At some point in your life you’ll need something to sit on. This realization could happen at college, after moving into a new home, or when the pitter of little feet threatens to patter your flooring.
Enter IKEA — Swedish for good luck putting this s$it together — it’s the perfect shopping space for broke ass students, fawning young couples, growing families, and anyone on a budget who likes eating meatballs while swearing at Allen keys.
Heading to IKEA may sound like the perfect solution to life’s furniture frustrations. All those charming room installations and darling storage shelves are the things we all love to look at, mostly ’cause none of us live like this at home.
Pick a POÄNG: The perfect respite for frazzled IKEA shoppers.
But beyond the BILLY bookcases and those popular POÄNG chairs lies a dark secret: IKEA, the home of flat-box packaging and compressed particle board, is really a hellhole disguised as heaven.
To get out alive you’ll need a plan of attack. You’ll also need a shopping cart armed to defend against (or take down) any IKEA shopper who separates you from those GLIMMA tea lights. It’s called survival of the fittest, people. I think Darwin mentions IKEA (and GLIMMA tea lights) in chapter three of The Origin of Species. Go look it up.
Anyhoo, before taking a single step in Sweden Way, get real to the survival tactics of the Blue and Yellow. Get familiar with the wily money-parting ways of the Swedish. And learn how to enter (and exit) IKEA with your sanity, soul, and marriage still intact, all without resorting to pepper spray.
This is The Definitive 12-Step Guide to Surviving IKEA:
1. Measure thrice. Freak out once.
Before stepping outside your home, do yourself a solid and measure everything your prospective IKEA furniture is supposed to touch. Measure wall height, floor space, doorway girth, and the length of your dog’s tail. Heck, measure everything three times (using both imperial and metric systems) just to be certain your new PAX unit won’t graze the ceiling when fully erect. True story.
Swedish Translation: A happy guy with a pencil will draw an ‘X’ over you.
If you’re in IKEA and some ‘Swedish Bedroom Specialist’ hands you a paper ruler to see if that sexy SULTAN mattress fits in your 300 square foot micronized Vancouver apartment, forget it — you’re already f-cked.
Measure ahead of time, and you won’t face the hell of re-flatpacking a partially assembled bed frame ’cause it just don’t fit. True story.
2. Enter without a list, die a slow death.
You will totally ignore this essential tip. I know this because it took me no less than 25 IKEA trips before I grew a Swedish brain, used the IKEA website, and created the perfect IKEA shopping list online. You’ll stay on budget, avoid getting lost in picking zones, and know when your child’s SNIGLAR is in stock.
Listed: IKEA product name on the left. Stock aisle on the right. Win.
The IKEA shopping list feature — appropriately named (in English) My Shopping List — is free to those who care about avoiding dehydration and mental breakdowns. Sort by Position in self service area and you won’t die a slow death searching for the second (and third) boxes that will eventually build your BRIMNES wardrobe.
3. Go on Saturday. Never.
If you want your spouse to divorce you, by all means take a day trip to IKEA on Saturday. Your marriage won’t survive beyond the Market Hall — the perfect place to negotiate who gets custody of the kids on Christmas.
For everyone else, avoid IKEA like the bubonic plague on weekends. You don’t need the plague (or the hordes of crowds carrying the disease), so aim to shop early in the morning on weekdays, or Friday late at night.
4. Dump your kid in SMÅLAND.
Let your kid get pelted with plastic balls in SMÅLAND — a child-approved zone where youngins’ get acquainted with the antics of other angry IKEA children for one hour. Your spawn will love the pit of death, the frightening forest creatures (made of nylon), and the brilliant IKEA marketing designed to mold their brains into future Swedish shoppers.
To qualify for SMÅLAND entrance, your child must be unwilling to hike through 500,000 square feet of retail *cough* utopia and measure up to the right height. Your child may also qualify for chicken pox if she comes into contact with a spotted kid named ‘George’. True story.
Anyhoo, since you only get an hour of child-free bliss, grab your GROGGY and run.
5. Hit the AS-IS department, first.
With your shopping list in hand, make a bee line to the budget zone called the AS-IS department — located in the basement, where the smartest of IKEA shoppers are never lost, and always found.
The AS-IS department often sells assembled floor models and flawed merchandise (sometimes only the unpacked box is damaged) at deep discounts. Avoiding the upper floors, Market Hall, and the self-serve zones is key to survival, and you’ll bank a few extra bucks if your bookcase or slip cover is sold with a discounting blemish. Head straight for the checkout. You win.
6. Avoid the path of most resistance.
Walk like a Scandinavian and you’ll end up following a maze of floor arrows designed to keep you lost in a sea of shoppers forever.
Make the rookie mistake by becoming entranced by these one-directional markers and you’ll get stuck behind every pregnant couple stopping to fawn over some swoon-worthy thing along the way. You’ll grow to hate these cute baby mooning, perhaps newlywed pairs, and either spontaneously combust or graciously gnaw on your IKEA pencil.
If you own a dental bite guard (or any protective mouth device) now is the time to insert it into your gob to prevent the onset of a pressure-induced migraine and molar wear. Also, pray that the pretty pregnant lady needs to take a pee break.
Avoid the lemmings and the herd mentality by printing an IKEA floorplan and marking the shortcuts, elevators, and bathroom zones where you can breathe easy and dash away from those determined to dawdle.
7. Replenish, but not at noon.
IKEA’s restaurant and cafe can be the perfect stop for the weary. Enjoy super-cheap salads, salmon, and of course IKEA’s world famous meatballs smothered in lingonberry sauce (only $5.99).
Choose to dine at noon and get whacked in the head by a pissed off kid who just learned that the Swedish Chef failed to stock chocolate milk today. You’ll curse his exhausted parents for not dumping the brat in SMÅLAND.
8. Don’t be a DOMBÅS.
College students tend to fall hard for IKEA products with ridiculous names. I once bunked with a dude (we had separate rooms, thank you) who bought the FARTFULL — a now discontinued children’s workbench — because the gassy product was named ‘fart full’. True story.
On my last IKEA trip I noticed a horde of young (and dumb) bored men snickering over the DOMBÅS — a simple wardrobe. I think IKEA gives certain products dumb-ass names to entice certain dumb-ass demographics into buying, and bringing home, the dumb-assery. Maybe.
