On IKEA and My Penance for My Earthly Sins

I hate Ikea.  For someone living in the dense urban clusterfuck that is New York City, with an apartment roughly half the size of the men’s restroom at a suburban Cheesecake Factory, going to Ikea is not unlike when a man in a white coat shoves his cold, latex-clad finger in your ass once a year (for middle-aged guys, at least)—it’s unpleasant and, sadly, inevitable.  I’ve been a loyal Ikea customer for eight years, in the same sense that someone with battered-wife syndrome makes for a loyal spouse.

I actually have no issues with the design aesthetic, which is (theoretically) simple, yet eminently (again, theoretically) functional.  It’s relatively crowd-pleasing, as it vomits the hip, urban sensibilities of subdued colors and shitloads of right angles all over my apartment, and no one who visits me would likely ever accuse me of having either a lack of or sense of style.  I foremost consider that furniture serves a completely utilitarian purpose, and thus, I have little use for furniture that does anything other than keeping my shit off the floor, and so, sterility notwithstanding, I’m fine with the Ikea style.

So far as furniture goes, it’s relatively cheap, and I appreciate knowing that if my apartment burns down, I’m out about $200 in furniture, although for what it actually is, it’s still criminally overpriced.  To wit, I could get the 90% of the utility of all of my Ikea shit with some cinder blocks and wooden planks (I suppose I can’t fault them for taking that concept to the bank).  However, living with a woman mandates compromise, and so using the sofa I found in the alley in my living room is no longer an option (however perfectly serviceable it might have been after a rigorous delousing and cleaning).  And thus, I would argue that Ikea ultimately becomes the first significant cornerstone of compromise in many mature relationships.

Going to an Ikea store is what I imagine Purgatory will be like (assuming that I’m not shipped off to hell straightaway)—wandering confusedly amongst a mass of tortured souls through a schizophrenic, nightmarish (almost Dali-esque) landscape with the acrid smell of Swedish meatballs wafting through the air.  After a few hours of wandering aimlessly along what I affectionately refer to as the Ikea Trail of Tears (and having eventually slaughtered a live pig as a sacrifice to Odin), I finally happen across the well-proportioned nightstand I’ve come for, the floor model of course being busted to shit (not unlike what mine will look like after a few weeks of actual use), take down the Ikea cipher, make my way through the vast wasteland of Ikea-branded useless bullshit (ostensibly referred to as “household items”), stopping along the way to pick up a poster of some public domain or art-student’s contemporary art piece, a couple of cardboard file boxes, and then on to the warehouse, where (after sacrificing another live animal to the gods for good measure), I’ll use my Ikea cipher to locate my well-proportioned nightstand (which will be out-of-stock in every goddamned color save the most hideous), surrender to my fate (for fear of having to come back for another go) and take the one in burnt ochre to the checkout line, where I’ll wait for another two hours because every asshole in front of me is apparently furnishing a four-bedroom house entirely with Ikea shit.

Oddly enough, I have relatively few complaints about actually putting Ikea shit together.  At the very least, the design is consistent enough so that once you’ve put together a few pieces of furniture, you can put together mostly anything from Ikea without the need to refer to the patronizing instructions.  My only complaint is that the Swedes don’t seem to believe in spare parts.  There’s never anything included in the goddamned parts bag other than precisely what I need to complete the project.  Shit happens, and it’s not outside the reasonable realm of possibility that I’m going to lose a goddamned screw on occasion, nor do I believe that Ikea’s quality-control processes have been perfected to such an extent that they don’t occasionally short-change someone on dowel rods (if the FDA has guidelines that proscribe how many maggots are acceptable in my can of fruit cocktail, I have to believe that Ikea has some tolerances for missing screws).

In all fairness, I’m sure this decision was based on a report provided by some asshole consultant who demonstrated that the aggregate cost of those two extra screws per piece of furniture outweighed the cost of the total extra screws that they would ultimately give out at the customer service desk and the cost associated with whatever abstract horseshit customer service metric they used to determine how pissed off I would be at the prospect of returning to Ikea to spend two fucking hours in the customer service line to ask for two extra screws and the wage they would have to pay to a customer service person (who gives me the same look that I reserve for the man in the white coat when he shoves a finger in my ass) to get those two extra screws for me.

And then finally, having resolved my furniture dilemma, I set out to put together my files boxes (I was fine with the cheap white and perfectly functional boxes from Office Depot, but once again, in the spirit of compromise, I conceded that they weren’t sufficiently amenable to the décor).   Although the construction of what are simple cardboard boxes (despite the gibberish name, which I’m fairly certain means “go fuck yourself” in Swedish) seemed overly elaborate, I persevered once more, only to discover that my goddamned files don’t actually fit in these boxes.  Not having an appropriate appreciation (beforehand) for the differences between American and European standards of measure for paper documents, I failed to note (not that it was actually noted anywhere) that the fucking boxes conformed to a standard which is not so incompatible with my documents as to render the boxes useless, but just enough to be a magnificent pain in the ass.

Again, in fairness, it could be argued that being a European company, it’s my fault for assuming that they would have made the conversion.  But considering that the actual filing cabinets they sell seem to have made the transition without incident, and more damningly, that they were advertising a goddamned all-you-can-eat rib night in their fucking cafeteria, I think it’s fair to say that they’ve mastered the careful art of American localization.  More likely, I consider this to be some manner of spite or practical joke.  I can only assume that there exists some disgruntled Ikea engineer whose dreams of designing perfectly square coffee tables went unfulfilled and, now relegated to the less glamorous practice of creating unnecessarily complex cardboard boxes, goes home every night with a smug, self-satisfied grin on his or her face, taking some solace in the knowledge that, if nothing else, he got to fuck with some stupid Americans.

I suppose I could complain or ask for my money back, but faced with the proposition of spending two more hours in the customer service line, I’ll let it go.  Like most everything else in life, it’s a pain in the ass, but I can live with it.

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  1. KT
    November 8th, 2011 at 18:32 | #1

    Bless him Father for he has sinned, it has been (never mind)… Three Hail Mary’s and Five Our Fathers should get it done…Amen

    • November 9th, 2011 at 08:36 | #2

      So long as I never have to go back to Ikea again, consider it done.

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