I am a tolerant soul, who can generally cope with all that the world has to throw at me and come through smiling. This all changes when I visit Ikea with my good lady wife. Ikea; those purveyors of flat-pack furniture and human misery in equal doses.
If you are in a relationship that is under strain and needs a good argument, go to Ikea. You can guarantee that the special atmosphere engineered in this flat-pack furniture emporium well make it happen. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that marriage guidance counsellors recommend a trip to Ikea to get those issues out. I am slightly surprised that rolling pins are not supplied at the front door.
I have, on this visit made some of the worst mistakes that an Ikea visitor can make. I am looking for an item which I may need some assistance/advice with. I am also looking for a bulky item which will need delivering. My last mistake was to visit on a Sunday.
Every Ikea I have visited appears to be modelled on Dante’s seven circles of Hell. There is a slight deviation from the traditional model as you start at the bottom, move to the top and then gradually work your way through a number of tortures before eventually reaching the bottom again. This is how the circles work…
- The Car Park, which is huge. You know before you arrive that you will end up purchasing something. Stuff that does not require delivery will need to be transported to your vehicle. This form of transport will be a trolley. If you are lucky only three of the four wheels on this trolley will want to go in different directions all the time. If you are really lucky none of the wheels of the trolley will have an unexplained lump on it which will rattle all of your fragile china on the way back to the car. Because of this you need to park near the exit. Fat fucking chance, unless you want to spend three weeks patrolling the car park. I normally end up in a different time zone and have to adjust my watch as I get closer to shop.
- The Showroom. At this point you are at the top of Hell. You gaze longingly at those that are leaving as you ascend through four thousand slowly moving escalators to reach the heights of Hell. It is a nightmare, full of small children who have as yet not realised what they are getting themselves into. They have not picked up on the homicidal vibes emanating from their parents. The exhibits in the showroom appear to be aimed at homeowners who have approximately four cubic inches of space to live in. It is claustrophobic and irritating. I head for the sofa department, where I need some guidance. Guidance from a member of staff is like gold dust. First I need a catalogue, which I need to return to the bottom of the escalators to acquire. Having acquired the catalogue we talk about the sofa which needs delivery. Our guide is deeply unhappy about her lip piercing because she has lost the ball which keeps it together, and we are not entirely convinced that our sofa is more important than that to her. Eventually we leave with a magic piece of paper with a bar code which will allow us to arrange delivery.
- The Market Hall (upper level). You cannot escape Ikea without going through the market. At this point you need to acquire one of the aforementioned trolleys. The market is designed in a special way. Head down an aisle and you are guaranteed to be blocked by a couple talking about the relative merits of a specific type of cutlery, or a certain type of light bulb. There are no overtaking points. You find yourself drawn to an area, only to have to reverse out and find another route in. Unless you want to die of old age in pots and pans.
- The Market Hall (lower level). Probably the only highlight of my Ikea visit is the descent to the lower market hall level. The trolleys stick to the escalator. This pleases me. At the bottom however is more of the same. An observation about display items is in order. We see a lamp which is quite nice. We wish to add this lamp to our purchases. It has a suitably Swedish name. We search the piles of boxes looking an item called Smorgasbord (or something similar) and come up with nothing. We eventually find the item about four miles away from the display. Bulbs, we say, need bulbs. Head eight nautical miles in the opposite direction and there they are. Anger levels are starting to red line.
- The Self-Service Area. Otherwise known as the warehouse. We had spotted a full length mirror which we quite liked. It was located in aisle 43, bay 13. Magically, this location is about as far from humanity as Pluto. When we reach the location we find that the object has grown in size. It is now an object so large, that it will not fit in the car. After a short argument we abandon the purchase, as it would involve finding another trolley and a back injury.
- The Tills. There are many aisles of tills but strangely never enough. They are largely manned by ill-mannered cretins who failed the test at McDonalds. There always seems to be an issue when items are scanned. On this occasion there were two. We bought a knife, which required an older member of staff to verify that we were over 21 (flattering but unnecassary). A more thought out test would have been to assess whether the customers where so fucked off by this stage that they might have been a danger to themselves or others. Oh, and you can guarantee that at least one of your items will arrive at the counter without a bar code. Bizarrely, the same item will arrive at the counter with instructions in 294 languages. Clearly this will cause a problem for your pre-pubescent Neanderthal; another ten minutes elapse.
- The Home Delivery Area. I am immediately worried because seats are provided, along with vending machines dispensing food and drinks. How hard can this be? Collect a postcode, tell the customer what time it is arriving, get a contact number, job done. Not in Ikea world. We have two people in front of us, both filled with purchases from the Self-Service Area. It took approximately 15 minutes to deal with each. When we eventually arrive I am dying (literally) to know what takes so long. So the issue appears to be a printer which has run out of ink. As a result, the important bits of the delivery note have to be hand-written after the event. Another Neanderthal appears to explain there is nothing that can be done about this. I find this statement interesting, considering that Ikea is located less than a mile from a purveyor of printer cartridges.
There is a worse place though, which I would never visit. Next to the Hell that was the Home Delivery Area lurks a limbo that one may never return from. The Hell that I refer to is the Returns Department. I spent 30 minutes in the Home Delivery Area, which is a long time. In that entire period nobody left the Returns Department. In the unfortunate event of you losing a loved one, before you phone the police, check the Returns Department of your local Ikea. Based on my observations they could be there for days.
So, in summary, Ikea: assisting domestic discord for 25 years.
More soon dear reader.