The other night I watched a TV commercial for IKEA.  A couple in a home (presumably) furnished by IKEA have an energetic pillow fight before leaping on top of each other in bed.  The title at the end of this romp reads EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO GO HAPPY TO BED, followed by the logo and strapline HAPPY INSIDE.

So what do I get from this?  That this is the Swedish idea of foreplay and that those who live the IKEA life enjoy fabulous sex – joy of IKEA?

The only thing you’ll hump in IKEA is a box

Shortly afterwards I visited my local store in Bristol (I regularly take my teenage son into Bristol, to the climbing centre in St Werberghs.  With two hours to kill I often end up in the nearby IKEA store).  I’m sorry to report that the experience was less than erotic (but hey, maybe I was expecting too much?).  In fact I didn’t even feel HAPPY INSIDE.

Fear and loathing in the belly of the beast

The doubts started the moment I ascended the escalator.  The architecture and construction resembles the cattle market at the Bridgewater junction of the M5 and I get this claustrophobic sense of being herded.  I fight the urge to moo, then decide to grab a catalogue and make a run for it.

One problem – no catalogues.  I search for a member of staff, and before I know it I’m lost deep in the matrix.  Paranoia mounting (is this the real IKEA or a parallel universe?).  When a disinterested youth in yellow shirt (android?) is located I’m told that the catalogue is being reprinted (they’ve been telling me this for weeks – maybe THEY have decided to discontinue it, but they are not revealing the truth to US?).

To pee or not to pee

OK, now I’m here, I’ll go to the loo. I obediently follow the blue lane and the arrows (lucky I’ve got a strong bladder).  There are just four cubicles.  Two are occupied, but the one I pick has a broken lock – the screws have pulled out of the chip board.  I go into the final cubicle and find the same problem.  This reminds me what happens with IKEA furniture – it falls apart.  However, I see someone has screwed the lock back on, higher up.  I try to engage it, but fail – it’s upside down.

Hey, ho, why don’t I get some breakfast?  It’s mayhem in there, with a queue a mile long – so forget that.  The only way out is to go around the entire top floor again, then do the same on the lower level, before I can release myself from the labyrinth.

 The knob-free zone

I get to the storage department.  As we’re having a new office built I pause to look at shelving units, with doors.  They don’t have any knobs on – just a sticker telling me “push to open”.  I push, it opens, and I see there’s a clever little “pushy springy thinggie” inside.  The next door is open.  I try to shut it, but the pushy springy thinggie won’t engage – it springs open again.  I move to the next unit and try the door.  This time it won’t open!  Either these things break really easily…or you have to locate them incredibly accurately.  It just makes me want a door with a knob on it.

To flush toilet call a member of staff

I move on and get lost in bedrooms.  Ah ha, what have we here?  An en suite bathroom, with a toilet!  I notice that the bowl is covered with a clear plastic panel, on which is printed the words THESE TOILETS ARE FOR DISPLAY PURPOSES ONLY.  TOILETS ARE LOCATED IN THE RESTAURANT AND AT THE EXIT OF THE STORE.  I try not to imagine the incident that led to this – maybe if they had more toilets, plumbed in, with doors that worked, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen?

Customer service, IKEA style 

I walk past a poster that explains that if you want to learn more about a product you should read the price tag.  Duh!  Why didn’t I think of that?  Obviously some customers have been stupid enough to approach a member of staff with a question.

Next to the poster is a trolley park.  Above is a huge sign which reads TAKE A TROLLEY!  NEED A HELPING HAND?  WITH OVER 9000 PRODUCTS IN OUR STORE YOU WILL NEED IT!  What are they telling me?  That I’m going to be doing all the heavy lifting and carrying myself.

Is it just me or do all these cardboard boxes look identical?

Finally I get down to the lower level, and the warehouse bit.  This is the area where you play “hunt the cardboard box and break your back trying to get it off the rack”.  Little pointy pencil in hand you prowl the racks, running the numbers 202.071.65, 202.071.66. 202.071.67, 202.071.68, getting warm now….here we are!  Huh? What do you mean, TEMPORARILY OVERSOLD?  You cannot be serious!

Next time I see that TV commercial do I feel happy inside?  No, I feel temporarily oversold.