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Ikea part II – Swimming against the tide

My brother-in-law Adrian was telling me some amusing tales of recent trips to Ikea in Richmond. On one, he dared to go on a Sunday, but went early. He described it in surfing terms — moving through the one-way system ahead of the wave, which he could see developing behind him, trying to beat it. At one point he apparently got some prized item on his trolley, and while he wasn’t looking, it disappeared. He had to go back for another, only to get engulfed in the wave.

A couple of months ago during the school holidays we borrowed my sister’s stationwagon, and went into Ikea for a Billy bookcase or two. Weekdays at Ikea are a comparative breeze, even in school holidays — plenty of parking, no waves of crowds pouring through.

I’d checked the stock on the Net in advance. But of course, it only gives you the binary computer view — either if there is stock, or there isn’t. It doesn’t tell you how many are in stock, and by the time we’d got there, had a look through, written down the items we wanted and the aisle and position number, and got down to the warehouse, there were none.


On Sunday, I had another chance. An old bookcase was going over to my Dad’s, and I was hopeful of getting the replacement Billys (Billies?) on the same day. But of course, it was Sunday. So I thought maybe I could do a late-afternoon trip, getting there at about 5pm, in time to get what we needed and leave by the closing time of 6pm.

I also looked at alternative products, such as from Freedom, but they had nothing that would really suit, or that I could be sure of getting on the same day. It seemed only Ikea would give me instant bookcase gratification.

The Ikea web site confirmed the big Billy was in stock. I decided to ring up to find out how many they really had. The bloke on the phone said they had 18 in stock. (Why don’t they put that on the web site?)

“So do you think you’ll still have any left over by late-afternoon?”

He dodged the question. “We get really busy on Sundays”, and he said they’d already sold one in the first 90 minutes of trade.

“No promises then?”

“We get really busy on Sundays.”

Nope, no promises. So I amended my plan. Given the departure of the old bookcase, I didn’t want to miss out.

I took us into the valley of death. I took us into Ikea on Sunday afternoon.

The kids and I headed back to Richmond in the borrowed stationwagon. After enduring queues just to get into the carpark, and knowing good spots can’t be had for love nor money, we headed for the middle levels, where there were plenty of spots.

We steeled ourselves and barrelled in, shopping list at the ready. With all the precision of a surgical strike, we headed straight for the warehouse, skipping as much of the store as we could, navigated our way through the crowds and via the shortcuts. By the time we got to aisle 21, position 19 for the Billy, there were about 10 there, I think, so we (with some effort, they’re damn heavy) lifted what we needed onto a trolley: a big Billy, a medium-sized Billy, and a spare big Billy shelf. (Eagle-eyed kids pointed out the first one I picked up was lacking the Technical-Lego-like do-hickies for holding it up.)

The essentials obtained, Isaac minded the trolley while Jeremy and I did a quick sub-mission raid back to the children’s section to get the kiddy cups and plates my sister asked for. (I figured it was a reasonable exchange for the borrowing of the car.) This took us back along the one-way system, against the tide of people coming in. But Jeremy cleverly figured out a way of taking a shortcut to head back with the tide along the middle rung of the S-shaped lower level.

Up the stairs to the children’s section, then back down to the warehouse. Done — all products on the trolley, and we joined the hordes heading for the cash registers. When we’d got through that, we had some 50 cent ice-creams to prepare ourselves for the next stage: getting it home.

The kids minded the trolley at the loading bay (which judging from the announcements, at least three gits had decided to use for their own personal parking spaces) and I went back to the car, only to join a long line of people trying to leave the carpark.

Eventually I made my way out and got the car into the loading bay, and we heaved the Billys into the back. We had to re-arrange the seats a bit, as inevitably, 2 metre high Billys come in 2 metre long Billy boxes. But it eventually worked, and we got it all home.

A bookcase 2 metres high by 80 centimetres long holds a lot of books, so they’re made pretty tough, and very heavy. We initially left the bigger heavier of the two boxes in the entrance hall at home. I discovered this was a bad idea, by tripping over it not once, but twice — the second time with a bowl in my hand, which fell to the floor and shattered. Most spectacular.

After much swearing, and having learnt my lesson, it got moved out of the way, until everything could be built.

Which it all has been, and apart from one of my nails getting hammered into slightly the wrong part (tiny amount of damage, in an obscure spot), it all worked out fine.

Gillis Lundgren, I salute you.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “Ikea part II – Swimming against the tide”

I once tried to go against the norm in Ikea and lived to regret it. Ended up feeling like I was stuck in some hot, dank, sweaty turkish prison but a nicely decorated one at that! :-)

I think the same way about Ikea trips but have the luxury of working from home and doing Monday morning shops. BTW – I also recommend Mon or Tue mornings for those Bunnings trips – except there are very few ‘expert’ staff members to help with advice . . .

I’ve conducted such ‘surgical stikes’ myself at Ikea. So offer the following observation to increase effectiveness at such times . . .

When I know where the item is in the warehouse (like from previous visits where they were out of stock) – I miss out the whole ‘walk/jog pointlessly thru the display area’ thing. I just dodge thru the checkouts (reverse flow!) and into the warehouse. Saves about 10-15 minutes and the staff are OK with it.

Even better. If you do not know where the desired item is located in the warehouse – still do the reverse checkout thing but use the signposts (far end), the catalogue computers, or friendly staff to find the location.

Coming to Melbourne from Hong Kong, I found Ikea here a *very* frustrating experience, regarding inconvenience, out of stock items and the complexities of using the three separate processes of warehouse/delivery system. Very inefficient.

You could have just swam back against the tide instead of going around again. I found that the last time I went to Ikea that people who are in front of you are complete morons who think they are going for a Sunday Stroll in a park, when they are in a furniture store with heaps of people they are holding up.

I use the big billy bookcases with the glass doors for display cabinets. Much cheaper than most other cabinets (try $300 insstead of $900). Only problem is we have to travel 250 k’s to Sydney to get them.

I went to Ikea today to find a kitchen cart. (Called a trolley in Australian as I have learned.)I needed one that would fit in the space where the fridge I bought should have fit. I found the perfect size “flytta” stainless steel cart with shelves and wheels to fill the space and I put it together with the pictogram instructions. It is quite sturdy and well made and it should be at $299. I shopped around 5 PM and the store was not crowded at all. The layout of the store is certianly maze like and it effectivly funnels customers past all of the merchandise. I have tried the shortcuts but this leads to a loss of direction and going in circles past the same things. I find the restaurant in both the US and Australian stores to have very good food for a very reasonable price. The manager’s special always seems to be the same Swedish meatballs.

I tend to view Ikea as some sort of fun park. I very rarely go there because I need something – then again, I rarely go there – but when I do, it’s more as some sort of adventure.

I.e: How quickly can I make it through the store?
i.e: how many completely useless items can I find (novelty ice cube trays, anyone?)
i.e: how many bogans with bad taste can I spot?

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