“Are we are falling out of love with IKEA?”

Miss Thrifty10 November 30, 2009

ikea-customer-service IKEA sucks? According to the latest news reports, our long-standing love affair with the adored bastion of low-priced, Swedish furniture could be coming to an end.

Here’s The Mail on Sunday:

A weakening financial performance, missed store targets, planning headaches and enticing overtures from homegrown retail chains have all bruised Ikea.

And according to deeper analysis of its figures, the retailer cannot rest the blame solely on a weak economy…The retailer’s profitability has fallen away every year since 2004 in the UK, and with the exception of a bumper sales year in 2007 at the peak of the spending boom the amount we have handed over in each store has followed a similar trajectory.

The newspaper points to new ranges and cut-priced homeware initiatives from other retailers such as T.K. Maxx and Argos. It also suggests that with interest rates and mortgage repayments as low as they are, people are “banding up” when it comes to replacing cheap household products and furniture bought during the boom.

Fair enough. What I find most interesting of all, however, are the comments left by the readers. They have their own, very strong opinions about why they won’t be returning to IKEA.

Here’s a taster:

They treat customers like dirt. And since they started charging you to use your credit card (don’t forget, Ikea is owned by Europe’s richest man) I have stopped going there. I hate GREED and when I see this kind of petty GREED it turns me away.

I actually had to begin legal proceedings at the small claims court before I got my delivery sorted out. Ikea customer services is just about the worst I’ve ever come across. But the real reason I don’t shop their anymore is that their stuff isn’t very good. 10 years ago, they had all these clever designs, but they’ve lots their innovative edge. Ikea sells cheap junk – cuttlery goes rusty, especially the kitchen knives, the shelves in the book cases bow after a few months, and the PAX wardrobe fittings fall apart and don’t fit very well in the first place.

Perhaps the shoddy furniture, appalling service and after sales care (ever tried taking something BACK to IKEA?) and being forced to pay a surcharge for using a credit card might also have something to do with it.

You have only got to purchase a large item from them to know that their service is so poor, they do not deliver when they say, you phone customer services who don’t care, you go into the store to speak to their manager who actually tells you he doesn’t care, he’s not at the store to speak to customers!!

This article completely misses the point. Which is that a vist to IKEA is quite possibly the worst shopping experience on the planet. Poor service, poor parking, poor products, poor returns service, poor hot dogs, poor everything. That’s the underlying cause of IKEA’s decline………

As you can see, there are two prominent complaints: poor product quality and abysmal customer experience.

I am so pleased to discover that I am not the only person for whom IKEA is complete and utter shopping hell on earth. The hordes, the sheep-like herding around the store’s maze-like layout, the clipping of one’s ankles by industrial-sized trolleys, the unhelpful staff with sad, defeated eyes, the grubby displays and the prevalence of plastic-coated “particleboard” make me feel like this:

ikea-sucks Apologies for the graphic nature of the image, but that is how IKEA makes me feel. Here’s the crazy thing though: why have I kept on going back? I should have learned the first time: 11 years ago when, as a student in London, I decided to avail myself of one of them there hotshot Billy bookcases. I trundled up to the Neasden IKEA on the tube, walked a fair way to get to the store – and once through those hallowed blue and yellow doors, promptly had my path blocked and ears boxed by a member of IKEA staff because I was walking in the opposite direction to the arrows. (I know. I am such a rebel.) Once I had found the bookcase I discovered that they didn’t deliver – or rather, they could get it delivered but for a small fortune, which somewhat defeated the object. I couldn’t carry it back to the tube station so I had to get a taxi – also defeating the object – and then had to manoeuvre the damned thing back on the Jubilee and Northern Lines.

And did I learn? In a word, no. That first Billy bookcase has long since been consigned to the household recycling centre – after I painted it with a pot of IKEA’s antique-style woodstain, which turned it ditchwater green and sort of… sticky. In the next room is a Hemnes chest of drawers that fell apart and is now held together with tacks;  a desk chair collapsed a long time ago.

I knew I’d had enough earlier this year, when I ordered some shelves for my office and had to have them delivered, because they wouldn’t fit in my car. They took three weeks to arrive, despite the store being an hour’s drive from my work.

I’m not surprised that IKEA’s profits are falling. Yes, the prices are low – but do the purchases really provide value for money? In a way, IKEA is the Ryanair of home furnishings emporiums: the prices look great on paper, but once you’ve factored in all the add-ons – the petrol, the time spent trying to find your way out of the place, all those natty kitchen bits and pieces that add up to a small fortune by the time you get to the checkout counter, the credit card fee, the pulled muscles from hauling heavy flatpacks off the shelves in the warehouse area, the (literally, in my case) obstructive staff and the products with short life spans – are you really getting that great a deal?

