Ikea has great stuff. Unfortunately, every time I get something from there, I feel like I've taken on a major project. The new patio set took two and a half hours to assemble. It looks nice, I only broke one small plastic piece, and I have no "extra pieces" left over. I guess this means I did a pretty good job.
Oddly enough, the two + hour assembly time was nothing compared to the effort it took to actually buy the set. We got up nice and early and trekked the half hour to Schaumburg so that we could quickly get in and get out with the set we wanted. We got to the store, were forced up the escalator and through the store (even though we new the thing we wanted was on the ground floor, several feet away). When we got to the top of the escalator, to our surprise, there was a sign for the item we wanted. Like most furniture there, it is "named" with an odd mix of letters with dots and dashes over every other letter. I'm sure the Swedes think that the typical American finds this exotic. I just find it annoying. Or maybe they are just screwing with us and there's a hidden camera somewhere in the store capturing our ridiculous pronunciations of these crazy words.
Unfortunately, under the sign for the patio set, there was nothing. No chairs, no table. Oh, wait, there might have been an umbrella or something but either way there was nothing we WANTED under the sign. So I started to search for a customer service representative. There probably isn't a Swedish word for "customer service" because it doesn't actually exist at Ikea. "Help yourself, build it yourself" is their motto. I persisted and found a glorified traffic director at the top of the escalators. I asked her where the set was and she proceeded to make a call on the phone and gave me a simple two-word answer: "we're out". Hmmmm. At this critical point, when I typically would start asking her questions like, "will you be getting more in stock?" or "can we get one at another store nearby?" or "can we order this online?", my wife started screaming my name.
I turned around to see my wife walking angrily towards me with my 3 year old daughter close behind. My daughter was walking with her legs wide apart, actually shuffling more than walking. This could only mean one thing and the wet spot between my daughter's legs confirmed my suspicions. I whisked them both out of the store and to the car to clean up and change clothes.
I refuse to have our Ikea expedition end like this! We got up early! We trekked out to Godforsaken Schaumburg on a Sunday morning! I refuse to go home empty handed! I need to go talk to customer service and get my questions answered. I went back in the store, leaving my wife and child in the car. I searched for customer service (and this is when I learned that the Swede's didn't know what such a thing was). I stood, in the middle of the store, looking around for something. Busy cash register attendants? Busy return department attendants? Busy folks in the As-is section? NO, NO, NO Wait, there he is, a lone gentleman, pretty much doing nothing, not surrounded by people, at the delivery department.
I quickly went over and started a conversation. "I think you are out of an item and I wanted to see if you had it at another store so I can get it there." He looked at me, a little bewildered and then suddenly I saw a spark in his eye. "This isn't part of my job but I think I can figure this out". He became a man on a mission and started typing in the name of our patio set on his computer. "Are there any funny characters in the name?" He looked at me, with a dumbfounded look on my face, and he quickly realized how stupid the words that just came out of his mouth actually were. It's Ikea for Christ sake, every word has a funny character in it. "So which letters were the dots over?", was his next question. I'm supposed to remember that? I barely remember the name. I ran over to the display and returned. "Over the A and the O", I said. He continued to click and type. They have 42 at our Bollingbrook store. "42? and they are sold out here?" He looked at me with a chuckle and shrugged. I thanked him profusely. This man is definately an Ikea oddity - helpful and a sense of humor.
So, it was off to Bollingbrook. Our Sunday excursion included a second Chicago suburb. I hated the visit to one and now another. I hope to God we don't have to go to Naperville or some other insane place next! The rest of the trip was uneventfu, thankfully. About an hour later, I was in Bollingbrook and loading my furniture into the car. It was about 3 hours since we first left the OP and we were getting hungry so we stopped for lunch and then headed home.
A lot of people are Ikea fanatics. I can't say we are one of them but I have to admit that we can barely get out of the store without spending any money. They always seem to have a good buy so I guess the whole "make them walk through the entire store before they get to the merchandise" thing works. Like our expedition this week, others find the experience daunting. A co-worker told me that after a few minutes in Ikea he gets a sense of vertigo that is only cured by eating meatballs. We haven't eaten at Ikea and usually settle for a nearby restaurant. Maybe we'll have to try it sometime and shave some minutes off the trip.
Disclaimer: This entry in no way was meant to demean or offend the nice people in the communities of Schaumburg, Bollingbrook, or Naperville.