9. Beware of ‘Market Hall’.
Designed to part you from your pocketbook faster than a pissed off husband looking to launch in search of beer (or Ativan, or the bubonic plague) is IKEA’s Market Hall. Women love it here. Men coil in mortal horror.
She will pick five 8×10 RIBBA picture frames (they’re only $9.99 each), two BLOMSTER vases (perfect for the flowers he’ll never buy her), and one SNITSNIG saucepan with lid. She’ll then return half the haul, only to repick it five minutes later.
After being dragged mercilessly through the CHARMIG 20-piece flatware set display, past three RATIONELL bins, and through a wall alive with bamboo shoots, he’ll ask her to return everything minus the BLOMSTER vase, ’cause he likes the bamboo shoots — they’re cool.
Save yourself. Save your relationship. Save your money. Avoid the Market Hall by sticking to your shopping list. But get the BUMERANG curved clothes hangers ($5.99/8 pack) — best deal on wooden hangers anywhere.
10. Get the hell out. Good luck.
The delicious cheese at the end of the IKEA maze is the 75-cent hot dogs and the frugal frozen yogurt cones. But you’ll have to make it through the self-serve zones and checkout lines before dining on your dollar foods.
If you sorted your Shopping List by Position in self service area (like I told you to), you’ll breeze through the sky-high stacks of boxes without blinking an eye. Kudos.
Ignore my sanity-saving tip and you’ll be forced to walk for miles in aisles of cardboard in search of The Lost Ark. Indiana Jones didn’t endure such pain.
Swedish sales clerks are of little help down in these dark cardboard alleys of hell since most only visit the basement on their breaks to dine on 75-cent hot dogs and tasty frozen yogurt.
Haul your loaded cart and wait in line with fellow frazzled shoppers for at least 45 minutes. Curse the kids just freed from SMÅLAND. Stare at the IKEA staff scarfing down 75-cent hot dogs. Curse all the seniors licking frozen yogurt cones.
11. Don’t bring your Smart Car.
Blocking the loading dock with your Smart Car and attempting to Jenga the smallest of boxes on board will get you pelted with meatballs by irate IKEA shoppers. The yogurt-licking seniors will join in for good measure since you’ve boxed in their getaway tour bus and they won’t make it home in time for Jeopardy!, or Bridge.
You’ll want to die. You’ll never eat red meat (or lingonberry sauce, or frozen yogurt) again. IKEA flat-packed boxes and mini-mobiles don’t mix. Ever. Trust me. I swear on my Smart Car.
So before beating it to IKEA in your commuter car to avoid the bubonic-infested crowds, calculate the package size of the particle board you wish to purchase, and drive an appropriately sized vehicle to haul your s$it home. Heck, bring a U-Haul just to be safe. IKEA should rent U-Hauls to over-zealous shoppers. Seriously.
12. Some assembly required.
Husbands and other full-grown men will want to be heroes by building and raising all flat-packed furniture into usable three-dimensional home furnishings. All men will be mistaken. The only humans able to decipher IKEA’s DIY pictorial assembly guides are children, and you probably forgot yours in SMÅLAND during the mad dash to exit the showroom.
Morning: Carl starts ‘reading’ the IKEA bed building instructions.
Evening (next day): Carl found the missing bolt. He was sitting on it.
It will take at least 10 hours to build that PAX storage unit, and all you’ll have to show for it is some blue covered doors hanging on an ill-secured hinge. True story.
You will come unhinged. You will curse in Swedish. And you will return again in the future (mostly) to buy something to sit on. Face it people — shopping at IKEA is awesome.
I recognize that bed Carl is putting together! I have the same one! It took me 7.5 hours from when I first opened the box until I put my mattress on the completely-assembled product. True story.
So true! LMAO – this really is a true perspective of an IKEA shopping trip – trust me I have been there twice in the past month and cannot walk out of there on budget! Will be a few months before I go again…
Great article..loved it..wish I could go!
This is great! I’ve never gone to Ikea and I’m afraid of all that I would buy.
I love IKEA. When I lived in Philly, I’d go there on the weekends, because you could sit down in air-conditioning. The coffee wasn’t too bad, either. 🙂
A most awesome story…and ALL of it true story!! Love it!!
But…just the same, I LOVE going to Ikea..and most always
blow the budget and most always have hubby (hours later) say
“they did not put enough (or the right)screw thing in here!!
I great article for those who like IKEA. I’ve been there once and will never go back again and here’s why.
I find that if I’m watching my pocketbook REAL wood will ALWAYS outperform and last a lifetime for the amount of $$$ and time I spend building it myself. IKEA and other box box furniture stores is everything I find to be wrong with products made today, they are cheaply made and don’t last as long for the money spent.
My son and I built his loft bed for $170 11 years ago and he’s since passed it down to his little sister. To this day it can still stand up to a hurricane and has required zero maintenance.
The very first time I went to IKEA, it was with the sole purpose of buying a couch. I had like, $4, and they had a couch that fit the bill. It seemed straight forward until we got downstairs to the actual pick up area and then all hell broke loose. They had 5 of the 6 couch cushion covers that I needed which were something like $12 each, and to have the 6th shipped I would have spent an add’l $18. Back to the drawing board.
We then went to the ‘As Is’ section since we were already downstairs and I found (score!) an amazing Ektorp sofa that was in my $4 price range. I went through check out with it and went off to figure out how to have it shipped to my house. Long story short my cheap cheap cheap score would cost $400 to deliver. So I got in the customer service line (with the enormous couch on two carts, fully assembled) and returned it.
Then. THEN. I went back upstairs, picked out a 3rd and final couch, had them call downstairs and stand beside the boxes of said couch while my mother and I raced downstairs to get it before anyone else could (there was only 1) and we started the whole checkout process all over again.
The punchline? The six foot couch was in one long flat box that we fit in my mother’s Prius and drove three hours with my head resting against the dashboard and the couch resting against my head. We were driven to insanity.
Moral of the story…just…don’t. Don’t do anything that I did that day. Ever.
I seem to have the opposite problem. Go to IKEA, havel lunch, walk around, get OVERWHELMED, get an ice cream, leave.
I do miss their longenberry ice cream. That only have vanilla now.
On the plus side, they do give out free diapers in the bathrooms.
