Posts Tagged ‘IKEA’

Swedish Cultural Hegemony

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

We went to the temple of semi-disposable Swedish furniture* (AKA IKEA) yesterday. I could write an awful lot about IKEA – in fact I’ve got an idea for a short story set there, and I’ve also got a theory about space and time being distorted inside IKEA, but I’ll try and confine myself.
I’d love to say that, unlike going to IKEA in England, the experience here was one of unbridled joy and happiness, but I can’t. I dread going to IKEA, with good reason. It’s about as far from my idea of a good time as it’s possible to get without actually having someone physically assault you. To make matters worse, we don’t yet have a car. I’ve never been to IKEA without a car. We decided we’d just have the stuff delivered, but on the way from the S-Bahn (thankfully only a five-minute walk away) we saw adverts for Moebel-Taxis – fixed price taxi-vans. Then we got flyered by one of these firms, and when we checked the IKEA delivery prices and found they were higher, it was a done deal, especially as for an extra ten euros you got help carrying the stuff from the driver. We live up four flights of stairs without a lift, and were planning on buying a lot of stuff, so the idea of help dragging the stuff upstairs was very attractive. Can’t remember having seen that in London, though I always had a car…
So we spent the obligatory couple of hours walking round the whole of the upstairs showroom, and managed to agree on a bookshelf. We couldn’t find a bathroom cabinet, though we did find pretty much exactly the kitchen table and benches we wanted, which was a bonus. They weren’t in the catalogue, which I find a bit odd. I can understand the fact that they don’t have all the stuff in the market hall in the catalogue, but you’d think they could put stuff like benches and tables in.
Lunch in the canteen was lunch in the canteen, seemed a little pricier than I remember but filled the gaping hole left by traipsing around. We then realised that we couldn’t pay with a credit card, which is quite common in Germany – most places only take the EC card, which is a bit like an Electron card as far as I can work out. Because we’ve had nightmares getting a bank account set up (that will have to be another post, if not a whole series), we don’t have one of those yet, so it had to be cash. Thankfully, they have a machine there. Fortified by mass cooking, we headed down to the market hall, where we managed to fill a trolley in no time, despite the fact that we were already flagging badly, including finding a bathroom cabinet – for some unaccountable reason these are displayed downstairs. In the end we had to just head straight for the warehouse, in the vain hope we’d make it out in time to get to my nephew’s birthday party. Things went reasonably well at first – we managed to find all the stuff we wanted that was on the left hand side. When we got to the right hand side, though, it was a different matter.
First off, they didn’t have any of the shoe cabinets we wanted – at least in white, which is what we wanted. They had lots in black or crimson, funnily enough. When we asked when they would have more in white, they told us they were discontinued. Ilka nearly cried – we had them in London, but only had room for four, which meant we never really had enough room for all our shoes. Now, we’ve got room for loads, and Ilka had her heart set on covering a wall in them in the same way a friend of ours in London had. I realised they had quite a few on display upstairs, which they clearly didn’t need any more – there’s no point displaying something people can’t buy – so I told Ilka to go and see if she could nab them, while I went to get the rest of the stuff. Cue the next bit of bad news – having agreed on a bookshelf, it turned out to be the only one they didn’t have in stock. So while Ilka tried to negotiate the ex-display shoe cabinets – no easy task, given that she had to find them first** – I started looking at the other bookshelves to find out if they had something like what we wanted in stock. Turns out they had pretty much all of the other bookshelves in stock, and when Ilka came back clutching six ex-display show cabinets and we managed to agree on another bookshelf, it looked like we’d turned the corner.
By now, though, we should have been en route to the party, so we legged it to the obligatory queue at the till, where someone came up to ask me where we’d found the shoe cabinets. Ilka had already been approached by someone else about them on the way downstairs – why are they being discontinued? When the cashier finally finished scanning everything, we found we’d spent nearly 200 euros more than we’d expected. So I had to leg it to the cashpoint again, which I’m sure made us very popular with all the people behind us. In the end, we opted to have two guys to help carry the stuff, as we’d bought so much, so I went back with them and Ilka went to the party without me. The Moebel-Taxi guys were crazy Bulgarians who carried stuff I couldn’t even pick up on on their own up four flights of stairs. Highly recommended.
With apologies to Oscar Wilde, there is only one thing worse than going to buy something at IKEA, and that is going to take something back to IKEA. Which you almost inevitably will, if you go there and buy stuff. Returning stuff at IKEA is like going to the dole office – you take your ticket and wait your turn, feeling institutionalised. Worse still, you feel duty-bound to buy some stuff, as you’ve had to go all the way there anyway. Which is what I’ll be doing next week – we found that one of the folding chairs was broken when we got it home.
I think IKEA is a cunning Swedish plan to take over the world. They’re opening a fourth shop in Berlin this December – when the last one opened, there was a small riot. I’m not joking.
Now, where’s that allen key?

* thanks to Douglas Coupland for ‘semi-disposable Swedish furniture’
** IKEA really does do stuff to the fabric of space and time. You walk round the place, and then decide you want to go back and look at something again. You’re pretty sure you know where it is, so you set off confidently only to end up in the sofa department. Which is fine, as long as you want the sofa department…I’ve taken to adopting a modified form of Douglas Banks’ Zen Navigation, where you follow someone who looks like they know where they’re going (you might not get where you were going, but you always end up where you should be) – I now head for somewhere completely other than where I want to be, most often the sofa department. Like Zen Navigation, you don’t always end up where you were going, but you always find something you want to buy…