Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight


Take the Gun, leave the Swedish Meatballs

 

It started with me whining about not having enough storage space for all my shit because I’m an American person and have way too many of everything. I’d surveyed several options for extending our clothing storage beyond two small closets, and came upon a narrow shelving unit from the compressed cardboard knitting factory formerly known as Ikea. I say formerly because I can no longer bring myself to call this place anything but The Nefarious Swede. My mother always told me it wasn’t nice to hate people– and I don’t. But this is a company, and it feels less offensive to hate them and share my contempt publicly–here, to my loyal fourteen followers who always nurse my wounds and have my back.

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Actually, I should clear this up– my beef is not with the store itself. I’ve never really had a bad experience shopping in one of their massive warehouses. It’s hard not to succumb to the allure of Ikea when you live in a city, because as nice and sturdy and reliable as genuine hardwood furniture is, if you live in a small NYC apartment, actual grown-up furniture doesn’t always fit, and if you happen to move, hauling heavy wood is a huge burden. Aside from the assembly part, buying from Ikea has always been easy and affordable. In fact, I’ve always considered a trip to Ikea an hypnotic experience, running through pre-assembled rooms like a kid in a fun house, one filled with artificial wood in bleached out colors and unyielding, under-stuffed sofas. They have a great selection of fresh plants and practical storage options. I’ve never bought a toilet brush anywhere else. I don’t love their frozen meatballs, but I can respect a place that sells them.

My complaint today (and perhaps forevermore, as I’m feeling particularly embittered about this) is with the customer service hotline associated with their online store. If that sounds super specific, it’s because it is. Apparently the online service is run by a completely different company than the original store-based Ikea. That’s what the robotic customer service rep at the store told us anyway. I think she was trained in evasiveness, and she was remarkably effective.

I’m taking this to the blog not just to bitch, but to pass along the word to others, because we had an incredibly frustrating experience but it’s nothing compared to the seemingly endless roster of complaints  other desperately raging consumers have posted online.

Without further ado and without sounding completely melodramatic…

 

THIS IS MY STORY.

 

I rush home on Saturday afternoon to wait for BILLY. Billy is tall, white and slender, with four long doors and a flexible cardboard back. The automated message predicted his arrival for sometime between 2 and 6, and much to my delight (TM), he arrived at exactly 2:20. Two sincerely unhappy, possibly mute young men carried him in, piece by piece in long cardboard boxes, plopping them in a pile on the living room floor. They seemed to understand my verbal and non-verbal cues, but refused to utter a word or even crack a vaguely pleasant smile. When I reflect back, I imagine it’s because they respond to so many complaints they’ve likely been advised to just drop things off and get the hell out of dodge.

Vin immediately gets to work building BILLY. In my imagination, he’s looked forward to this moment all week, as he is able to fulfill his life’s purpose putting the pieces of his wife’s poor financial decisions together. There are about six boxes to go through, all filled with long planks of compressed wood chips sandwiched between a thin layer of plastic. He builds one half of the cabinet. Unfinished, it tips forward and shakes slightly, because Ikea pieces must be drilled into the wall to ensure they don’t tip over and kill your children. Vin moves to open the next set of boxes to complete the build, and realizes that one of the most critical pieces is chopped in three sections like the sad leftovers from a $10 karate lesson.

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A feeling of dread washes over me, as a simple online order just became a complicated problem. I move to my computer to look up the number for their customer service line.

For a truly miserable time, call

1.888.888.4532

 

“Thanks for calling IKEA. Your call is important to us (LIES! ALL LIES!!). The approximate wait time is 60 minutes.”

I don’t know what’s worse, being told up front that the wait time is 60 minutes, or just hanging on and learning as you go. I put the phone on speaker, and do a few quiet household tasks. I couldn’t vacuum like I really needed to, so instead make some infused artisanal butter with rehydrated, pureed porcinis and a pinch of sea salt. It had been on my to-do list for a few weeks. This is what middle-aged people without children do on Saturdays– wait for shitty furniture deliveries and make homemade mushroom butter.

A rep finally picked up my call and couldn’t have been more apologetic. She kept saying she was sorry, and she really nailed an earnest, authentic tone. She validated my frustration and disappointment, which helped me manage both better. By the end of our 30-minute conversation, she’d let me know that my complaint had been registered, and that someone should be dropping off a new piece in the next two weeks.