Don’t forget they have free kids jar food with purchase of adult meal
Free refills for coffee/ pop and cheap breakfast!
i) Take your girlfriend not your partner!
ii) Wear comfortable shoes
iii) Take a small purse
iv) Bring a list
v) Bring your own reusable coffee mug 😉
vi) Make sure if there are 2 packages/ boxes etc that you make sure you get them! Many time I have heard about missing slatted bed bases.
vii) Check out your local ikea site location for Wednessday deals and or sales that are happening, better yet sign up for their emails.
What I do (with some help)
1. Start in the exit door, fuel up with Hot Dogs.
2. Enter store with list and pick items out of market area bypassing ever other shopper.
3. if #2 not sufficient use the “cut through” or express options to speed up to section needed.
4. Refuel after picking out goods in upstairs Cafe.
5. Line up for purchase Choose the self serve checkout if possible (assuming not paying with cash) lineup moves faster
6. If Cafe not open send a representative to purchase hot dogs since there will be a line there as well.
7. If anything is forgotten send a representative to fetch while in line.
8. Add up your purchases and do final rebuff of do I really want/need/have $$ in my budget for this? Bonus marks if you took pictures of the prices while you were shopping and REALLY know how much each item was….
9. Make sure you can realistically get it home, via car/ bus/ etc before you leave the building.
Don’t forget tip #14 – IKEA just rolled out their own loyal shopper card! You’ll get random discounts on stuff you don’t need, and more coupons on other furniture you don’t like. But! Just flash that orange piece of plastic in the cafe and get a free cup of coffee. You’ll need it.
This was a scream Kerry, thank you. Lots of memories were generated and enjoyed, full of great tips, and a few choice swear words cleverly disguised in Sweedish! Ha! 😉
IKEAs names are usually swedish words, namnes or scandinavian towns.
Dumbås is a town in Norway, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domb%C3%A5s.
Fart means speed in swedish, so “fartfull” translates to “lots of speed”.
Små means small, land=country så Småland=country of the small (and it is also a province in Sweden http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sm%C3%A5land).
And yes, we eat a lot of meatballs in Sweden (had some yesterday for dinner).
Where do you have to go to get an Ikea store floor plan? Great idea but I couldn’t see one on the website?
Years ago my wife and I used to shop at Ikea and we found many items of furniture for the home. Since then Ikea closed the local store and we modified our behaviour (read: look for lasting quality not student “cheap.”). Today almost none of those Ikea purchases are left in our home – they just didn’t stand up to the forces of time and raising a family. I think we were wasting money by buying Ikea-quality goods instead of waiting and saving for longer until we could afford things which would last. Live and learn!
You are so right about Market Hall. That’s where, despite my best intentions, I blow my budget every time.
This is quite possibly the best post I have ever read about surviving Ikea. Well done!
Whaaaat!?! The ultimate Big-Box corporation?! How is it frugal to buy 3rd world junk? I agree with Stephen above. Make your own or pay a carpenter or friend. Less stress, cheaper, better quality, keeping it local.
Who you are buying from (bottom of page):
…and the business (middle of l-o-n-g page):
To those grumbling about IKEA quality:
My IKEA furniture has lasted for decades, and I’ve hauled it across country (Canada — a really BIG country) twice. To keep my IKEA in tip top shape I’ve basically treated my veneered particleboard with respect, kinda like a Gremlin.
1) Don’t get it wet. Ever. It may melt.
2) Don’t feed it after midnight. Tired spills can stain.
3) No bright light. Live in a Vancouver basement.
So true, great tips for those who feel the need to buy cheap furniture. You should also note that IKEA quality has gone down hill lately, it’s all thin veneer over balsawood so don’t plan to put anything heavy on it!
One of the best posts I have read in a long time! Thanks for the laugh, Kerry. We had an IKEA in our city until we moved 3 years ago. You brought a lot of old memories back, and I love some of the additions added by your readers. I found the IKEA helpful (along with Big Lots and Goodwill) in “staging” my house to sell it in a down market. It worked!
Alot of Ikea furniture is solid wood – you just have to read the labels. The bookcases I got were solid wood…two different styles, one not in production anymore. I’m pretty sure the recent one is a billy. The only part that’s not solid wood is the back plate which is the thin flexible almost-cardboard material. There’s no particle board or laminate in them at all.
2. The Ribba 10X12 frames I bought are 4.99, not 9.99. Must be a Canadian price.
3. I bought a loft for my daughter and it is solid wood.
4. I bought a coffee table, again solid wood.
5. The engineering on the furniture is excellent and easy to put together. The holes always line up and the ingenious little bolts keep it all solidly together.
6. On the other hand, i hate the arrangement of their store floor and agree it’s a maze designed to keep people from easily leaving.
It’s worth noting that Ikea now offers a van rental at the Ottawa location at a great rate (newest location in Canada, should be available in the future at others).
Also, on quality, many folks seem to forget that every now and again they need to bust out their screwdrivers and allan keys again to tighten things up. Too many people have just said, oh it’s broken, without actually giving it a tune up!
-Ikea acolyte that just dropped 1600 on a bed system. (On a Tuesday of course)
I just like to stop in every now and then and eat one of their yummy cinnamon buns!!
oh my gosh this gave me a laugh. My coworkers were wondering about all the snorting and guffawing….
Thanks for saving me a three-hour-one-way trip to the nearest Ikea store. The pictures, especially, make it clear this is not my kind of place. It looks really depressing, like a Home Depot warehouse store for furniture and household stuff that looks like everyone else’s stuff. I much prefer shopping locally and in second hand stores where the furniture has some personality. I get really depressed in big box stores–all that STUFF. Ugh. I can’t even make it down one aisle without feeling how futile life is. I don’t know why piles of stuff does that to me, it just does. Somehow seeing it all in one big pile makes it clear how totally wasteful it is to worry about well, stuff.
Never, ever, bring your teenage daughters who just want “one or two” things for their bedroom then give you those big beautiful puppy dog eyes at the checkout…
LMAO this is sooo true, I have a family of ikea lovers and this is exactly what happens when we go there.
Great observations ! Had a chuckle … I like IKEA but so true !
I’ve never liked Ikea. Their food leaves ALOT to be desired like warmth. Their products are ok if you like cheap looking furniture, etc. I have bought stuff from them but it’s a place I never have to worry a budget in because I never spend alot. I think the most I ever spent was $130 for a tv cabinet that’s still standing but still looks like a cheap piece of furniture! Thanks for the great article.
