I happily admit that I don’t get out much or explore new places, something that I am currently attempting to rectify these days. I go out on adventures visit other cities and meet new people. It’s really cool, no idea why I didn’t do it sooner. However there was one place I have never ever been before. I have, though, an excuse to go to now I have a house, and other people seemed genuinely excited for me: I get to go to IKEA.
Now I have always been aware of the place. I knew it sold furniture and various other handy dandy things, but so do a lot of other places so I never really got what the fuss was about. I attempted to discuss this further with said various excited people, however the conversation always went something like this:
Me: So what is it about Ikea that’s so good? Is the furniture really good value or something?
Person: They have meatballs!
Me: …ok, but the furniture is good quality?
Person: Hotdogs! They have hotdogs too!
Me: …right then. But the stuff they sell, is it good?
I quickly got the impression that people mainly go for the food. Fair enough, but it didn’t exactly help me out with my lack of furniture situation. I looked in a handy Ikea catalogue but didn’t really find it that helpful. Of course it didn’t help that the catalogue seems to be categorized by ‘rooms’ and not just by whatever the items are. I had a look around charity & second hand shops for savings, not sure if it’s just the stores round here but they’re still quite expensive for what they have. As much as I want to help a charity I will not pay nearly £250 for a dining set that’s missing 2 chairs! So I just decided to bite the bullet and just physically go down to an Ikea and look around.
The main thing decided I needed were some bookcases for my books, comics & my huge amount of DVDs. The shelves in my room at my parents house were so tiny I couldn’t organize them; I couldn’t alphabetize them, it sent my OCD into overdrive, it sucked. This would never happen again, especially in my own home. I enlisted the assistance of my cousin, as he has a people carrier so we could easily push the seats down and *tah dah* instant moving van. I rang him and he was more than happy to lend a hand. He went to consult with his wife when they were free to take me down to the Ikea in Nottingham (The Leeds one is closer, but an arse to get to apparently. The Nottingham one is right off the motorway.). I suddenly heard a loud excited squeal in the background. My cousin came back on the phone, apparently his wife was so excited at the prospect of getting to go to Ikea that she wanted to go RIGHT THIS SECOND! Well I wasn’t exactly in the mood to spend a couple of hundred pounds at that precise moment, but it’s not like I had anything else major planned. So about 30 minutes later they picked me up and off we went.
We arrived to a swarming car pack packed full of honking drivers, we eventually jostled for position and found a space. We darted inside where we were greeted by a friendly blonde lady in an Ikea polo shirt who directed us to some computer screens to the left of the main entrance. It seemed before we could go in I had to sign up for a loyalty card, or as they worded it “join their family“, while I filled in my details my cousin was presented with a paper measuring tape and a handful of tiny wooden pencils. With my temporary loyalty card printed off & my soul signed over (I can only assume as i didn’t read any of the Terms of Service) we headed into the store. What I discovered was…well, in my mind anyway, was…odd.
I have to briefly side track here and and point out how my mind partly works, or at least how I interpret the world. Not sure if it’s the fact that i used to be a librarian, or my years previous to that working in a comic book store, or just my general OCD but I just believe things have their proper places: Shoes go where shoes go, cups in their correct cupboard which I have declared. In a store items should be itemized & sectioned: bathroom, dining room, living room, etc. Within those sections are subsections: Cupboards, tables, chairs, cutlery, and so on. It’s how you find things, you just go to where the things are kept and you find it! So when I walked in to find a selection of pre-built rooms around the place I really didn’t know what to think. Rather than showing me stock, it was showing me examples of what a room would look like if you had these precise configurations. Also you had to, for lack of a better word, take a tour around each set up on a long, winding, twisty path from which you couldn’t stray. JUST LOOK AT IT!!!
It just felt like it kept going, constantly going back on ourselves. It became less of a shopping trip and more the Fellowship of the Ring! We tried escaping the path but we just ended up getting lost around a display of desk lamps. We rejoined the path and just pressed on. I just looked confused the whole time, my cousin looked tired & annoyed, my cousins wife was squealing with delight like a schoolgirl on a roller coaster every time we passed a bargain section.
After about half an hour of scribbling item numbers down and wandering through what seemed like an infinite amount of desk configurations we reach the end. What we found was boxes. A lot of boxes, stacked on shelves as tall as a house as far as the eye could see. My cousin presented me with a large trolley type device to push, took the item sheet off me and darted into the rows of shelving in search of my items. Then it hit me what this section of the Ikea experience actually was: This was Argos, but instead of people retrieving your items for you from the backroom of mysteries, YOU HAD TO GET THEM YOURSELF!
My trolley thing loaded up we made our way to the checkout, the end was in sight (Although not before my cousins wife picked up 2 discount bookshelves, some plastic kitchen containers & a set of beakers). They scanned the items through, the small Yorkshireman in my head was screaming at me as I entered the pin number on the card reader. It took over an hour but it was all over. Or so I thought, as on your way out you pass a small take out area. Wherein you can get the legendary food items that everyone I’ve ever spoken to about Ikea talks about. So I thought I needed to see what the fuss was about and jumped in line. I got a portion of meatballs & gravy in a little cup, I wandered back to my items & relatives & tucked in. And you know what?
THEY WERE RIGHT, THE MEATBALLS ARE FUCKING AWESOME!!!
I’m ashamed to say that I jumped right back into the queue and got a hotdog & a donut, I had to try them all! And they were so good. Soooooooo good. So good that as I am writing this sentence I AM SALIVATING AT THE MEMORY. This alone made the whole experience worth while. I can see now why people come to Ikea, it’s not the furniture, it’s the food!
Although having since returned from my trip to Ikea and assembling the things I bought I do have to admit the furniture is actually really good. Goes together well, easy instructions and really good quality. Especially as I’ve also got the odd item from Argos and when I open it up it turns out to be a cheap piece of crap. Doesn’t assemble well and just looks cheaply made, quite disappointing really. If you’re going to get a flat pack, you might as well go to Ikea.
Since then I have returned to Ikea for a few more bits of furniture with my cousin. We’ve got quite good actually, found a shortcut through the store and managed to get round & out in less than 25 minutes. And that included time to get some meatballs.
Massive thanks to RJ Bayley for the edit on this one. He’s a spiffing chap & you should totally follow his own inane ramblings here (http://goatsinthemachine.wordpress.com) and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/rjbayley)