This is me and another Kristin, way back in the dark ages, on the opening day of the Ikea store in Minneapolis. We were all Kristins that day. We were all Swedes. To say that I was excited would be like………ok, it’s actually stupid to insert some lame, hyperbolic metaphor here when you just need to look at my dumb face. I was EXCITED. ALL CAPS. So excited that I was plucked from the masses, as we waited for the doors to open, and asked to share my best dance moves for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate. ONE HUNDRED IKEA DOLLARS! That’s like three Poäng chairs! Ten Lack side Tables! You could probably get a whole Ikea vignette for $100 and take it home in your purse! I wanted that gift certificate and I knew I’d have to go big, I’d have to give it everything I had, like Napolean Dynamite during student council election season, if I truly wanted a shot at that Ikea fortune.
I did, as they say, bring it.
And while I was bringing it, I whipped my head around just a little too much……and I lost all grasp of my place in the universe, losing my balance, falling forward, reaching my arms out to the spectators like “SOMEBODY PLEASE CATCH ME! THIS IS NOT A JOKE!”
It was not the highlight of my dance career.
Then a 90-year-old Swedish lady got up on stage and waved her hands in the air like she just didn’t care and she took the prize in a landslide. Bitch.
Fast forward to today and my feelings about Ikea are much more complicated. I, like most people, have a love-hate relationship with Ikea. When I was a single gal with no money and a shared apartment, I would’ve chosen to go to Ikea over a free trip to Paris. And even now, I feel like calling in sick when the new Ikea catalog arrives in the mail.
But then I go there and my happiness is beaten out of me and I come home feeling like an angry refugee. I go in like a lamb and come out like lion.
I’ll spare you all the indignities because you’ve no doubt experienced them yourselves or read about them in the blogosphere or even watched them on YouTube. I’ve witnessed more than one angry diatribe in the parking lot; people so ravaged by hard labor and insanity that they may not even make it to the assembly phase.
I do have to vent about just one little thing, though. It’s that mandatory 17-mile-long meandering death march of a path. And they make you walk the whole thing when all you want is an apple corer. Someday I’m gonna lose my shit. (Ok, that’s a lie. I’ve already lost my shit several times, rounding the corners a little too fast with my cart, screeching “goddammit!” under my breath). I’m pretty sure somebody’s two year old made a scribble with a crayon and they labeled it “Mandatory Path for Minneapolis Store” and now we all have to suffer. It’s like getting thrashed about on Space Mountain; the thrashing probably isn’t as bad as you think but it’s so scary because you can’t see it coming! And I just want an apple corer. Why do I have to walk the whole freakin’ path behind this entire family who is here for a Sunday stroll? Can’t I go straight to kitchen accessories and then out to the checkout area? NO! You must walk the whole path! And don’t even think about taking those shortcuts. It seems like it should save you time but you could end up in Bosnia or something. One time, I went the wrong way, and I walked the whole store twice! It’s a trick! That two year old with the crayon was probably laughing his ass off.
Sometimes I feel like going rogue. I want to jump off the path, go backwards, go through that EXIT ONLY door by Småland, take down the stanchions that block the door that leads from the cheap napkin place directly to the checkout area. Sometimes the door swings open and I catch a glimpse of the registers and I’m like “I CAN SEE THEM! THERE ARE REGISTERS RIGHT THERE! DID YOU KNOW THAT THE REGISTERS ARE RIGHT THERE?!” I want to run through the doors – but I’m afraid someone will see me and take me by the elbow and say “Ma’am……can you come with me please?” And I’ll have to call Mike and tell him I’m in Ikea jail.
But……really big but……..I need some inexpensive, minimalist, creatively designed furnishings to go in my Ikea-vignette-sized cabin. And I heed the Ikea siren call once again.
This time, I will be smart about it. I swear. I will pre-shop online to minimize exposure time. Then I will go to the store. Kick the tires. Pretend-sleep on the bed. Pretend-watch TV on the couch. I will skip the warehouse. Because the warehouse makes me cry. They pack their boxes so heavy that it’s next to impossible for a small, single woman to lift, cart, and load by herself without serious injury (I’m not actually single but I have a husband who refuses to go to Ikea so it’s kind of the same thing). No need for the warehouse! I will go straight to the delivery desk, place my order and arrange for an exact delivery date. This is a cabin thing – you can’t deliver my stuff when I’m not there.
And then I will emerge the victor!!
“That’s not how it works,” says Delivery Desk Man.
He won’t arrange my delivery unless I’m standing there in front of him with my stuff, already paid for.
I’m confused. ”If the stuff I needed was small enough for me to get by myself and stand in front of you with it, why would I need delivery?”
He stares at me.
I try again. “If I could gather all these things by myself and get through checkout with them, wouldn’t I just put them in my car and go home?”
He stares at me more.
“Don’t make me go in there again.”
He’s still staring at me.
I stare back at him.
He stares at me.
I stare at him.
“Is there someone in there to help me?”
“I don’t know.”