“but the reality is it requires
a genius to put the stuff together or an engineer”
You must be super dumb.
I love IKEA
I love WALMART
I love HOME DEPOT
It’s funny that I read a lot of criticism about US Box stores but a Swedish Box store is okay.
How did we manage before WalMart, Ikea and Home Depot. Can’t wait for TARGET
Enough hitting on IKEA! Any disciplined rational person goes there, picks out what they need and leaves.
Does anyone see any similarities to shopping at Costco?
Makes me want to go on the IKEA website immediately!!
My parnter and I have been going to IKEA for dates for the last 5+ years. She and I just like getting design ideas, eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner there, and taking our time wandering through the whole store before getting a cone and heading home. To us, it’s like a fun home-art gallery where we can sit and chillout when we feel like it. I say “home-art gallery” because I’ve been collecting IKEA catalogs since 1990 and love seeing how the designs have evolved.
A lot of the complaints about the “poor quality” and not being able to get out quickly enough illustrate a HUGE misunderstanding. First, you always get what you pay for, and IKEA is no different. The $25 chairs? Crap? OF COURSE. The $200+ solid wood IKEA dining table that weighs somewhere around 70lbs? It’s lasted my in-laws over 10yrs without signs of wear. Second, OF COURSE it’s stressful trying to run through a place that was specifically designed by a huge team of professionals so you couldn’t. It’s like complaining that you couldn’t sprint through MoMA.
When you go to IKEA, having a plan helps, but most importantly, go with a REALISTIC idea of what it’s going to be: a time-consuming trip, so ENJOY IT FOR WHAT IT IS.
*Lastly, I have yet to actually meet a person who was not able to assemble a piece of IKEA furniture. I hear stories of other people having problems, but have never met one. It’s not rocket science, and as Kerry said, children can decipher the pictures, so if you can’t, I’d be pretty embarrassed.
I love IKEA. I have had a computer desk and matching book shelves for years that were perfect for me. Solid beautiful pine. Not too hard to put together, but I did have to call for lifting help to stand it up. I love the article. I wish there was a store closer to me now. I enjoy a walk around and get lunch, then buy some neat little trivet in the market place. I hate the two hour commute.
Prince George to Coquitlam Ikea in a 22 hour turnaround. Time in the store was 22 minutes including checkout. Went armed with the list (from the internet site) and the map of the locations of 6 bookcases, 4 matching wall units, and 3 big dressers. Love flat packs. Chrysler Town & Country van was loaded (we think of it as a covered pickup truck). Easy to assemble (good engineering) and decent quality for the price.
my husband is an expert at putting Ikea stuff together
if my husband was not around i would never and i mean
never buy anything from Ikea. sad but true
i love ikea stuff but the reality is it requires
a genius to put the stuff together or an engineer
While Ikea furniture is not the highest quality stuff on the market, I find that many of their items are useful. I also find that the traditional furniture in department stores is often boring. Also, the furniture in some stores like Leons and The Brick also is not top quality. Ikea inspires and offers alternative items that can also be used for decorating. Also, their food is nothing spectacular, but if you know anything about Scandanavian cuisine you will know that the food is pretty basic, ie. no steaks or fancy meals. This is what Ikea presents: standard Scandanavian food at affordable prices. Not for everyone’s taste, obviously. I find that the options for buying furniture in Canada are limited. Custom made furniture or renovating older furniture I find are both good alternatives for furniture that is meant to last a lifetime.
Alternatively – search your IKEA item on Kijiji – it may be gently used – but it will come assembled and at a greatly discounted price. Market Place, 75 cent weenies and warehouse shelves avoided.
Here’s why I LOVE Ikea…..on my very long drives as a sales rep I find that the Coquitlam location is extremely convenient. At just the right part off the day when one needs and afternoon nap- you just pull right off the highway into their shaded under roof parking, flip the seat back and snooze. There is always parking close to the entrance mid week if you go right around to the other side, when done napping you can zip into the store for a quick-pee-drink-hot dog and a look at the displays between the escalators. And head on home, rested and ready for the rest of the highway.
Best napping ever!
4. Dump your kid in SMALAND… if you enjoy cleaning up after they pick up an acute stomach virus after wallowing in that seething petri dish disguised as a play area (based on an experience at IKEA in Brisbane.)
On the other hand, it’s not a bad idea if you want to test your child’s immune system…
Having just endured another round of Ikea (three in total for this move), bed/Pax/Besta etc assembly I agree with all of the above, and:
– Make it your own with inspiration from ikeahackers.net
– Pack energy bars and water if you get bogged down with lines for sales associates and start getting low blood sugar
– Have a fresh shift of family waiting on the end so you can deliver and go have a beer
– Never hurts to add carpenter’s glue to the mix when assembling parts with dowels.
– Do assemble Pax standing up and not lying on the floor, or you’re liable to end up with a catastrophic fail when you try to erect it. And then wait two weeks for another delivery, free of charge, because this happens ALL THE TIME. True story.
Well, well, well,….I shop at Ikea regularly and have put a fair number of their pieces together. I find the instructions remarkably easy to follow. I agree on the shopping times and keeping my hands in my pockets and measuring everything before you go and starting in the as is after shopping on line. But the rant is overstated in my opinion and there are far better hints…
1. watch out for lighting that doesn’t take standard lightbulbs.
2. ****** Always check craigslist, kijiji etc first – its highly likely you’ll find it there. But be wise. With the economic crunch alot of people ar posting at the price of the item -saying saving the tax is worth it!*****
This is perfect! ADHD sufferers like me need blinders in IKEA. No list can survive a random spotting of “The Thing I Never Knew I Needed.”
That UPPTÄCKA shopping bag (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50212684/) nearly cost me my marriage. He insisted I didn’t need it.
(I was right.)
Be careful about buying Ikea furniture to use “until you find something better”. We are still using Ikea furniture we bought 25 years ago as “temporary” tables and bookshelves.
You say Idea should rent u-halls? They DO rent u-hall type vehicles and vans.
