The Tiniest Slice of Hell: My Trip to Ikea

This essay is appearing in the Summer 2013 issue of The Inner Swine.

dignityOkay, so, holy shit, but I actually wanted to purchase something from Ikea. Nothing against Ikea, really, except that everything I’ve ever bought from them has been this weird mix of stylish and the cheapest crap ever made – I mean, furniture you have to assemble yourself should be your first clue that this shit it awful – but like every other person born after 1970 and at some living on their own making a salary that is to laugh, I’d bought my fair share of Ikea crap back in my youth. Now that I am old and wealthy in the sense of not eating Ramen Noodles every night in a desperate attempt to survive one more day, I haven’t bought anything Ikea in a long, long time. Because I have pride.

But, then, there are these weird spaces in life, right? Little alcoves formed by poorly planned construction or renovation and we have to figure out what to do with them. In my house there is a garbage room-cum-storage area under the stairs. Have you ever tried to organize under the stairs? That shit is not easy. So I was tempted back into the Ikea mindframe by the Ekby Riset adjustable shelf bracket. You can put those bad boys on a sloped wall and adjust them until they’ll hold a shelf. It’s not exactly transparent aluminum or the Higgs Boson, but finding shelf brackets for sloped walls ain’t easy. So, we drove out to Ikea.

And holy fuck, what a mistake.

Ikea: Worse by Design

First of all: Ikea is huge. Like, mind-bogglingly big. We walked in and stepped into the showroom and were immediately confused by the sheer scale of the place. There was an incredibly unhelpful sign on the wall that basically said YOU ARE HERE and then offered nothing by way of other information. There was simply no way to know where the specific thing we wanted was located, and this is on purpose, because Ikea is all about manipulating you into walking the entire length and breadth of the store so you have every possible opportunity to say holy shit I never realized how much I need that ugly piece of furniture I MUST PURCHASE IT IMMEDIATELY. Rather than be Ikea’s bitch, we retraced our steps and entered through the warehouse, where you’re supposed to end up with your slips clutched in your hand to retrieve your merchandise. Because the only way Ikea rolls is to be as inconvenient and horrible as possible.

We noticed they have some computer terminals where you can search for items and find out where they have been hidden in the store, so we used one and were informed that the shelf brackets were located on floor 2, in the office section. This seemed to make sense, so we braced ourselves and started walking.

Arson as Customer Feedback

Ikea is designed so that you have to walk the entire length of each floor. You enter on one end, and there are no shortcuts, no way to get further into the floor other than simply walking. This means you are constantly pushing idiots out of your way as you desperately attempt to get to the one goddamn thing you wanted from the store. There are literally walls between you and the rest of the store, so once you start in you just have to keep walking and walking until you get to where you need to be.

We got there, and there were no brackets. While I got the kerosene and the lighter and started looking around for bottles and rags, The Duchess corralled a staffer and demanded to be told where the fucking brackets were. They looked it up in their apparently completely separate computer system and told us, hey ho, the brackets were actually located on the first floor, and yes, we would fucking have to walk through the whole goddamn store in order to get to them.

Fuck. We walked away leaving flames and hurt feelings in our wake.

We did find the damn brackets, eventually, and we bought them, worming our way through the horrifying colon of Ikea’s checkout lines, which were lengthy and spirit-killing. It had been about two hours, and it had been exhausting. And then at the end, if you wanted a bag to carry your purchases away in, you had to pay a quarter. I almost bought twenty just out of sheer loopiness.

Success Tastes Like Ashes

We drove home with our brackets, and goddamn if they didn’t work.

It wasn’t the fault of the brackets, which are well-made and perfectly fine. The wall I wanted to put them on failed me in the sense that I had no idea what I was doing. I am not the issue here! My incompetence is not the issue here! I am the hero of this story! THE HERO, dammit.

Whatever. I never want to go back to Ikea, ever. I would prefer to build my own furniture from discarded garbage found on the street outside my house, or lice glued together to form furniture-like sculptures. Anything but a return to that horrible place.


  1. Patty Blount

    I share your pain though not with Ikea… with a store near my home called Furn-A-Kit. i don’t know if this is a chain or not, but it’s the same idea… It’s 1992, I’m having my first baby. A friend of my husband’s gave us the crib his son no longer used. My mom bought me a rocking chair. All I needed was a dresser for tiny little socks and tiny little t-shirts. Baby furniture is freakin’ expensive. One store charged more for a dresser than I’d paid for my entire bedroom set. So, we braved Furn-A-Kit.

    The dresser we bought came in a flat package that could not be lifted by mere humans. We had to cut open the box outside and bring in all the pieces, one at a time. (Carrying bulky items when you’re nine months pregnant turned out to be damn near impossible. Cue helpful neighbor.) Then, we had to assemble the blasted thing. I became a technical writer out of spite after this adventure.

    Finally, the dresser was assembled and damn if we didn’t use that thing until Rob was almost 20.

  2. Sarah Bewley

    I have been in an Ikea one time (in Tampa, we don’t have one here), and it was overwhelming. I bought a $1 neck pillow out of their “get rid of this shit” bin at the checkout.

    It worked, but then it’s hard to fuck up with a neck pillow.

  3. DeadlyAccurate

    I’ve never been in an Ikea, and after this description, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing.

    On the other hand, your pain was entertaining to read, so I’m glad you went.

  4. Anonymous

    Ikea is having a grand opening today.I was startled awake by the sound of retail music at 0545….it’s now 0730 and I’ve blacklisted ikea. I’m a nurse and all I can about is the night shift staff that lives in my building trying to sleep while Ikea screams the countries rejected songs at them. People who work in the ICU caring for others all night may lose sleep so ikea can what.. better sell cheaply made furniture….ikea is the worst neighbor- obnoxious

  5. claire

    Bless y all I live in UK and we have Ikea and yes it is hell on earth something Satan constructed for his amusement! I break out in a sweat and hyperventalate whenever I think about the store. Really they should close prisons and put inmates in ikeas

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