Sunday, October 08, 2006

Why IKEA Is Just Another Big Box Store

First of all, I like IKEA. I like the idea of good design and reasonable prices. I don’t even mind the do it yourself shopping. There are people out there who laud IKEA as the perfect example of what modern companies should try to emulate. Many people-captivated by the trend, modernistic trappings and the Eurocentric (i.e. Scandanavian) aesthetic sense strive to attain some sort of mystic materialistic nirvana through the tight organization of their worldly goods. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But on the other hand, I think we have magicked up the whole IKEA mythology way out of proportion to reality. I know that those who make pilgrimages to distant IKEA’s in search of a Billy bookcase or a Stronfors mattress will pummel me with tersely worded missives, but I want you to remember all the vile things you have said about Walmart and after reading my story, ask yourself if the IKEA image is way out of proportion to its reality.

Today…my daughter, a hardworking student whose life revolves around a ridiculous cycle of school, work and rehearsals moved into a new apartment in August. She’s tall. And the twin bed from her girlhood bedroom wasn’t really a good size for her to sleep in. Either her legs stuck out or she rolled out of bed. Not a recommended way to get a decent night’s sleep. She had saved her money, shopped online and through the IKEA catalog and found the bed of her dreams. It looked like an antique wrought iron bed. Looking for store hours, she came home and we headed to the store. We shopped for two hours buying all the cute sheets, comforters, etc. that would jazz up her room. We had to buy it today because this is the only day she is ever off of work. So we reserved the bed and mattress and waited for my husband to come home so we could pick up all the stuff and travel with her back to her apartment 50 miles and probably 90 minutes away depending on traffic and put things together. We hung around our house for a couple of hours then headed back to IKEA. We went down the aisles selecting the headboard and such accoutrements as it would require. When we went to check out, everything was peachy. We simply had to go over to the Furniture Pick Up desk and get the mattress and we would be on our way.

Not so fast. The clerk looked at the receipt and told us that it would be ten minutes. My husband went to move the van into the loading area. We waited ten minutes. Then twenty. Then twenty more. Finally, the clerk called the number and told us that “because people were in the aisle, we would have to return at closing-nine o’clock-or tomorrow.” Now if you live in town, and have a way to transport this stuff, that wouldn’t be an issue. If it was out of stock they would have told us so when we checked out and we could make a decision from there. But instead they waited thirty minutes to make a decisions. My daughter tried to tell them that she didn’t live in town and only had today to get this bed and in fact that was why she chose to go to IKEA rather than a conventional furniture store. The clerk was adamant. My husband, ever the salesman, goes in to intervene and gets a “manager guy” who tries to suggest that they could deliver it. The original problem is that she is in school from 8 until 1, at work after than and in rehearsal after that. Once again, that was the reason we went to IKEA. They did offer free delivery, but with nobody to let them in, it would be an invitation for theft. And when she asked if they could give her an idea when they would deliver, the manager guy said “we’ll call you before we come.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t take a day off work to wait for deliveries and I know that my daughter can’t miss a day of classes during midterms. The manager wouldn’t budge or help or ever go down the aisle and look. Heck, my husband worked in a warehouse-give him the keys to the forklift and he’ll move the stuff. But nobody wanted to make the call to make things right. For lack of willingness to go down an aisle, close it off for ten minutes, IKEA lost a nearly $600 sale.

But that’s the point. If you sell in enough volume, customers don’t matter. Customer service is already on a downhill slide, and right now everyone is so in awe of IKEA, being all European and cool, that they don’t see it for what it is. It’s another Big Box store. It’s just like Lowes and Walmart and SuperTarget. But because it’s the darling of the glitterati and wannabes, the shortcomings of their customer service is sometimes overlooked.

This isn’t the first time I have seen the shine go off the silver at IKEA. A good friend of mine, who’s daughter worked there for one week, found them to be slavedrivers with little concern for their employees.This kid wasn’t a slacker, she’s an honor student with a strong work ethic. But she couldn’t take the reality of IKEA vs. its image. Is this the image we have of the Happy Socialist Countries that exist in Scandinavia? I thought everyone worked cooperatively for the Common Good. Or that’s the theory. What is amusing is that the same folks that would erupt in protests over a SuperTarget or God forbid, a Walmart, in their neighborhood, will welcome IKEA with open arms. But don’t be fooled, it may claim to have this warm, family feel, but underneath, it’s just another Big Box store with all that implies negative and positive.

P.S. Does anyone know of a furniture store that actually tells you when they deliver and that delivers to Denton for a minimal charge?

1 comment:

Darren said...

You almost sound surprised.