Hi Kerry, Loved your blog on IKEA. In late November, 2011 I purchased a wall unit (4 separate sections to make one unit)which turned out to be multiple boxes stacked taller than I am. I paid for delivery and set-up. It took the fellas 2 hours from the moment they stepped in the door to complete the build. They had all the tools. Worth the set-up and delivery cost – yeah. Although I don’t have a head of hair; I certainly would have pulled my beard out and would probably still be trying to put the thing together today. Sometimes paying for delivery and set-up is worth the lack of aggravation. Nice to see a local blog report. All good wishes.
[…] By Stacy Johnson | Jun 29, 2012 1. How to survive a trip to IKEA[Squawkfox] My first reaction when I saw this article: There’s no way to survive a trip to […]
[…] How to Survive a Trip to IKEA […]
Great read! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s taken me years to learn how to shop at Ikea without breaking the bank or having a nervous breakdown in Market Hall. I pretty much all of your tips, though I don’t have children. Too bad I can’t leave my dog in Smaland for some play time however.
On my last move, I spent a lot of time on kijiji (but I’ll admit I’m wary about buying anything used now, what with the bedbug explosion here in Toronto). Also, I’m alone, with a small car (a Fit that doesn’t fit everything) and the flat-packing lets me handle anything on my own. I use the Ikea website and signed up for their weekly sales bulletins (decent savings) though I don’t care now that I’ve got what I need. I make a list (just don’t forget it in your shopping cart, true story). And for a long time now I’ve been entering by the exit, partly because I just like going against the crowd. If I’ve forgotten my catalog, just in case, I cut through the returns section — chuckling at the l-o-n-g lineups (note the propaganda in the returns section lauding the joys of Sweden and its chosen corporate son) — I grab that catalog and head back to the pick-up section.
Another tip: Do a reconnaisance trip. Keep your wallet at home and give yourself have enough time to browse for as long as you want. Pick up a catalog as many of the planning brochures they have (they show ALL the pieces needed, which the catalog doesn’t), fabric samples, take pictures, all of it. Then go home and do your homework. Only then, go back and get what you want, without browsing.
One more thing. Ikea now sells a small rechargeable drill, in a bright orange box, with drill heads and screw heads, INCLUDING AN ALLEN KEY!!! Less than $10. Saves a TON of time and avoids repetitive strain injury. You won’t be tempted to start throwing things. (I found it in the lighting section — go figure.) Cheers.
I love Amish furniture — it feels like an investment instead of a kit.
[…] Squawkfox explains how to survive a trip to IKEA […]
IKEA = Basically another retailer cult. I’ll pass
Reading this post while sitting in my black Poang chair(thanks for letting me know the name). I just wrote advice to help you when shopping on what you briefly touched upon in #2 (go with a list). Basic premise was that you plan your purchases. That is essential to not overspend.
Very funny and true post.
This pretty pregnant went on her day off (a weekday) at 11 am. I hate crowds, and I went with a list.
Don’t forget to pick up some frozen yogurt while you’re there. It’s cheap, low calorie, and super yummy!
Found you in a search that included ‘IKEA’ – loved this article and will feel far more prepared when I venture forth into Hell.
Best $1.00 chocolate bar ever. (the dark chocolate one) Never buy their electrical products.
This article was a hoot! Thanks
Just got a gently used Poang chair for $35. No assembly required. 🙂
Love this post. It’s soooo true. I avoid IKEA like the plague because I always feel like I’m just an unwitting host transporting these products to their ultimate landfill destination (and paying money to do so).
That said, if you happen to still like IKEA, its products and shopping experience despite all this evidence, or find yourself stuck with junk you bought and regret cuz it doesn’t work in your home but somehow you can’t bear to take it back, or you just believe in making silk purses out of sow’s ears, here’s a website for you:
There is no greater triumph than turning that what-was-I-thinking coffee table into your very own unique treasure to spite those corporate strategists bent on thwarting your creativity and hoovering your cash. Just looking thru this site is inspirational – and thrifty. Keep the stuff out of a landfill by loving it a little!
Thank you for chronicling both my pain and my pleasure:
PAIN: all mentioned above that I unfortunately sympathize with.
PLEASURE: a bit of pride for being able to assemble nearly every piece of furniture or RATIONELL I ever bought from there, but I have to admit…the best $100 I ever spent was having someone else build my PAX wardrobe. I feel no shame, and saved my sanity and marriage cheaping out.
I have been a longtime fan of Ikea. I purchased a dining room table in Seattle that was 2 years old that we got rid of, and purchased an RC Willey table in LV that is barely two years old and seems to be laminate, and yes you can tell with bubbling on the table top. I spent far less on the Ikea table that looked fantastic, but it was a light wood, and we had decided to transition to darker woods in the new house. SIGH. no ikea in LV. We still have our Ikea couch, desk and other furniture that we have had for years, with years to go…
If you’ll be going anywhere near the As-Is, it’s smart to bring stubby slot and phillips screwdrivers with you. If you do happen to find an incredible deal on a piece of assembled furniture, and don’t drive a Hummer or cube van, you may be able to take it apart enough to fit in your car. Also, the As-Is sections often seem to have battery recycling drop-offs, which is kind of cool.
If you’re lucky enough to have an Ikea close to you, learn to visit *only* the cafe for cheap food and a child-tolerant atmosphere. Don’t stray anywhere else, or you’ll end up dropping at least $40.
I’m currently in a room containing two recent Ikea book shelves, an unnamed Ikea desk, a 4-cube Expedit, some Wacky Wednesday bedside table, what I believe is a re-covered 80s Ikea loveseat, two 90s Ikea wicker chairs and a Kanunki (little wooden stool), a painted Hemnes dresser, one of those lanterns they’ve sold forever, a photo print of some flowers, curtains from a fabric they sold in the 90s with hardware purchased at the same time, and holy crap, I think those are Carl Larsson pictures, so take these as either words from an expert, or someone whose whole family has a Swedish prefab furniture habit.
Ikea is my church. I read the catalogue like a bible.
When my husband tells me I need a few hours to go pray, he’s talking about my Swedish house of worship.
Bettery recycling as Amanda notes, plus light bulb recycling in lighting department. But who ever remembers to bring them?? I wish I could.
I haven’t shopped at Ikea in years because it is so big and I do get lost and now I think I know where to go to get the best deals at Ikea. Thank You!
