I do not KEA

This evening we went to Ikea to purchase some domestic oddments. This was a mistake. The place is hellish. From the confused car-park to the swarmed checkout cavern, you must avoid it. There is nothing there for you. Once, it might have seemed a refreshing suburban liberation. It might have represented an escape from British highstreets of worn and shoddy furniture on one hand, and heavy and stolid on the other. Then, Ikea swooshed its plywood wand and cast its Swedish spell on a whole swathe of aspirational but parsimonious bourgeoisie. Ooh, look at all that Nordic Style, its funny names, its restaurant, its cheery plastic gewgaws and pine frapped chairs! They evoked some sort of mass-produced sophistication: a Swedish Habitat without the Conran pretentions, perhaps.

Open your eyes. If it was ever like this, it’s nothing like it now. It is nothing less than a con-job, trying to sell you planks for more than they’re worth in a venue designed to the Catholic Church’s plans for purgatory. I visited it on the way home from work,, so I turned up before Mrs Trellis. I wandered about the place, meandering amidst the kitsch and trashy, the pseudo-suave and the Bauhaus-come-deckchair faux-sophistication in the twee stage-set rooms, replete with their hollow plastic televisions regarded by hollow plastic minds. I cast my rapidly descaling eyes over the furniture. The gawping hoardes suddenly seemed like cattle, being tricked into grazing astroturf. I tried to give the pieces of furniture a greater critical appraisal than the average brand-sponged dribblers about me. And do you know what? The great veneered majority of it was utter tat. Cupboards that didn’t quite close. Chipboard that wasn’t quite encapsulated. Metal legs that weren’t quite flush in meeting buckling glass table-tops. The design was pedestrian. The finish was invariably lacklustre and chipped. The material was weary and its construction duncical.

Worse than any specific cut corners (sometimes literal) was the obvious fact that these objects were constructed for the benefit of the machines that hew them and boxed them – for the efficiency of their initial production rather than any variety or elegance in their final use. The cynicism-made-chipboard was palpable. Here’s a company that packages cheap boards with holes in them, adds a chamfer, and ramps up the “we’re stylish” brand to Emperor’s New Clothes heights. It puts them in a cattlepen warehouse of a store and ensures their supplicants have to wait in gargantuan queues for the privilege of purchasing the tat. God forbid one of the richest men in the world should employ a couple more checkout staff at minimum wage so that his wretchedly pliant customers might leave within an hour of joining a chaotic queue. Never mind the abasement of the experience – they’ll still come back in their swinish droves, even when that abasement leads to the savage Tat Riots at Ikea sales earlier this year. If you repeat the word “stylish” often enough, I guess people believe it. They believe it enough to maim. The glassy eyed maimers were there this evening too, in their hateful queue-barging droves. I realised that I would be duty-bound to include myself in this field of hate if I did not vow then and there never to return to this yellow and blue Hades again.

By the time Mrs Trellis arrived, my mood was dark. We were certainly not going to purchase any bookshelves here, with their hateful cardboard-thin backing and wobbly inadequacies. It is far more honest and attractive to place planks of wood between some bricks. If I could not afford a proper set of shelves made up by a craftsman who gives a damn, or from a shop that understands the true depths that the relationship between material, form and design needs to attain, then I would happily continue with said improvised brick-and-plank shelving until I could afford the real thing. Ikea is no the “real” thing. It does not represent a happy mean between style and affordability. It is just mean. Better to keep books in cardboard boxes or strewn across the floor.

Mrs Trellis had, by this time, though, picked up some wrapping paper and a small foot-wiper rug. She decided, by some dint of stubborness, that she would make the purchase, having picked it up, by hook or by crook, even though she agreed it was the last time she would do so. On seeing the mind-boggling queues, she almost lost her nerve. The aeroplane-hangar sized checkout area had about 5% of its available tills staffed, which meant that queues wound themselves into the dank collection area warehouse. How generous. It was as if here was a collection of dull and stupid middle class refugees queuing in some hellish processing centre, desperate for some sort of asylum at the other end. The horrible people with their horrible trollies filled with horrible slabs of horribly veneered horrible MDF. Chipboard is a bunch of cheap scraps of wood bound together under pressure by a thin veneer. Ikea customers are a bunch of cheap idiots bound together under the pressured delusion that they’re better than those who shop at MFI, and equal to craftsmen carpenters because they stick some glued dahls into an ill-fitting hole. If you are one of these people, and persist in defending this apotheosis of dismal post-modern Capitalism, I’ll be happy to sell you a melanin-lined self-assemble clue: Düll-ård.

25 thoughts on “I do not KEA

  1. The quality furniture at IKEA is at least as expensive as anywhere else. You may as well go to Ligne Rosset – there, they will sit you down and talk through your concept, make you a cup of tea and deliver the furniture to your door. They will also build it for you.

    Finally, I would like to point out that the only time Mr Trellis ever actually built any self-assembly furniture, it involved about six people and much shrieking.

