I could just tell you about the trip John and I took to IKEA on Saturday, but words wouldn’t really do the experience justice. The Swedish furniture showroom/ warehouse/ restaurant isn’t so much a store as it is a phenomenon. Friends who have gone have tried to explain it to me before, but the lovable oddness of shopping at IKEA really needs a little something more. Today, I give you a picture blog.
The first thing that struck me about IKEA was the words “Returns & Exchanges,” painted above a door maybe twenty feet off the ground and surrounded by a guard rail. We were in a moving car, so I didn’t get a picture, but the sight left me with the impression that IKEA doesn’t make it easy to return things. The second thing that struck me, however, was a sign in the parking garage with this huggable heart saying, “It’s okay. You can bring it back!” I can’t imagine a friendlier way of having my worries about buying unsatisfactory merchandise smoothed away.
The merchandise is rather remarkable as well. Especially the chairs.
I don’t know what John’s looking at, but I think this chair was trying to seduce him. I had to pull him out of it. It also could have been trying to make him feel old. The chairs may have some sentience. I had offended a vaguely egg-shaped chair for being ugly and extremely overpriced, and it decided to add injury to the insult by holding me captive. That’s actually not a bad piece of advice for IKEA: Don’t sit in any egg-shaped chairs, and don’t insult things within their hearing and then sit on them anyway. They won’t say anything, but they will get even.
This chair was a different story. It may not be the prettiest thing I’ve ever sat in, but I believe I did experience a hint of transcendence while sitting there. Something about the shapes just cradles the human body in the exact way a human body is meant to be cradled. The very soft leather didn’t hurt the experience either.
All I have to say about this is, “Captain, they stole your chair off the Enterprise and skinned it.”
This was my big, unnecessary splurge of the day. A beautiful hardcover book of wok recipes for$0.99. Now I just need to buy a wok…
The children’s section is a lovely playland of brightly colored furniture that I would have loved when I was about three feet tall. The effect is slightly ruined, however, by the large bin of stuffed rats at the entrance of the area: large ones on the top at grown-up eye level, small ones on the bottom for the kids. Really, guys? Stuffed rats? There is a very small percentage of the population, I think, who would not find that at least a tiny bit creepy.
Here we have the self-serve furniture warehouse, which is a neat concept. The showroom is very classy and shows things all set up, then you write down a bunch of numbers and go on a scavenger hunt through this maze of identical brown boxes, crossing your fingers that you actually wrote the numbers down correctly. It’s a blast, like rolling LARPing and shopping into one happy Swedish package. The real star of this shot, however, is the fan. In case you need more clarification on why this is so impressive (click to make the next picture bigger if you can’t read it)…
You have to appreciate a company that doesn’t mince words or images.
Picking up the desk (which is what we went for in the first place) was better than bumper cars. IKEA does not mess around with it’s shopping carts. They have four-wheel drive, and even the flatbeds take corners like they’re on rails. IKEA-cart racing would actually be a pretty versatile sport. They’d have to have different weight events and awkward parcel events, and events for navigating around families with children and through narrow spaces. It would be hilarious. What am I saying? It was hilarious, but no one else realized we were winning, so they weren’t trying very hard.
The very best thing about driving the cart was the Travellator. I did not make that name up.
Everyone knows that if you put a sketchily balanced and heavy box on a cart and send it down a very steep ramp, you must wage a tremendous war against the forces of nature to prevent said box from slipping off the cart or even taking over the cart and running after the innocent children and old ladies below. Gravity works. But apparently, if you’re IKEA, you can crossbreed a ramp with an escalator, and the offspring has the magical ability to carry you in a downward direction while thumbing its nose at gravity.
Look, Mom, no hands!
Because I have seen pictures from IKEA before and heard the amazing tales, I know that it’s not something you can ever understand without seeing it for yourself, but it was worth a try. Maybe Jonathan Coulton can help fill in the gaps…