I’ve never been to an IKEA store. I never really thought of it as my kind of furniture. Co-workers say “oh, you have to go, it’s wonderful. Shopping at the big IKEA store is an adventure.” Now, after reading your blog, I’m intrigued. I’m looking forward to the journey. But, I may re-read your blog in preparation.
You Forgot about the charge for bags. and the Rewards card that save you more for things special that day.
Oh boy. Don’t even get me started on IKea. Although I think their furniture looks simplistic and appealing, and their meatballs are great, the store layout absolutely sucks!
I love Ikea and a LOT of my furniture and other bits in my flat came from there. I do agree that people who can’t follow simplistic picture instructions should hang their heads in shame. I’m NOT a DIYer at all but I put together everything I have [aside from getting the cover on my sofa which took two of us] by myself without any problems. Also I had the common sense to hire a van when I was going for the majority of my large furniture, including a sofa and large bookcase. Who goes and buys something like that on total impulse? You know you are shopping for large furniture so work out how you are getting it back home before you even GO to the store.
Haha… reading this made me want to go there again soon. But I should probably share this site with my husband first to help him know our experiences with the store are common. One tip nobody else mentioned: If you buy your soda near the exit at the beginning of your time at the store, it comes in a disposable cup and you can refill it once you get to the cafe and again on the way out. (Soda bought in the cafe comes in a glass cup and has to stay there).
Having done two IKEA trips in the same weekend earlier this month, I’d like to add that it’s absolutely crucial to measure the cargo space of your vehicle prior to buying any large items.
It’s highly tempting to show up with your carefully researched shopping list, make your way through furniture pick-up and load your cart with gigantic boxes of flat-pack furniture, and then get to the loading zone and sob softly as you realize you can’t fit everything in the back of your Corolla.
Take the time to look at package dimensions of the items you’re looking to buy, and then go to your car the night before and measure your trunk/backseat space to make sure everything will actually fit.
You wanna see a magic show? Watch me fit two Billy bookcases in the back of a Corolla. Tetris has nothing on THAT.
When I go in other furniture stores I rarely see anything I like–it’s all big and ugly and expensive. I love Ikea’s clean, Scandinavian style and reasonable prices, and I have no trouble putting things together. I just bought a house and most of the new furniture is Ikea. Getting large pieces home is a challenge–for my sofa and tall bookcases I had to have my sister rent a U-Hail trailer and deliver them to me with her truck. My Ikea is 2 1/2 hours away, which is a good thing, otherwise I’d be there way more often and spend way too much in the marketplace–you are correct that it’s a dangerous place. Their website is fabulous, easy to navigate, has furniture and package dimensions, and the printable shopping list is a life-saver.
We live a few minutes from Ikea in Wales. I refuse to go with either my wife or children, but do accept lists. I try to beat my personal best times from entering the store to leaving each time. 11 mins in the record, if it takes more than 20 then there is someting seriously wrong….
I love Ikea but a lot of you blog entry is very true. We moved to a city 2 1/2 hrs away from the nearest Ikea 6 years ago so we really loaded up before we left. We hauled an Ikea kitchen in the UHaul with our furniture when we moved. The kitchen is wonderful and still looks as good as the day we finished installing it. When our son in law goes to an area with an Ikea he always takes a list from us, too. By the way, my daughter lives in Switzerland and I have been to several of the stores there. In Europe people don’t have pickups so Ikea rents vans.
I like IKEA stuff BECAUSE they don’t last. This way, I can redecorate my home every few years! Who wants to stare at the same stuff for decades? That’s so boring.
One tip is make sure you build them well. Don’t leave small gaps that the pieces can “wiggle.” if it wiggles excessively, in time, that wiggle will loosen the hinges which are not repairable, and it will infect other joints. So make sure you do it right the first time and it should last you a few years at the lease.
I had a lot of fun reading this, Kerry. And thanks for the tips – they’ll be put to use whenever an IKEA opens up nearby and I’m in need of cheap furniture. 🙂
I have to be anonymous because IKEA is one of our “industry” partners but GOD BLESS IT, I can’t stand going to that store! I once actually asked the nice lady at the bottom of the escalator, “Do you hate your American customers or what??”
She was confused as to why I’d ask such a thing and I told her “Because all I want to do is come in, get what I need and get out. And I can never – EVER – do it easily. The place is like a maze, I’m constantly lost and I don’t want to have to go through the entire store just to buy a lemon zester.”
She proceeded to hand me a MAP and then begin to explain how the map makes it so easy, blah blah blah… I stopped her mid-sentence and said, “THIS is the problem! I don’t want to need a G-D MAP to find my way around and out of a store!”
GRRRRR I HATE IKEA!
This story was so true and so funny. Several times I have had a similar experiance, but yet we continue to return. The cheap food is a certain draw for us frugal minded. We are careful as to what we buy. Our first rule is take the car, not the van. Second rule, leave the credit and debit cards at home. Cash only goes so far….. The most common reason for going to IKEA for us is as a date day. We farm out the kids, take $100, get some ideas, have a cheap meal ( or two ) and leave with a couple of trinkets ( usually for the kids ). We manage to leave sane every time !
I would add “make sure what you bought fits in the car”. Yeah, flat packages are still long boxes that may or may not fit in a small(ish) car. We learned it the hard way and delivery/renting a truck in that case isn’t worth it.
Great article… I laughed until I cried! I love IKEA, but learned these lessons through many years of experience. I bought my first IKEA table while living in Germany and had to transport the box on public transportation (didn’t have the spare bucks to rent a transport taxi). That table served us for at least 12 years before it was ruined by a co-worker’s ill-functioning coffee pot burned the white formica top. IKEA furniture may not be heirloom quality, but if cared for properly (don’t drop on it’s corner and break all the corner connectors), it will last for a long time. I love the maze, and I don’t “walk the path”. It’s a fun challenge to find all the shortcuts, especially if you have to find the bathroom or just head to the Market Place for one of their fabulous and cheap sets of plastic cutting boards. Oh, and Christmas time at IKEA will expose you to all sorts of Swedish Christms traditions, like those little red balsa-wood or sraw ornaments. Gotta go… need to go to IKEA for after Christmas shopping (Ha, ha).
I think IKEA read this post. The one here in San Diego rents UHauls from a free standing kiosk inside and they are ready to fill right in the pickup zone. They should pay you for that idea.