  2. To Ikea’s credit, their flat pack furniture has been of a generally better quality than that I’ve bought elsewhere. But as “elsewhere” in this case probably means MFI or Argos, whereby you can consider yourself lucky if you even get all the pieces you need in the box, this is perhaps not saying much.

    I vowed never to go there again after my last hellish experience there. I’m sure the place never used to be this bad. Recently, however, they seem to grown even more popular, meaning nowhere to park and massive overcrowding in store (we had to queue to get in last time). In addition to this they seem to have moved more and more stock from the self-service shelves to the pre-order and wait for an hour section. Which was, literally, over an hours wait. This had many people getting incredibly angry, as they had not budgeted for this time in their shopping schedule, and had kids to collect, etc. I passed the time by attempting to eat a “hotdog” from the small shed near the tills. I won’t be making that mistake again.

    However to compound matters, after having driven home, and assembled most of some cupboards, I found out that they’d given me several of the wrong thing. My cupboards had no fronts to them.

    It was several weeks until I could return. This involved a considerable drive and a trip through the Dartford (pay) Tunnel. In then queued at customer services for some 30 minutes, only to be told I could only get a refund, not a replacement. I would have to go around the entire store again, order everything again, hope they had it in stock again, queue again, pay again, then wait for over an hour again and hope they gave me the correct items this time. The whole experience was worsened by the fact that the cafe had run out of that curious berry juice that they sell, and those plates of cold fish to which I am rather partial.

    So I vowed never to shop there again. Which is a shame really, as I do quite like building flat-pack furniture. I find it strangely theraputic. But alas, I can’t bring myself to go there again, not even for that coveted KITTENHOEFFER Magazine Stand.

    Oh, and I’ve probably put my back out several times lugging things home, only to open the box and find that the piece of paper inside says “only to be carried by two people” (or at least, the diagrammatic representation thereof). Helpful.

    I did attempt to write all of this down on their ‘comments’ forms last time I was there, but ran out of room, and had to write so small that it was probably illegible anyway.

  3. I, too, quite like building flat-pack furniture. It’s like grown-up Lego.

    At work, we opened a business account with them, thinking that next time we wanted to score some cheap mugs we could place a bulk order for delivery.

    Unfortunately, when I phoned to order said mugs, I was told that the service will *only* deliver things like kitchens, desks and other large items of furniture. I was cheerily informed that I would have to go to a store, load up my trolley, queue for hours and drive the fragile stuff home myself.

    Business account my bottom.

  4. I am a business student and have studied Ikea’s operations and way of doing business for over a year. With their major business flaws yet incredible rate of expansion accross the world, this has given me much to write about. You either love or hate shopping at Ikea. For myself, although I do feel that Ikea prices are within my reach being a student, the actual process of getting the furniture is a nightmare! So I conclude: I hate Ikea!

  5. I like Ikea furniture, mostly because I bought it all several years ago, when very little of it was made of looks-like-wood and haven’t had to go back since. It has stood up well to being owned by me and to my moving several times, unlike the Argos bookcase which collapsed under the weight of a few paperbacks.
    I do still go to Ikea, but I nip in the exit, buy the swedish food and drink I want then run away.

  6. “IKEA – swedish for crap” At least, that’s the adage in our household.

    Yet… it IS a love/hate relationship. Every couple of years we are seduced by a new or cleverly designed object that we think will make our home one notch more pleasant to live in. I say every couple of years because it usually takes that long to forget the previous hellish IKEA experience.

    IF you plan on buying from IKEA, you must keep in mind the following:

    1. YOU WILL RETURN to the store at least twice to either pick up an item that wasn’t included with your purchase, or return an item that had been previously chipped/marked and returned and reshelved and then purchased by you.

    2. PARK on the side marked EXIT. This is your key door to the blue and yellow hornet hive.

    3. ENTER THROUGH THE EXIT to get to the parts of the store you need to go to right away. If you go through the Entrance – you will be subjected to a drone like maze of display, with exits, of course, not clearly marked.

    4. GRAB A “RETURNS” TICKET as soon as you can, then bring your child to the play center. In fact, you can probably pick up a few items and pay for them by the time the clerk is ready to take your number. Although, they WILL call your name to pick up you child as they only allow for 45 minutes of play time. (Now tell me, does this make sense?! They expect the parent to FIND THEIR WAY BACK, que to pick up their child, and RETURN SHOPPING! If I could keep my IKEA experience to only 45 minutes, I would not be adding to this blog.)

    5. GO THROUGH “EMPLOYEES ONLY” doors if you need to take a shortcut. It’s really the only way to keep your sanity in tact.

    6. SHOP ON A WEEK NIGHT, never on Labour Day weekend. Oh gawd, I went with a dottering (ex)friend on labour day weekend once…(she drove so I couldn’t escape and these places are far from public transit anyway.) It was a swarm of nervous college newbies with crumpled lists in their sweaty little fists. >>The shopping may have been excrucitingly tedious but at least the line-up was like that of a cancelled flight. (Travellers enticed by a Carribean holiday only to find out that it’s Antartica or bust – you can’t leave now – you’re packed!)

