Last week saw me popping my “IKEA cherry”. I know, I’m probably the only person in civilised Europe who had never been to an IKEA, but I really didn’t feel like I was missing out on that much. However, my new flat, amazing though it is, is lacking a couple of essential items – one of them being a wardrobe – so it was finally time to bite the bullet.
Bjorn had told me about a wardrobe he’d seen there for around €30, so I had a vague idea what I was looking for. (He’d also offered to come with me, but getting him to make a plan and stick to it is about as easy as teaching a cat to tap dance, so I decided to go alone.) Some emergency coaching by Mammy O’Grady had given me an overview of how the IKEA system works, so I felt like I was fully prepared for the experience.
Two trains and a bus later and I was there. Things started off OK – it even seemed like they were expecting me…
After close to an hour of wandering through various departments, looking at billions of items I didn’t want, I finally found what I was looking for. I noted down the number and tried to walk to the exit. And walked and walked and walked, past another billion items I didn’t want. Starting to feel like I was never going to make it out of the store alive, I finally came across an information booth.
Me: Hi, I’m trying to find this item.
Gunther: (tapping away at this computer) Yes, that’s the correct number.
Me: I know that. I’m practically German. I’m very precise. What I want to know is where do I find it, where do I pay for it, and how do I get out of here?
Gunther: Oh, you have to go to the blah blah room to collect it.
Me: And where’s that?
Gunther: Just walk through this department and the next department and the next department, and you’ll be there.
So I carried on walking, and eventually made it to the pick-up hall. I lugged the wardrobe down off the shelf and hauled it over to the self-service checkout. I scanned it, swiped my card and got beeped at.
AN ASSISTANT WILL BE WITH YOU SHORTLY.
Crap. Gunther the Second trotted over and explained that the machine didn’t accept foreign bank cards. I left my stuff with him and ran over to the ATM. Naturally, it was one of those ones that charges you around a fiver for every withdrawal. I walked back to where Gunther the Second was guarding my purchase. He then informed me that these checkouts didn’t take cash, so I’d have to queue up at the normal checkouts.
With steam coming out my ears, I joined a queue behind people who were buying enough furniture to fill Buckingham Palace. Luckily the cashier was friendly or I might have beaten her to death with the wardrobe poles.
I finally made it out of the store, where I stopped for a little rest on a bench. Then it was time to heft my awkward, 10kg package onto various forms of public transport. By the time I made it home, I hated IKEA, Sweden, the person who invented IKEA, people with cars, and furniture in general. Poor Bjorn, who has the misfortune of being Swedish, got his first taste of Irish temper as I ranted about what sort of a sadistic Swedish mind could come up with this store concept.
Come to think of it, Tiger, the Danish chain, employs the same concept – namely that you can’t just walk in and walk out again. You have to walk around every aisle in the shop before you can leave. Are Scandinavians notoriously tight, or something? Is trapping them in shops the only way to get them to part with their hard-earned cash?
Whatever it is, it will be a cold day in hell before I put myself through the IKEA challenge again.