This is absolutely hilarious!!!! I was just there in our store in Winnipeg for the first time last week. Went on a Thursday morning and arrived at 12:00 noon. Not to many people there at the time. It was amazing to see the size of this store and now to battle the directional shopping. It took 2.5 hours of walking and still did not see the whole store. Going back for another visit to finish it off. Finding bathroom was lots of fun only two in the whole store and you had to like a fool figure out where they were and where you were to get there. If you are in the middle to your travels its like starting all over again if you need to go to the washroom, pretty funny!!! I went with a friend that had to use the bathroom a few times!!! I was absolutely pooped out when we came out of the store and realized that I better learn the floor plan really well if I am going to shop there, can’t go there and not know where you are going, it is like a maze and you will never get out. Have the meatball dinner, yummy!!!! Love those meatballs and can’t beat the price for what you get. All in all, it was a good time but tiresome. Didn’t buy anything but had taken measurements at home for stuff that I was interested in. It is awesome that IKEA is finally in Winnipeg, used to shop at the store in Calgary all the time when I lived there. Sooooo happy to them finally here.
Excellent Ikea survival guide. Very funny! I really don’t like going there but my wife loves it. The only part I like is the quick eats at the cafeteria.
Shopped at Ikea for 2 children in 2nd year uni. Perfect for them, since we intended to leave it behind when they finished uni – no van rentals, etc. Worked perfectly, sold stuff to successor tenants. The original article is very funny, but failed to warn of my long lasting addiction to meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberry, 10 years after my last Ikea visit!
Best tip: head the ‘wrong’ direction when you first enter the store and pick up a coffee to take with you shopping.
But did you read about the DIY enthusiasts who went ‘berserk’ at an IKEA store opening in north London back in 2005? Apparently, an unprecedented number of wannabe Vikings descended on the store at the midnight opening, only for it to close some 40 mins later, due to the sheer number of invaders; people were clinging on to pieces of furniture like it were driftwood! Police had to restore order after pillaging and plundering threatened to become violent, and one woman was ‘mugged’ of her discounted sofa in the check-out queue! Somehow, ‘DOMBÅS’ doesn’t come close!
Hilarious article! And some good tips too. I live overseas and have gone shopping in Ikea in Hong Kong, Singapore and Prague. Every store, despite it having the same layout, going there is always a nightmare and ordeal. Thanks for a good laugh.
For any of your readers who are hyper sensitive to chemicals, which means we realize chemicals are there when others may not, I have to tell you of my Ikea 2 couch purchase. We live in North Florida so we had to travel to Orlando Ikea to shop. My daughter and I both wanted the same sofa – the Ektorp. We paid to have them picked and shipped. Arriving at my daughter’s house, Sofa #1 was not completely packed. The cushions were not wrapped nor the sofa. OK. It still looks good and sits good. No problem. My sofa(sofa #2) was fully packed. Opened it. Set it up. And could not get near it. The chemical off-gassing was so bad. Let it sit for 29 days. No better. Called Ikea. Was told to bring it back and IF the return-people could support my complaint I could get a credit or refund. Well I was stuck. I could rent a truck. Tote it to Ikea and still be told NO WAY. I could not in good conscience give it to Goodwill because I knew it was gassing off. So I found an adult who was told of the condition but was not consciously aware of it. She gave me a case of wine. So keep your Ikea and all its craziness. I am truly disappointed. I like the styles and colors and packed stores. But my experience has sent me shopping elsewhere. But the food at Ikea is really awful. Happy Thanksgiving.
OK…so if you don’t mind IKEA…why rip it apart! For those of us that love IKEA and have great furniture, etc…from there…this was sad and probably written to gain response!
But…still not cool!
I came across your site today & kinda like alot of it but…really…consider being a bit more…let’s say…”tactful”!
And I’m an adult and a business owner(NOT a college kid!)!
Fantastic article, have to agree wholeheartedly with your fine pro’s, we are in the UK and it is exactly the same model. We bought the Pax wardrobe which after many sweating and cursing hours eventually was ready for hanging clothes……. When my wife asked if we could add 2 further shelves i thought a quick look on their web site and they would be dispatched in 5 mins (wrong) we are told we have to drive 2.5 hours each way to pick them up as they do not deliver…… which is strange as they happily delivered the whole wardrobe without any problems. Bloody cooperate devils from Northern Europe will never see me cross their doors again.
Great article 🙂
This may sound crazy, but one of the things I always consider when buying from IKEA is that even though a piece of furniture may not last as long as a more expensive, more solidly built piece of furniture, do I really care? Styles change. Tastes change. Preferences change. When my husband and I were young and starting out, we broke the bank buying expensive bedroom furniture that would last a lifetime. 20 years later, it is still as sturdy and functional as the day we bought it but oh how I hate it. My style and preferences have changed and honestly, I am simply sick of looking at the same bedroom furniture that I’ve been looking at for 20 years. Seriously, how many times have you been in your own or someone else’s home and thought, “How hideous! That [insert furniture piece here] is SO dated!” I’d rather have a cute, stylish, inexpensive IKEA piece that I can justify replacing when it’s outdated than an “ugly” outdated expensive piece of furniture, that while functional, is an embarrassing eyesore.
My 20 year old daughter and I go idea shopping at IKEA and we gush over how much we love this bedroom or that and then cringe over how long it will last and then remember… In 5 or 10 years she’ll be ready for a change anyway. How fantastic it is that IKEA makes it easy and affordable to change it up as our tastes and lives and whims change!
Finally, all the IKEA furniture (mostly bedroom furniture) that I’ve purchased has been sturdy, has defied 4 cross town moves, and is as functional and looks as good as the day I put it together and some of it is over 7 years old.
My ikea stuff has lasted for years and years and includes a solid wood spruce canopy bed. There is lots of solid wood at ikea if that’s what you want. My 20 yr old tuxedo sofa with white washable covers is still in style and perfect condition and residing in my basement. ( cost $500). My 5 yr old pottery barn pearce sectional ( cost $3500) has a sagging corner cushion and is pretty much out of date style wise. My 5 year old pottery barn table has a wrecked finish ( cost $2200) – the solid birch ikea table it replaced cost around $350 and was in perfect condition when resold easily. You can sell anything from ikea easily on kijiji.