“Could you find out?”
“There’s probably someone in there to help you.”
I find a guy to help me but he informs me that he can’t help me. If he loads my stuff onto the carts I’ve collected, he would have to charge me a picking fee. I say “pick this, buddy” and walk out to my car empty-handed feeling like an angry refugee. In like a lamb, out like a lion.
The next day, I make an important discovery. Did you know that you can order online at ikea.com???? Why would you go there, walk the mandatory effing path to find your items, pay someone a “picking fee” to load them onto your cart, wrestle your cart through the checkout line, roll your cart over to the delivery desk, and then pay to have them delivered, when you could just click your way to happiness?
About 3 minutes later, I eagerly await my new Hemnes Queen sized bed, matching mattress, and Friheten sectional sofa/pullout bed with hidden storage! Amazing!!! I’m not even crying!!! I call customer service to inform them of the cabin problems: 1) I must know an exact delivery date, 2) my road may be closed to delivery trucks until it is thawed and without muddy sinkholes, 3) and my driveway may be too narrow for delivery trucks.
“No problem,” she says (no problem!). “You will receive a call from your driver to arrange an exact date and you can discuss these issues with him then. And I can arrange for a smaller truck to fit up your driveway. Your shipment should arrive by June 13.”
I love you, Ikea!
June 13th: No call from driver. No delivery. “Where’s my order?” I ask. “It’s been delayed,” says Ikea Customer Service. “It should arrive by June 27.”
“I will be out of the country on June 27. You either have to deliver next week or hold it until I get back.”
“Not a problem. You will get a call from your driver to arrange an exact date.”
“And they’ll do the smaller truck for my narrow driveway?”
“Yes. Not to worry.”
June 24th: No call. No delivery. I board a plane for Europe where I may or may not be able to receive calls from my Ikea driver.
July 10: Home. No call. No delivery. “Where’s my stuff??” A little angry this time.
“It’s in a warehouse in northern Minnesota. It should be picked up by the driver any day. You will receive a call to arrange a delivery date.”
“And we’ve arranged for the small truck.”
July 17th: Ring ring. Ikea driver calls. There’s a problem. His truck won’t fit down our driveway. Would I be interested in meeting him in town and taking delivery there?
“Don’t you have the small truck?!”
“You have to make special arrangements for that ma’am.”
And no, I’m not interested in meeting you in town and taking delivery there. If my car was big enough to fit a Hemnes queen sized bed, matching mattress and Friheten sectional sofa/pullout bed with hidden storage, why would I need delivery? I would’ve just picked it up at the store and driven it here myself. Eight weeks ago!!!!!
My stuff goes back to the warehouse where they will arrange for a smaller truck. My driver will call me to arrange an exact delivery date, blah, blah, blah, blah…..
July 25th: I call Ikea Customer Service for our daily touch-base. “Your items have been delivered,” they say.
No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no!
I speed dial the Finnish Carpenter with my other phone so I have one on each ear. Will you please go to the cabin and see if there’s a bed, a mattress and a sectional sofa sitting out in the rain?
No. Nothing there.
“Well, it says here that it’s been delivered,” says Ikea.
“Well, it hasn’t,” says me.
“But our system shows it as delivered.”
“But it wasn’t.”
And now it’s time to file a missing persons report. Ikea can’t find my shit. Their solution? Just place your order online again and we will cancel your current order, free of charge.
Free of charge, really? Hell to the no, mother fuckers.
I make her give me the phone number of the trucking company and I make like Columbo and start my own investigation. I talk to truckers and warehouses and freight managers in Maryland, northern Minnesota and the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area. Have you seen a Hemnes queen sized bed, matching mattress, and Friheten sectional sofa/pullout bed with hidden storage?
And I find my shit, dammit. Eight weeks after placing my order, I locate the missing delivery, sitting unclaimed in a warehouse 15 minutes from my house. They think it’s been sitting there for three weeks.
I”ll be right there, I say as I grab my keys and run for the door. But wait – they can’t give it to me. There’s no delivery info anywhere on any of the boxes. That’s why it’s been sitting there, undelivered. It has to go back to Ikea, not just a random person who claims to own it.
This is where I start talking really fast and really sweet and I just don’t let them hang up the phone. And each time I don’t let them hang up, they say, ”Ok, let me get so-and-so on the phone.” I talk to like five so-and-so’s and I keep telling my story, a little more pathos each time, until finally someone says, “Ok. I’ll make up some phony papers. Don’t tell anyone.”
We rent a U-haul in record time, drive the 15 minutes, and arrive at the backdoor of a warehouse in an industrial area outside the city.
knock knock knock…..secret code word……sign fake papers.
And we drive away like goddamn Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff ……with our black market Hemnes queen sized bed, matching mattress, and Friheten sectional sofa/pullout bed with hidden storage.
We feel like we are home-free!
But we’re not. We have six hours of driving and two more stops to make before we get to the cabin. And, in the words of Richard Dreyfus, we’re gonna need a bigger boat.