I went to Ikea the other week. I’m not proud of it, but...

No, I’m kidding. I know it’s trendy to pillory Ikea, but I don’t really have anything against them—that is, not until I went there.

It was only about the second time I’d been there, which might be surprising, but given that all their stores are located in industrial parks in the middle of nowhere and I’m a resolute non-car-owner, I don’t really have much chance to get to them.

I wanted a new desk, to replace the rickety old child’s desk that had been the cramped home to my computers over the past few months. I found a nice, large, exceptionably reasonably priced desk in Ikea’s range. I decided to buy it, along with the drawers that mount under one side to give me some handy storage space (one thing you can never be too short of, in my opinion).

Now, if you’re not familiar with Ikea, then here’s a brief explanation. The stores might not all be identical, but actually, I’d bet that they are. Upon entering the store, an escalator takes you upstairs. All the big furniture is on display on this floor, pre-assembled for you to look at what it’s meant to look like if you manage to put it together yourself (to be honest, not really a difficult task as long as you have (a) a brain and (b) spatial awareness, the kind that a childhood of playing with Lego delivers in generous supply). There are the odd knick-knacks around to goad you into a compulsive purchase, but not many.

When you have chosen the big pieces that you want, you have to make a note of its salient features: name, colour, price, and most importantly its address in the warehouse. In my case, this was 18-02 for the desk and 18-03 for the drawers.

The next stage of the walk through the store takes you downstairs. First, you go through the area that hold the small, pick-up-able items (like a normal shop, in other words).

Finally, the warehouse. The flat-packed items are stacked on shelves for you to manhandle onto the cart (in my case, the cart rolled away at this point; would wheel brakes have been too much to ask for?). It was easy to find the correct aisle—they are numbered like houses, even numbers on one side and odd on the other.

I found 18-02, my desk, no problem. However, under 18-03, there were simply more of the desks that belonged in 18-02. Away on a higher shelf, about 5m above ground, were the drawer packs, clearly marked “18-03”.

I asked one of the staff:

“We’ve sold out. Come back on Monday.”
— “Look, they’re up there. I can see them!”
“Yeah, maybe it is.”

And that was the end of it.

The quality of their products is fine, so I think that’s where they make the savings: customer service.

The other thing that I didn’t like: once you have entered the store, you can’t go to the toilet. The toilets are outside, beyond the exit. It’s possible to go out, but it’s a long trek through the shop due to the one-way walkthrough system.

I’m happy with my desk—and I did get the drawers in the end, on Monday—but I’m far from happy with Ikea the experience. I’d certainly think twice before going back, even if it is cheap. I value both my time and being treated with respect.