“The next two weeks? Can I at least schedule a day for that to happen?” I ask.

“Noooooo, you can’t schedule it. What’ll happen is, the day before they drop it off, we’ll notify you by phone that it’s coming.”

“So I might get a call on Wednesday alerting me that the delivery is happening Thursday when I have to be at work?”

“Exactly. Thanks for calling, and thank you for shopping Ikea!” CLICK.

I live the rest of my life that week like I normally do. I prep food, go to my job, avoid the gym and tip-toe around a hulking half-constructed wardrobe cabinet while trying to get dressed and undressed every day, hoping its untethered base doesn’t tip over and give me a concussion.

On Tuesday afternoon, I get a voicemail from Ikea customer service letting me know that my replacement piece will be arriving between the hours of 2:00 and 6:00 the next day. Well that’s just super, I think to myself, before picking up the phone to see if my retired in-laws feel like hanging out on my couch for a few hours the next afternoon. They’re like the best parent people in the world– we never leave their house without a paper plate of leftover lasagna and every time our basement flooded while we were stuck at work, they came over to mop it up. But they weren’t available the next day, so I knew I’d have to get back on the horn with Ikea customer service. Expecting to be put on hold, I waited until I got home from work, changed into loose clothing, took a good nice pee, then parked myself on a cushiony chair purchased from a steadfast, reputable competitor.

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CB2…You da real MVP

I dial the number and, as expected, am told the hold time will be 65 minutes. I have had a long, draining day at work and am having a hard time managing my own frustration about spending my evening this way. I feel cheated out of my recovery time and the longer this hold time runs over the appointed 65 minutes, the angrier I feel. By the time the rep pics up the call (at 75 minutes), I am close to tears.

“Hello, thank you for calling Ikea customer service. How can I help you?”

Right out the gate, this rep’s tone is different than the initial lady. She sounds like someone who’s been shoveling other peoples’ shit all day, and no longer has the strength to lift a shovel. Her tone was flat, to the point and if I may say so, a bit curt.

I will have a hard time proceeding with the business end of this call until I am able to express my feelings, so I just go right for it.

“First thing first, I have to say, I am very, very upset with Ikea right now. I know it’s not you personally, it’s more of a systemic problem, but this is the second time in a week I’ve been on hold over an hour with you guys and it just seems like there has to be a better way. I mean seriously, you must get complaints about this all day long.”

“Yes, I do. What is yours?” Some people are born to do what they do for a living. This lady was clearly one of those people.

I tell her that I need to reschedule a delivery, with an actual firm delivery date because I have a job and have not yet reached the stage of life where I can afford Ethan Allen furniture or spontaneously call out the next day for a shitty IKEA delivery. She says FINE, we’ll schedule a pick-up this Saturday.

“Pick up? No, I need a drop off. I need you to replace a broken piece so we can finishing building this half-built cabinet.”

“Yes, Ma’am–I understand that. But first we need to schedule a pick-up for the broken piece.” she says.

“So you’ll schedule a time to drop off the new piece while picking up the broken one. That’s fine. Let’s do it.”

“No, first we’ll schedule a time to pick up the broken piece. After we do that, you’ll call us back and we’ll give you another date to drop off the new one.” I start to feel a heat at the base of my earlobes.

“Are you telling me this requires two separate delivery dates, and that you’re prioritizing picking up your broken piece over giving me the new one?” I just wanted to make sure I was hearing her correctly so that my head didn’t set itself on fire and launch itself into orbit for no good reason.

“Yes, that’s right.” She actually sounded giddy telling me this.

“Listen, again, I understand you’re not the one making big decisions about the way your company is run, but this is just terrible. I’ve now been on the phone with Ikea for three hours this week, and this problem won’t be resolved until I schedule two more deliveries with you. This is ridiculous. Can I just take this thing to the store and get a new one?”

“Yes you can do that.”

“Alright, fine. That’s easier. But let me just add that the whole reason I ordered online was so I wouldn’t have the hassle of going to the store. I’m very disappointed with Ikea. Can I get a refund or something? How about you return my shipping charges?”

“Well, ma’am we want you to leave your Ikea experience with a good taste in your mouth, so I’d be delighted to give you some food coupons to use in our store.”

