I have just had my first experience shopping for furnishings at IKEA. I was buying four items to send to someone. To make it easy, I had them send me their wish list. It came as a printed IKEA Shopping List, “Bring this to the store” – sounded very simple. This is a really really long shlog so you may need a coffee before you sit it down to read it.
That’s where I encountered Problem #1. My printed list showed a black and white photo and a name but no number of the article. How would I identify it exactly in the store without an item number?
So I called customer service at my local store. I asked where I would find the items so that I wouldn’t have to walk miles in circles. I was told to go to the Marketplace to Textiles for the two rugs, and for the slipcovers I had to go to some sort of customer order desk and not to any particular department. Where would that be, implored? She said to ask.
The friendly phone lady looked up the items to make sure they were all in stock, and even gave me their numbers (and even told me where they would be found on the site – why don’t these numbers come out on your “Bring this to the store list”, I wondered?). She helpfully mentioned that one of the rugs was hand-made and each was a slightly different design, and then gave me the numbers by color of all the different ones in the store right now. I thought I was prepared for a very short and expedient shopping experience. NOT.
Approaching the store, there were different shaped carts outside. We asked a young man if we had to take a cart outside or were there were some inside, since we needed one for a heavy rug. He said take one from the outside and then when you go in, go left. We saw a staircase and to the left of the staircase an elevator, so we assumed that was what he meant, since we had a cart. We went up the elevator and found a store map (which didn’t tell us which floor we were actually on). Problem #2
However it seemed like the place we wanted was on the level we had just come off of. Problem #3. Why isn’t there a map before the initial staircase or elevator?
We went back down the elevator and then all the way across the front of the store and through to the check-out counters and had to figure out how to go backwards into the check out lines with a large clunky cart. Problem #4. Someone helped us by opening a gate. We proceed to walk the entire length of the rear of the store back again to the marketplace, which seemed to us to be very near that first staircase we had come in. We also passed storage areas for these carts inside.Why did we have to drag one back and forth across the store when they existed inside the departments? Problem #5.
For one of our rugs, the handmade one with the numbers and colors, none of the hanging ones were the one in our photo. The first number we were given by the customer service lady we thought referred to that exact one, since that was the one in the photo. That one did not exist in the store – or maybe at all. The salesperson in the rug department explained that they were all totally different and didn’t relate to the photo. (Why put any photo on your site then?) Problem #6.
The colors and numbers that I was given didn’t seem to relate to anything that was in the store. Problem #7. We tried to make a cell phone call to the person for whom we were shopping, but there was no cell phone signal in the middle of the building. Problem #8. We had to walk to an outside wall to talk – far away from the rugs we had to discuss. We had to take digital photos to be able to discuss them.
Since no one was home and we had to wait for their response, we asked how to get back easily to the $.50 hot dogs we had seen on a sign by the cashes. A female clerk told us it was on the second floor, but we were sure it was on the ground floor. Problem#9.
Ordering the dogs was my mistake. The mustard splattered on my new top. It was good that they have a restroom nearby, so I went in to try to wash it out. The stains would not budge. When we arrived home I immediately put some stain remover on it and washed it by hand. The stains still wouldn’t come out. I then washed it in the washing machine with another stain remover and they still wouldn’t come out. What is in their mustard? My shirt is now ruined. Problem #10.
Back to the rug clerk who said we didn’t have to go to an order desk for the slip covers. Just go to the couch department. Problem # 11. At the couch department, the gentleman said he could not order the slip covers we wanted. What do you mean? He said that we’d have to wait until the end of the week to order them. Problem #12. I said that not only had I checked with customer service today and knew they were there, but the someone else had checked before me. Also, I told him it was being sent out the next day and I had to have it right away (Isn’t that why people shop at IKEA?).
He then proceeded to easily order them on the computer for us to pick up downstairs. Problem #13. What was that all about? Why couldn’t he order it at first and then, when pushed, just go ahead and do it without a problem?
Now going down the stairs for the rugs without a cart, we looked for a way into the marketplace so we wouldn’t have that long trip through the whole front and back of the store. Aha, we discovered one hiding behind a kiddie play area, two short hallways and a there was a closed metal door. Why isn’t there any signage to help people go right in there? Problem #14.
Back in the rug department, I saw a cart with bagged rugs and asked if we could have one of those bags, since we were sending it elsewhere. He said we could find bags after the check out area (Ahem, we had just been through there twice and I didn’t remember seeing any bins of bags – and what was the chance we would find one the size of a rug?). Problem #15.
One of the rugs on the cart looked like the second one we were ordering. He said, no, they were smaller ones. I checked the numbers and it was the same number the lady on the phone had given me. Finally he agreed that not only was it exactly the one we wanted but he could actually give it to me in the bag. Why was it so hard to give us a used bag, and why we did we have to pull teeth to beg for one? Problem #16.
He was kind enough to close a hole in the bag with some tape and tell us how to pivot it to get it where we wanted and how to keep it clean over its lifetime. Nice turnaround, guy. I had asked about how I would get a rug into the car and was told there are young men outside to help (like the one who gave us the cart information when we came in). When taking the items out to the car, there was no one around. Problem #17.
I had to back track inside again through the out doors (with that rug on the cart) to ask someone for help. I was told that they come around to pick up the carts and they are the ones I should ask. I waited and waited and no one showed up. After 15 long minutes, I asked the people in the next car to help me and they graciously did. Is this the way it is supposed to work at the store?
Perhaps the IKEA model is to help people lose weight when they shop. If you are expecting people to walk blocks for your items, then drag weighted items for miles though an obstacle course to the cash, then heave them themselves (and usually put them together too), at least they should be providing decent customer service along the way. I spent 3 hours in the store that night and then had to go back the next day (when we got the return phone call after they had perused OUR photos of rugs that really existed).
They could have had your way with this IKEA Virgin, but they struck out 17 times in my one shopping trip. Besides the $1442.52 spent, I have a ruined new shirt. I e-mailed them this letter and got a call from a customer service agent a few weeks later. I asked her (in a one hour phone conversation) “What can you offer me in recompense in order for me to walk into your store again?” She was pretty sure that there was nothing they could do for all my trouble and said a supervisor would call.
In challenging economic times or any economic times, when you get a really unhappy customer retailers have learned that there are ways to turn around the bad situation and make that person want to come back. I asked what they they might do to lure me in ( some sort of gift card to encourage me to come back into the store, a discount on my bill?) or whatever…
The supervisor did call and we went all over all of this again. She pretty well told me that Ikea is self-service and to shove it.