[The image jitters, there is a thump as the sound comes on, and a haggard, hair-covered face fills the frame. Veils of windswept snow crystals twist and drift across the view.]
SIR RANULPH FIENNES [for it is he]: Bally thing’s playing silly buggers again. Hello! Hello! Michael!
MIKE IN THE STUDIO: Sir Ranulph! Can you hear me?
[A snow hare is hopping through a drift in the background, using its footprints to spell out the words “Hello Mum”.]
RANULPH: Call me “Ruffers”. Everyone else does.
MIKE: Er, “Ruffers”, we understand that your record attempt is going through something of a difficult phase. You’ve already suffered frostbite?
RANULPH: Nothing serious: just a couple of toes.
MIKE: And, apparently your pet Arctic tern, Jeremy, has died?
RANULPH: [Waving rigid feathered corpse in front of camera] Poor blighter copped it as we went over the last rise. It was inevitable there’d be casualties on a mission like this.
[RANULPH is wearing a badge sponsored by ICELAND. As he speaks, its scrolling dot-matrix display is showing this week’s exciting offers on Bird’s Eye sweet chilli flavour hash browns.]
MIKE: And you’ve found a way to deal with the tragedy?
RANULPH: We didn’t build an empire on sentimentality, young man. I put some notches in Jeremy’s beak and used the serrated edge to saw off my dead toes. Waste not want not.
MIKE: After the loss of part of your foot within the first week would you say that this—your attempt to become the first man walk across Siberia, dragging a frozen mammoth on a microscooter—is turning out to be your greatest challenge to date?
RANULPH: Bladdy hell, no! That would be my 2001 expedition to be the first man to shop at the Lakeside IKEA without a female guide. Drizzle on the M23 like I’ve never seen. Fully laden Citroen aquaplaning like a duck on a frozen pond. They thought it couldn’t be done—and it certainly got a bit ugly in the Pick Up Zone—but I proved ’em wrong. Cost me an arm and a leg though.
I thank yew.
But seriously folks, I never thought I’d turn into the sort of bore who blithered on about the awfulness of IKEA, but here I am. I set off 14:30hrs Monday and got back home at 00:30hrs today. Admittedly this included an unwanted excursion to Bluewater. When people said, “You should go to the IKEA next to Bluewater”, they meant “next to” in the sense of “the other side of the Dartford Crossing”.
Admittedly I did eat there, and there were hours of nervous driving in the rain and gloom and lots of loading and unloading, but I had no idea it was possible to spend so much time shopping—not even “fun”, frivolous shopping, but functional, frightening shopping, surrounded by twenty-times-lifesize images of Scandinavians who probably wear their black polo necks to weddings and, when they aren’t gazing out at eternal vistas of slate grey sky, design folding kitchen tables with names like Star Wars characters. As for the real people in the shop, yes, IKEA is a great place to meet good-looking women, but they are all walking around in sensible shoes with Gavin from Personnel and fall into one of three stages of life: pregnant, recently pregnant, and post-menopausal.
My main piece of advice to anyone contemplating similar foolishness: never, never find yourself at the checkout near the ten o’clock closedown. I witnessed a shocking scene of IKEA rage at about eleven when one guy (unknowingly, I think) parked his car in a loading bay that two women already had lined up for themselves. The guy started an attempt at an apology, but gave up immediately and joined in the abuse when the women went from nought to nuclear in a single step. Nasty.
Favourite IKEA moment? An American couple in front of me in the queue for the home delivery service had three flat-bed trollies loaded with furniture. Mr America was pleading in exasperation at a poor dispatcher because he had told him it was only possible for him to have next-day delivery. I think this might be the first documented sighting of citizens of the USA complaining about overly prompt customer service in a retail establishment on British soil. At that point I was close to emotional collapse. This was enough to push me into hysterical giggling and the woman next to me in the equally long queue for Customer Services desk said: “I’m glad someone thinks it’s funny.”
Mind you, I’ll probably be back next week: they’d sold out of the bathroom cabinet I wanted, my rug is the wrong size, and I didn’t get any placemats and napkins. Serviettes for me then.
I’m not sure what’s more disturbing: my sharing these boring details with thousands of people across the globe or the suspicion that, within a matter of hours, this post will attract more than the average number of comments from people sharing the trauma of their own IKEA flashbacks.
I went to Ikea and had a great time. All the people who complain about it inducing some kind of existential crisis have never worked in a call centre.
Anytime is better than Sundays. Sundays at IKEA give me migraines.
The only trouble I had the last time I went to Ikea (on Easter bank holiday, no less) was my own complete and utter inability to reverse a white van into the parking space. Which, um, lead to me taking the handbrake off and pushing the van back out to avoid scratching the car next to it…
I went to the Lakeside IKEA with my Dad last Tuesday. We had fun: shopping with my Dad is a very relaxing experience. But considering how busy it was on a Tuesday, I wouldn’t dare go at the weekend.
I’ve never been to IKEA. Not once. Not even near. Nor IRAQ, nor IRAN. Nor KOREA. Axis of Evil, if you ask me.
I bought all my bedroom furniture from Ikea. Checked the availability on line before going, went there, walked all the way throught he bloody winding maze, paid, told to go and wait at the pick-up point. Where I waited for an hour. When I asked why I was waiting so long they said there was a queue of things waiting to be collected from the shelves and I would be united with my flat pack bed very soon… One hour later I asked again to be told, “very sorry we can’t give that to you today we can’t get the fork lift in that aisle. Please come back tomorrow”.
Haven’t been there for years and have no plans to ever go again, but when I did go I had great fun with the names of the products. They give them (presumably) Swedish names and make no effort to change them for local conditions. Hence furniture called “Spunk”, “Brian”, “Tumour”, “Wank” etc. (This is from memory, no warranty as to availability of exact names …)
Good meatballs in the cafeteria though.
The last time I went was the last time. My Mrs is on her own from now on. I’d rather pay more or have no furniture at all.
Mind you IKEA was by no means my worst retail experience. That would be the occasion we were stuck – with a screaming baby – in the Cora car park for an hour on an Alsatian bank holiday as everybody tried to leave at the same time.
IKEA’s a fine institution, but did it really deserve the Nobel Peace Prize this year?
While we’re at it, I hate futons. Especially IKEA ones.
Never mind the Ikea shopping experience, which is agony, wait till you get the stuff home and start to put it together using that funny-looking tool they supply. That is heart attack territory.
[…] PooterGeek Damian Counsell’s Weblog « A Long Way For A Bad Joke […]
Dave F is right. The real culprit is not the tool – which I think is just an Allen key – but the insistence on having the instructions as diagram-only. I drove myself and the Wife insane trying to figure out the instructions for a bed (I think it was the “Turd” or possibly the “Plonk”) then finally came to the conclusion that they’d actually included the wrong parts, which was indeed the case. WÃ¡nkÃ³rs.
The food is excellent. The attitude to customers stinks. The quality control is laughable.
I still go now and then, but have a strict policy of only buying stuff that I can pick up off the shelf and check for faults before I buy it. Never buy any Ikea stuff that’s safely hidden away inside opaque packaging. Chances are that it’s buggered.
I got stuck in the lift at Ikea. It wasn’t that exciting.
I once scorched a small black mark onto a futon from a burning spliff. I was fifteen and very high. A Canadian band called SNFU have a song called “Time To Buy A Futon”. I don’t really understand what a futon is supposed to be. I wonder if ancient Romans would’ve appreciated them?