Chuck Goes to Ikea

Ikea furniture, along with Crocs, consumer-grade printers, and boy bands, are on a long list of things I despise; all for the same reason. They are cheap, in price but more importantly in quality, and disposable. I feel the urge to quote Fight Club here, but to do so would put me on the same level as those teenagers who say that they only hang out at the mall to shop at Hot Topic.

“So, you met your friends, spent hours browsing, hit the pretzel stand, and finally bought a sweater?” “Yea.” “So how does that make you different from the cheerleader over there that met her friends, spent hours browsing, hit the pretzel stand, and finally bought a sweater?” “Well, she bought her sweater at Gap, and its pink and has a bunny on it. And mine is black, and has a decapitated bunny on it.” “Yea, you’re a rebel. You’re like James Dean and that guy that stopped the tank in Tiananmen Square combined.” As I am fond of saying: the counter-culture is still culture.

At any rate, I got a refund this year on my taxes. I decided to be a good citizen and, rather than saving or paying down debt, go stimulate the economy. When I did, I fell into the same trap that everyone else does. I knew that Ikea is accessible, and will have what I am looking for, and is in my price range (it wasn’t a big refund). So, I hopped on the 5 train to Borough Hall, and waited for the Ikea Shuttle.

Despite sitting in the front of the bus, I can feel everyone behind me eagerly trying to find the building. Every time we turn, I can hear heads moving from right to left trying to spot it. About half way there, I realize that I am on a full-sized charter bus, and everyone else with me has the same destination. I can’t help but feel like I am on some pilgrimage, but I don’t seek religious freedom. Instead, I seek inexpensive, poorly constructed, barely-more-than-cardboard furniture.

We finally see the building. Outside of a handful of sports arenas, and the Episcopal cathedral in Detroit, this is the largest single-purpose building I have ever been in. This place is enormous, and it is jam packed with people who all seem to think this is the pinnacle of human consumer achievement. I hear comments on how great it is that shoppers have a place to dump their offspring. I hear how wonderful it is to see full displays, so that people can get a feel for what this inexpensive, poorly constructed, barely-more-than-cardboard furniture will look like in their homes. I can’t help but roll my eyes at these comments. These people have somehow convinced themselves that this crap is as good as it gets, and I feel sorry for them. I suddenly wish that I had the resources to build my own furniture. Unfortunately, that would require a source of lumber, countless tools, and much more free-time than I have. I am a resident of New York City. The only tools I currently posses are a multi-purpose screw-driver, and some nail clippers. Even if I had had the forethought to bring tools with me when I moved out here, I wouldn’t have the storage to keep them. Perhaps this is the appeal of this place. All you need to assemble this junk is a hex wrench; which they put in each box.

The showroom is a maze. As I attempt to navigate it, I come to believe that the only reason it is laid out like this is to completely disorient shoppers. I imagine people wandering around trying to find a dresser or a dinner plate, forgetting which section they were headed for, and getting lost in the bathroom section, wandering out with a toilet brush with a goofy, faux-Swedish name.

The easiest shot to take at Starbuck’s is the ridiculous names of their drink sizes, or the fact that they call their servers “baristas.” On a side note, that sounds like a feminine title. What is the masculine version of “barista?” “Barrister?” I would be surprised if any of them had law degrees. The singular of “alumni” is “alumna” for females, and “alumnus” for males. Does that make a male “barista” a “baristus?” Together, they are “baristi?” Anyway, my point is that goofy names seem to be a big deal for these new national brands, so I guess it would be too easy to take a shot at Ikea’s goofy product names. I will say this though: I would LOVE to hear Jerry Lewis read one of their catalogs.

After about 10 minutes of trying to figure out what the hell I am doing, I find an employee. I tell her I already know exactly what I am looking for, and all I need to do is place an order and schedule a delivery. She informs me that if I don’t want to wait 10 to 15 days for delivery, I will have to go to the self-service section (read “warehouse”), find the items, take them to the register and checkout, and then take it to the delivery section. OK. That seems off to me, but I’ll roll with it. It took me another 25 minutes to find a flight of stairs to get to the self-service section, which only further supports my assumption that they are trying to (subtly) jam their merchandise down your gullet.

I finally check out, schedule the delivery, and get back on the bus. As I sit down, I feel a great sense of relief wash over me. Nine hundred dollars later (because they rang me up wrong, and had to process the payment twice), I have left the store with nothing to show for it but a receipt. I have gained nothing. In fact, I feel like a left a piece of my soul in a Flügen.



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