We’ve finally spent all of our wedding-gift Ikea vouchers, thank Christ. Not that we weren’t grateful for receiving them in the first place, of course: the final bill was reduced by an order of magnitude, which was a welcome surprise. And not that I don’t on one level like Ikea: the remarkably well laid-out showrooms and the “pick it up and buy it” ethos of the stores in general makes a change from the way that stores like MFI and Argos (in their differently dysfunctional ways) have historically tried to prevent you from paying for and picking up what you want, there and then. Argos has its double queueing and what Michael McIntyre calls its “big book of shopping“; MFI had its uninspiring room arrangements and its delivery in a thousand years’ time, and we all know how that turned out.
The big problems with Ikea arise from its biggest virtue: its simplicity. That simplicity means it has never invested in a decent website: it’s like all those sites in 2001 that were swept away by Amazon; you can’t buy products online with voucher cards; you can barely log in without prompting an error; you certainly can’t manage to join their “Ikea Family” scheme, despite indications to the contrary; and stock checking becomes a joke when the stock available doesn’t match either their catalogue or what you saw at the actual store on your recent visit. That simplicity means it has never invested in decent sales systems at the store: every item, however hulkingly enormous, has to go through their checkouts, on a trolley; you personally have to push this trolley through those checkouts. If you want to buy more than one sofa, make sure you bring a friend for each extra trolley or Ikea doesn’t seem to want your money.
This virtue-as-vice culminates in Ikea’s appallingly handled delivery service. Rather hopefully it advertises it as a “third party” service, but when the agents for that third party have counters in the Ikea stores, and when the vans have “IKEA” on their sides, then you’ve essentially sold someone your brand as a franchise, and they had better be up to the job. So when the delivery service employee stated to us quite clearly that they wouldn’t accept any heavy items not on trolleys—our enormous flat-packed bed was sliding around on their one-size-fits-all trolleys, and almost certainly being damaged in the process—and when that same idiot claims it’s because they—they, the delivery company—are not insured to do so, it hardly inspires confidence in either the brand or the service.
Now, having seen Ikea staff putting sofas on trolleys for customers including me, I know that there are people in the store who are either actually insured or merely not fucking inconsiderate, so it’s definitely possible for Ikea-branded staff to pick items up when you’re not dealing with idiots. And besides: I’m not insured, and I’ve got a bad back. Do they only expect pre-insured members of the public to ever present items at the delivery hatch? What if Ikea were to require me, uninsured, to lift the furniture on behalf of their staff, and I ended up in casualty?
When a delivery company’s employees state themselves contractually incapable of physically moving not merely the items that you wish to have delivered but items which are a subset of a known list which Ikea can make available to them, along with weights and dimensions, it hardly inspires confidence. I know the website has no fucking clue what’s in the Ikea stores, but you’d think their internal stock checking would get it right, and the delivery company could insure their employees based on precise knowledge of the weights of anything they might ever deal with.
And it does make you wonder how the hell the items are going to turn up at your doorstep (that’s right: it hasn’t been delivered yet, and I’ve already started ranting.) I can only assume that the goods arrive on the exact same Ikea trolley you presented them on, unshifted by human hand in the mean time, which trolley is then returned with the van to the store. If that doesn’t happen then I will have to make a point of complaining to Ikea about the lumbar mistreatment of their poor, uninsured delivery staff. Apart from anything else, that’s a customer’s honest day’s toil they’re taking away there. The unions will be livid.