I have sampled Ikea’s frozen salmon fillet with lemon-dill sauce and seasonal mush vegetables, and while it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth, I wouldn’t voluntarily sign up to brunch at the Red Hook Ikea unless the situation were truly dire, meaning all 25,000 of New York City’s restaurants spontaneously went out of business and their 50-cent hot dogs and limp pancakes were the last remaining food sources.

“Yeah, no offense, but your food costs like three dollars. I don’t really want food coupons. I would like some actual money returned.” I say. This whole thing is starting to offend me, and I don’t even offend that easily.

“Okay, well you can discuss that with the customer service reps at the store when you make the return. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

“Got a time machine?” I considered asking. Instead, I answered no, put my head down on the table and let out a soft, defeated whimper.

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***

Saturday we drive to Ikea and Vinny is ready to throw down. He’s the nicest person in the world but when it comes to customer service or business problems, watch out, cause that long-haired devil ain’t afraid to bite with fangs. He preps me in the car.

“Listen, Jenn. Don’t do that thing where you just give in. You’re too nice. We’re getting our money back.” The man is on a mission and I’m still sorta fired up too, but am gradually losing steam with this project. We park the car and make our way to the downstairs area, where half the people are sitting around with grim faces and deconstructed cribs.

I tell myself… Do not be distracted by the healthy looking plants everyone has in their carts! No lingonberry jam! You don’t need more cheap glassware!! Don’t go upstairs! If you go upstairs, they win! I see a few people walk by with soft-serve cones. They’re only a dollar but I can’t buy one since I turned down those stupid food coupons out of fucking principle.

They finally call our number and we stride up to the counter. I am silent, and let my husband do the talking. I am done defending my case with Ikea and just want this shit behind me. Vin ain’t mucking around though, and neither is this customer service rep. My husband explains the situation firmly, directly, and somewhat dramatically. A real injustice has been made here and we want to see some corrective action. The customer service rep says nothing, walks back to the loading dock and brings us a new piece.

“Well, what about the refund on the shipping charges?” Vin asks. “The lady on the phone said you could handle that for me.”

“No, I can’t do that. Ikea store is run by a totally different company than Ikea online. You’ll have to call their customer service line to get that taken care of.” So Ikea-online and Ikea-store just ping-pong their complaints back and forth to one another? If so, that’s Machiavellian but brilliant.

“I’d rather take one of your lukewarm, under-seasoned meatballs and shove it in my eye socket than call that line again.” I didn’t say this, but I wish I had. What a visual! Instead I shrug my shoulders and thank her for her time. She places the new box of shelves on our flat cart, and we slowly roll away– defeated.

“Man, what happened to you?” asked Vin. He had a look of complete disgust on his face. “You totally wilted.”

“You know what, Vin. We’ve got the piece we need, and now I want to put this behind me. It’s Saturday. And on Saturday, I choose happiness.”

He rolled his eyes so far in his head I didn’t see them again until the next weekend. We went home, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, BILLY was finally standing tall, in one piece. We’ll see how long he lasts.

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****

A few weeks later, I received an envelope in the mail from Ikea. My name and address were hand-written for a personal, yet completely unprofessional touch.

I opened it up, expecting a check for $30 to cover the shipping charges. Inside were five fucking food coupons.

The first five people to write a comment on this post will receive one of these golden tickets, but with a caveat. If you use them in your local Ikea store, you must go loaded with a strong hand gesture and a flaming bag of poop. Tell ‘em Jenn said Glada Helgdagar*.

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*Happy Holidays, in Swedish

 

 

 

 

 

Jenn P.

30-something psychotherapist. Loves cooking, hosting parties, exploring new places. Texan by birth. New Yorker by choice. Likes to tell little stories. Pull up a chair; I'll tell you one.

  • Erin May
    I am crying laughing and no, I do not want a coupon. We live about 50 minutes from the Ikea in Phoenix and have visited exactly twice. It’s so soul sucking. But the cinnamon rolls are actually great?
  • Cory
    Oh my god…I am dying laughing. Fuck Ikea…there is not enough lingonberry jam in the world to ever convince me to set foot in that place.
  • Steph Gregerson
    I lived this same thing when we moved into our Brooklyn apartment. I yelled at the lady at the Red Hook store and then got run over by a runaway cart in the parking lot filled with furniture and started crying. I feel your pain.