter mile to get through the marketplace. And that’s not including the 10-ish minutes I spent walking partway into, then back out of, the showroom.
All of this because one employee misunderstood my question — and because there were no friggin’ employees in the showroom or marketplace to ask.
Getting out… or not
Still, I did eventually find the self-serve furniture section. Then I panicked because I didn’t see any flat-bed carts.
It turns out that they’re right by the entrance to the section. Which I might have seen if there had been more than one. Instead, I only found the damn thing because I happened to turn back to the wall where I came from. There was a huge sign on it pointing out the carts section. Just to be clear: The signage was on the wall you can’t see as you enter the section. Brilliant.
Still, I tried to be grateful that I’d gotten a flat-bed cart at all (since they’re seemingly in short supply), and I pretty easily located the display case boxes. I clumsily hefted the three heavy boxes onto my cart, thought about how I really needed to go back to working out if 30-lb boxes gave me that much trouble, then went to the checkout line.
The lines were relatively short, but it still took me at least 10 minutes to get to the front. At which point I was told that I had the wrong boxes.
Apparently, each case came in two boxes, which was indicated by stickers with the numbers 1 and 2. Yes, I had seen the stickers, but the ones I saw had different color dots next to them. So I assumed the numbers were a shorthand for the color of the case. Because not everyone speaks Ikea!!!!
Help! I need somebody
As the cashiers politely explained that I’d need to go back and get three more boxes — and make sure there were an equal number of 1s and 2s — I started freaking out. I’d barely managed the first three boxes. Now I’d need to get three more and somehow get them all into the car?
That’s when I started crying.
I don’t mean that I got misty-eyed. No, at least three or four tears escaped and made it about halfway down my cheeks before being wiped away. All while the five or six people behind me watched. Whee.
They found someone to help me get the extra three boxes onto the cart. The employee from the self-serve furniture section — yes, one for the whole sprawling section — also came over and helped verify that we had all the sets correct and accounted for.
Then I for some reason ended up back in line, this time waiting closer to 15 minutes to get to the front. But at least afterwards I got the boxes loaded in the car for me.
The good news is that I did figure out the directions issue on the way home. So the drive took under half an hour this time.
The bad news is that I had to get the boxes into the house myself.
Theoretically, this was better. If Tim had been there, he’d have wanted to help and probably would’ve thrown his back out. In reality, it meant I had to contend with six boxes that I could barely handle individually.
So I lugged — there’s truly no other word for it — each box into the house. I slid each one out of the trunk so that it was at hip level, gripped it to me, then waddled into the house. I then set each one down in the living room (since there was no way of carrying them all the way into the office), making two stacks of three.
The plan was to push the stacks across the tile, into the office. But when I tried that, it was like something out of a slapstick routine: My knees worked furiously in place while the boxes didn’t budge. I ended up having to squat down and push the boxes forward until I was on my knees, then get up and do it again.
I felt pretty pathetic at the time, but later I found out that each box weighed either 37 lbs or 44 lbs. So not only had I toted more than 240 lbs from the car into the living room, I was trying to push at least 100 lbs in each stack.
On the one hand, it’s nice to know I’m stronger than I thought. On the other, what the hell kind of company makes a basic glass box that, when packaged, weighs more than 80 lbs?!
I hope you can see how all of those things add together to a serious hatred of all things Ikea.
To recap: It’s a complex maze that you can easily accidentally be sucked into. Once in, you won’t find any apparent shortcuts. And even if you circumvent the showroom, you’ll be trapped in the marketplace. All of this without any employees on the floor to help you out — at least on weekdays.
In short (too late), this is a place without any regard for someone with even the most minor physical limitation.
And yes, I know that people with disabilities can simply choose to avoid the store (paying ruinous prices) or avoid the company’s products altogether. But those are two pretty crappy options for a company that tries to seem so user-friendly.
So yeah: I. Hate. Ikea.
Have you ever been to an Ikea store? Did you love it or hate it?
* More than $90, in case you were wondering. But hey, that was for either one or three of the cases. So… Nope, still ridiculous.