Hint – Never, ever, ever go to IKEA in the 2-3 weeks leading up to the University session start date. Every poor college student (with their parents in tow, who have the credit cards) are there to completely furnish the son/daughter’s apartment.
Xmas shopping at the big box stores is a breeze compared to Ikea in late August, early September.
Thank you for refreshing my memory!
I was sold out on picking up some stuff from Ikea (having just returned from a posting in Sweden). This was going to be a second try at Ikea, having ruled it out some 15yrs ago. Then, we had an Ikea barely 3 miles from home and other than buying a shoe rack (which fell apart in less than 6mths) we restricted ourselves to picking up home decor items only from Ikea.
Now, come a child and I started drooling over some of the things in Ikea. Albeit, your article…and I will continue to pick up genuine wood furniture made by the local industry.
Carl’s expression and the picture that follows say it all :)!!
I’ve had furniture & more from IKEA for years! And it lasts!!! NO furniture is meant to be abused!
I love IKEA & always will! My fav store!
Quit griping on it! I filled a BIG 2 bedroom apt for $1000 of great & quality stuff! Less a bed & a dresser I already had!
Too bad some people don’t see the value!!! I always have people over & nothing is wrong with my stuff!!!
Brilliant, thank you; I needed that today! After recently returning to the coast with nothing more than a bed, Love-of-my-Life and I measured and measured and measured – there should be a word for that – and drove off to our IKEA. Much time was spent and much was learned, but the lesson that will never leave me: they Deliver & Install!! Lesson learned, marriage saved! Now, “I am my IKEA furniture” and TylerD be damned!
Ha! Pax wardrobe to tall for the ceiling….I thought I was the only one. Ever try disassembling one of these after it’s fully built with the back nailed on…. NOT FUN!
I’d add to this list, do not buy with the possibility of having to return something. I “just quickly had to go in and exchange some curtains for a different color,” and the return alone took 40 min. With a 4 year-old (who freaked out when it was his turn to enter SmaLand). Guess they don’t keep them in that condition, but rather employ the “don’t let the door hit you in the ‘bottom’ on the way out” policy. Granted, it was a Saturday, in which you’d think they’d utilize all their return counters, or be better staffed, but nope. A return on a dead week night still takes about 15 min.
Sorry to rain on a few parades…..I love Ikea and when I was living in the Phoenix area, I would go to the Ikea store there and have a blast! If you take care of whatever you buy there, it will last. I’m planning in the next three weeks to go to the Houston store that is close to me. My mom and sister-in-law have never been to one, and it will be a treat to take them there. I always have kept within my budget when I would go and get some great decorating ideas for my house.
As an ikea employee this blog made me smile. FYI the bed is mandal and that blue film is a protective coating for anything high gloss. We constantly get returns cause people think it’s the wrong color!! Now if you want to be an expert get a job at ikea. We can assemble anything in ikea in 20 mins or less…… Besides the hemnes 8 drawer beware the hemnes 8 drawer
Take a look at flea markets! You can actually get terrific statement pieces at a small fraction of the cost.
A few need a little TLC but some are simply just stuff
that individuals would like to get rid of!
Got the same bed… what a pain in my butt. Looks good in the end.
Great article. Thanks!
My husband and I drove to our closet Ikea- 2 hours away. We bought the Brimnes bed with storage and the Brimnes headboard with storage. Came home with two boxes. Hubby opened the bed box, and surprise, no instructions or hardware. Turns out there 3 boxes just for the bed. We are not stupid people but this was not clearly marked in the self-serve area; one of us would have noticed. I saw the warning about multiple boxes for other bed systems but not for ours. Back to Ikea we go. Oh, and this trip was to save on $200 shipping….
I love IKEA bookshelves and some of the lighting. I have an IKEA kitchen cabinet unit as a kitchen island. I order them ONLINE – the shipping is cheaper and there is no shopping stress. The website is VERY detailed with all measurements so you can plan ahead.
The cafeteria is horrible in Atlanta GA. Free food with large purchase is SOOOO not worth it.
If you are trying to furnish on a budget and it is NOT an upholstered item you are looking for – I suggest buy used. Salvation Army, Disabled Vet stores, Goodwill, Garage Sales or Flea markets. Once I bought a desk from Craigslist ( always take a friend) and the owner helped me deliver it home for a small fee but totally worth it.
I go to IKEA about once a year and usually leave swearing to never do it again.
This is quite possibly the best post I have ever read about surviving Ikea. Well done!
I never went to IKEA before I got married. Heard the ads but never needed to buy my own furniture. Went through a phase where I knew almost all the furniture by their swedish name. Very bad sign that I was IKEA addicted. The As-Is is very addictive, if you need something and you’ve waited and waited and then you see a very good condition item in AS-IS, your heart skips a beat. Tell me I’m not the only one.
All hail IKEA.
Awesome article..so funny! You hit the nail right on the head..I wanted to shoot myself after leaving Ikea the first (and likely last) time I went there!
Today, a Saturday, I went in to IKEA Coquitlam to purchase said Dombas with my 8 year old in tow (stupid kid area is FULL!!?), put my blinders on, grabbed a “family discounted” shopping bag, put the blinders on and dragged the 8 year old through the shortcuts like a pro, grabbed said Bumerang for my new Dombas and ran through the discount area before heading to the self check out. No time for a hot dog w that line up so 8 year old proceeded to cry and run after me, past a couple on the brink of a nasty divorce, all the way to the end of the parking lot where GOD BLESS THEM, two lovely gentlemen helped me load the 1000 lb dombas into my 4Runner. 10 minutes late to pick up the 6 year old from trampoline but I have my dombas safely in the garage as I type. Maybe I will attempt to assemble it tomorrow. I know better than to ask the hubby. Oh and btw, you and I should meet up for a hotdog sometime – I totally feel this blog post.
Theresa: I freaking love you and your comment. Good luck with the Dombas!
I LOVE Ikea. We still have some well-crafted pieces we bought from Ikea over 10 years ago, including two dresser drawers we bought for my daughter when she was five or six.
Now that we have one in the Big City near me, I go at least once a month. Primarily to eat in the restaurant, have a good walk about, and buy my favorite cookies, the inimitable KAKOR HAVREFLARN.
But if I see something I need, I’ll get it. Sometimes I buy things for family too. They don’t know how lucky they are.
Long live Ikea!