    6. DO NOT LET SOMEONE IN LINE ahead of you. Twice I’ve been asked if I would let someone in line ahead of me to make a “quick” purchase. Twice I’ve said no. Twice I’ve seen the que behind me return invisible daggers back to their pockets. Can you imagine? It’s not only that they’ve called my name over the intercom to pick up my child, but what about all the people waiting in line behind me? IKEA? HELLO??? 1-5 item line please.

    7. YOU WILL PACK AND CARRY everything yourself. Sure, after the long line-up you will finally get rung up. You will give the company hundreds of dollars. You will see loitering lethargic IKEA employees making every effort not to make eye contact.

    6. AVOID THE 1$ CONE and leave the store. Do not promise your child a treat before leaving the store. There’s a drive through dollar cone nearby -and the cone tastes better there too.

    7. EXPECT THE WORST and you will not be disappointed. I thought panelled textile window coverings would look nice in our home. What a nightmare. I’ve since noticed Levolor makes these same curtains. I assume though that with this company’s purchase you don’t have to: fiddle with (not enough supplied) teeny-tiny screws with a teeny-tiny tool, with fabric that hasn’t been cut straight or finished on one end for ease-of-use, or supplied with clear helpful instructions. And of course there’s the IKEA SVENSåWNIG hacksaw and plastic miter box you need to purchase to make alterations to the railing…

    8. ASSEMBLE WITH ADULTS ONLY! Children don’t need to be subjected that kind of language.

    9. DON’T EVER MOVE your purchase ever. Move it = you loose it. Gone.

    10. REMEMBER YOUR IKEA experience. If you forget, you will go back in a couple of years.

    I suggest saving this list for when that blue and yellow flyer catches your eye and you flirt with the idea of an encounter with the swedish bomb-shell: It will only end in tears! ;^) hahaha

  7. I hate Ikea.

    Only the country of Ingmar Bergman could invent a form of shopping that’s so damn joyless.

    “Ve vill force you to valk past children’s bedrooms even though you don’t haf kids.”

    “You vill get your own furniture from ze varehouse and ve vill blame you ven ve haf put it in ze wrong place so you can’t find it.”

    “Ve vill all leave ze information points unstaffed for hours on end and, ven ve return, ve vill serve ze pretty girl who arrived ages after you.”

    “Ve vill not deliver your goods unless it is vithin three days, even if it means you haf to re-organise your life.”

  8. saxen.co.ukHave to agree with Roo it’s worth the visit just for the meat balls, We recently had a home office makeover and bought all our office furniture on the internet the quality was excellent and we opted to pay £20 for it all to be installed and I would recommend the company to anyone http://www.saxen.co.uk A quick tip it is best to phone them as delivery works out more expensive if you buy online, I phoned and asked for a discount and got one no problem. The quality of the furniture is excellent and the service is the best I have had so far from online purchases.

  9. We are currently in mind-boggling irritation of having our design it urself, “easy, hassle free, stress free” kitchen fitted. the middle man who comes out and does a survey to make sure everything fits n is ok…is a waste of time..our fitter..that I must say has a degree in interior design knows more about kitchens…i… will know more about fitting an ikea kitchen after this than that dammed sis man!! he missed so much…and so did the people delivering it…missed a few products….ikea dont want to know…promise to deliver it n fail to deliver it and again, fail to take any responsibility.

    they aslo have this wiard thing about posting out to you in a jiffy bag the plastic plumbing that hundreds of times is sent back to ikea by fitters cos it aint compatiable with uk fittings…they still send it out..then when u return it to the shop the woman asks for a recipt…what receipt we say? we wrote u a check for thousands of pounds and this is sent to us with no paper work and all u can do is put it on a stupid refund card?? whic hwe are lucky enough to have somehting to spend it on…door / draw buffers cos ikea failed to metnion that they dont come as standard.

    i neaerlt wet myself standing in customers services at batley where I saw an actual prayer room!!! a prayer room…i can see why…

  10. I think you find alot more quality items from the smaller niche companies on the internet in this day and age… Not to mention customer care and a someone really willing to help you find the right thing – And most smaller companies will even assemble some items if you ask them in advance

  11. I have to agree with Lee. Smaller companies will give you the customer service that most larger furniture companies don’t provide. They can sometimes recommend a flat pack assembler for you.

    But be sure to know their rates upfront. Some only charge by the hour, instead of half hour increments. So if a job takes the assembler 65 minutes, they will charge you for two full hours. So look for someone that charges in smaller increments after the first hour.

  12. I’ve put together a website with lots of tips and tricks to help you build and assemble flat pack furniture form all suppliers, so if you ever get stuck just google flat pack help or flat pack advice and it comes top!

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