Image credits: Collin Anderson (tape measure) & Photomish Dan (heart).

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10 Responses to ““Are we are falling out of love with IKEA?”

Sally M says:

I LOVE shopping.

I have never actually understood why it is so popular. It is a stressful place to shop!

Our living room table is from IKEA (I rent I didn’t buy it), my housemate had to replace it when he got drunk and stupid and destroyed it, it wasn’t hard to destroy, it looks like it is made of wood but it is actually hollow and filled with some corrugated cardboard stuff.

November 30, 2009 at 1:52 am

Abigail says:

Frankly, I was never that in love with Ikea. All the students around me were. And I think modular stuff looks neat, but for my own living space I tend to favor more classic lines and darker wood.

That said, I’ve known a lot of people with Ikea furniture that lasted quite awhile. I inherited an Ikea desk that was a few years old and it lasted me a couple of years — and then only because I was moving and decided I didn’t need a desk.

I will say that I don’t love the prices. The smaller stuff is amazingly cheap — like decorative bowls or the drinking glasses we bought for our wedding. (It was the same price as renting some.) But the furniture always seems a little pricey to me, especially since you have to put it together yourself.

Mostly, though, what drives me away from Ikea is the dazed feeling I have when I leave. There is so much ground to cover and so many displays — so much stuff to see — that I get discombobulated. I leave feeling overwhelmed and kind of dazed.

November 30, 2009 at 7:52 am

Claire says:

In 10 years of being with my husband we have only ever had one fight… in Ikea. It’s a truly hideous place to shop! The customer service does improve if you are pregnant, (not necessarily a reason to get pregnant).

November 30, 2009 at 10:38 am

Make do mum says:

I visit Ikea regularly as I live close by and it is child-friendly (sometimes I think too child-friendly as some people use it like a creche!) I really like their kids products and lighting but I wouldn’t buy the furniture. I prefer something that I know will last.

November 30, 2009 at 11:12 am

admin says:

Wow – it looks like I’m in good company then!

– Miss T.

December 1, 2009 at 8:37 pm

kathryn says:

It’s true, their customer service is non existent and they use delaying tactics to fob off anyone who persists in complaining about shoddy service or poor quality products. I’ve been a loyal IKEA shopper for many years but this is the first and last time I’ll ever buy a home delivery sofa – delivery was delayed, they failed to do what they promised when it arrived (we were assured it would be unpacked and built for us) and the cushions dont match! Trying to get any kind of a response from customer service they totally ignore you and then pretend theyve been writing to the wrong address by accident (oops). I’m sick of it and want my money back

February 17, 2010 at 5:36 pm

John Nichols says:

I can’t believe what I am reading. I have been loyal to IKEA. I agree that some of the items they sell will not last but that is reflected in the price. If you want good quality, pay for it. They have some very good furniture in their stores. There is also method to their madness with the “one way system”- it follows the catalogue! As for comments that Inva Kamprad is greedy I don’t think you could be more wrong. Inva is the king of thrifty. He does not believe in waste. He does not agree with spending money where there is no need for improvement. Inva is a true businessman and to say he is not shows a complete lack of understanding of the man.

If you don’t like the credit card charge then pay with a debit card or cash, all stores have a cash machine outside them. I agree the delivery may be poor but if you look at the history of IKEA this has been put in place by an outside company as IKEA was first designed as self-serve.

I find it funny that no-one (yet) has complained about the food. IKEA lives on its stomach. Where else can you get food this cheap? What I find annoying is that IKEA uses the self clear technique to keep down prices where as other more expensive restaurants ask you to do it whilst charging you extortionate prices.

Before you slate the store and the way it is run, remember it is a Swedish store its roots are not UK based and the culture is completely different.

October 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm

John Nichols says:

p.s. if any of you IKEA haters live in Bristol I am more than happy to show you the IKEA way in shopping (if I can convince my Dad I can convince anyone!).

October 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Madison says:

I am a full-time student. If I want furniture, I have to either make it from trash I find around my house or buy it super-mega cheap. It doesn’t have to last me forever, it isn’t like I am trying to start a family or live with other people. I just need something that will function at a basic level. IKEA works for me at this point in my life, because if it didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have a desk or a dresser. I wouldn’t be able to afford it. Plus they make this wonderful stuff called gorilla glue.

March 29, 2012 at 12:24 am

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