Monday, May 30, 2005

IKEA Purgatory

It’s Spring bank holiday in the UK and Memorial Day in the US. This holiday mood has caused me to recall one of the great traditions of these days, namely shopping. A few years ago, while I was still living in London, I found myself at a loose end on a bank holiday and decided I’d take a trip to (wait for it)… IKEA. Now before you think I’m even more deranged than that demented frog, you have to remember two things (1) as someone who doesn’t really hold with the notion of retail therapy, going shopping is a chore akin to taking out the rubbish and (2) I had always though that on UK bank Holidays the entire Nation decamped to Brighton or Bognor Regis. They certainly didn’t go shopping. Shows what I know.

So on a bright and sunny spring morning I set out to drive the 20 or so miles from my flat in South London to IKEA in Croydon with the idea of buying a TV stand. I should have known that anything to do with Croydon would be a bad idea. I duly arrived to find the car park choc a bloc full and half of SE England looking for somewhere to put their cars. After several frustrating circuits of a lot the size of Madagascar, I eventually found a spot about half a mile from the store and trudged into the entrance.

Now I should also explain that this was my first visit to one of these Swedish testaments to capitalism. Naively I thought I’d just go to the appropriate department, select my item, a flunky would deliver it to me, I’d pay for it and leave. Bloody hell, no. Probably everyone in the world knows by now that IKEA has a system in which the punters are channeled through the whole store, even if they just want to buy a teaspoon. Well on that day I think several million people were shuffling through the store’s one-way system. Children were running berserk using the place as an adventure playground while their parents screeched, “Wayne and Tracy, get down off that wardrobe you little bleeders or I’ll belt you”. The place was a modern day Tower of Babel. Or Dante’s inferno. After an eternity of shuffling I found the TV stand I was looking for, filled out the necessary piece of paper and went to the cash register. After the plastic transaction I was then in for another surprise. A company peon did not deliver my flatpack -I was invited to pick up my own merchandise from the warehouse. I duly located my telly stand and then nearly herniated myself in the process of dragging it off a shelf and hauling it to the car. This was no fun. Eventually I drove off with the flatpack sticking through the sunroof…

I’ll spare you the parts of the story about getting lost in Croydon (a form of purgatory in its own right), being stuck in a traffic jam, dragging the effing package up a flight of stairs through four different fire doors and moving around the furniture in the flat to accommodate my new purchase. What I will tell you is that when I duly opened the box I found that I’d got the wrong item. Instead of a tall slim TV stand I’d got the alternative model, a low squat number. Aarrgh! After a letting off a stream of good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon I decided that regardless of slightly compromised aesthetics, I couldn’t bear going back to IKEA and I would keep the item. So I bolted it together and dragged it into the room where it was due to live. It didn’t look too bad. But then a final awful though occurred to me. Would it fit in the room with a sofa bed open? The fact is that it wouldn’t. The bed would not fully open by a margin of about 1 cm. Nothing could be moved or shortened. Neither could the room be reconfigured. By now I wanted to cry or blow something up. There was no option but to disassemble the poxy thing, stuff it back into it’s box (needless to say they never go back in) and schlep back to Croydon. What I’d intended to be a quick shopping trip turned into a whole wasted day.

I haven’t been back to IKEA since…

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