Out of the comfort zone

Consumer Adventure: my first visit to Ikea

In my country, Ikea is a pretty big name. The company itself boasts that there is at least one Ikea item in every household. And I confess, I do indeed have a nice lamp which was given to me by a friend. Bought at Ikea. But… I have never actually visited Ikea.

The Ikea-trauma

Okay, perhaps that is not entirely true. Back when I was a small child I went along with my parents who wanted to visit the place. I have very few memories about Ikea, except for not being able to get out of the ballpen, and being hopelessly lost in the store. That may not sound like a bad thing, but the memory has stuck, and I have never visited an Ikea. Of course, the fact there’s other (cheap) furniture places nearby helps.

A simple desire

So, what has driven me to visit the nearest Ikea? Why is it that after more than 3 decades, I have chosen to face my deepest childhood fear of being lost forever?

Well, a simple desire, really. I need a good cabinet to put my stuff in. I currently have an old (and nearly collapsing) cabinet which I inherited from my grandparents (about 15 years ago), but it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the room. And more important, I have too much stuff to hide, so I want something which goes all the way up to the ceiling.

I have searched and searched, but could not find a cabinet filling my needs. Then, a friend pointed out that the Billy (oh, that flagship of Ikea) is quite flexible. So, I took my risk and went to Ikea.nl, hoping I’d find some programme which would help me build the cabinet-of-my-dreams.

Nope. That didn’t work.

So, I decided to make a little detour on a trip I was already making, and visit the store.

Childhood fears relived

The funny thing is, sometimes I jokingly told people about my Ikea-trauma. I did so last week as well, when I was chatting with collegues who couldn’t grasp the idea I had never visited an Ikea store. One of them even told me I shouldn’t think of it as a store, but as a Daytrip. A daytrip? Well, yes, with a restaurant and everything… apparently, that is how much consumerism has already advanced… a trip to a shop as a daytrip. Ridiculous, I just need a piece of furniture. In and out, that’s me!

But despite me telling people about my negative experience with Ikea, I never really believed it myself.

Until I approached the store.

What didn’t help was the complex roadmap in and around the store, which already turned entering the parking garage a venture in itself. But I succeeded and parked my car. For a moment, I was lost. Where was the store? Did I have to go up, or down? Then I realized that this parking garage was actually next to the store.

Shock 1: Oh my god, if this parking garage is this huge already…?

With doubt, I walked to the stairs, asking a woman for directions. She looked at me with a puzzled face. Me explaining that this was my first time didn’t exactly relieve her from her puzzled-ness. She did end up giving me directions, and wishing me good luck, but really: she’d have been less shocked had I told her I had just arrived from Mars.

ikea logo (Source: Wikipedia Commons)A greeter? Seriously?

I walk through the HUGE revolving door, and arrive in an entry hall which is about the size of a normal furniture shop. In the center, an escalator, with a woman clad in Yellow and Blue. Her job is saying “hi” to new arrivals. I’d seen that in American movies sometimes, but really…? Paying someone to say “hi”?  I feel myself growing anxious, I look away and rush to the escalator, carefully avoiding the huge pile of…what are those..toiletseats? and… some lamp and end up on the first floor.

*Deep breath*

Okay, that doesn’t seem to bad, this is quite do-able. At least, so I think. But then I recognize the pathway, and remember the infamous Ikea-route, where you have to walk through the entire store to get where you want to be. But hey, this looks like the right department, right?

I ask the nearest guy for some help with Billy-customizing, and get redirected to the other section. I only need to take this shortcut, and then turn left through that shortcut to get where I am. If the guy had not pointed me the shortcuts, I would never have known they were there!

*Deep breath…okay… I can do this*

Billy? Nope

I arrive at the section with Billies. And with a smile on my face, I notice they are indeed quite flexible. But how does it work? Again, I ask for assistance. The store clerk, Jasper, seems surprised with my questions. I explain how this is a new endeavour for me. Quite helpfully, Jasper asks a couple of questions about what I want and immediately rules out the Billy: it isn’t deep enough to store the items which I want to hide behind doors. Instead, he can recommend two other pieces of furniture. I nod when he asks me if I want him to show it. And off he goes. Through more secret passageways showing me a few more models.

By now, I am starting to believe that Ikea uses the same architect as the Hogwarts School of Wizardry. You know, with all those moving staircases and everything.

I follow Jasper as if my life depends on it (I still think it does), and have him explain the several types to me. He then does some magic on his PC, and out come a few printouts with my options.

“So”, I ask,”how does it go from here?” I ask him.  He explains to me that I will need to get the items from the warehouse.

Wait…what? I have to do my own orderpicking?

Yep, that’s right. I have to do my own order picking. It’s almost like that other Scandinavian invention called Lego. You have to figure out what to build, and then dive into that huge chest of Lego-blocks in hopes of finding the right ones for your product.


The business economist inside me is marvelled by this business concept. Having your clients not only modulate their furniture, but have them do their own orderpicking? That is near-brilliant. And the strangest thing: nobody seems to think this is weird! Simply brilliant.

Luckily, this day, I am not ready to buy. I need to remeasure a few things before I can decide. So I can leave the orderpicking experience for another day.

Now all I have to do is find a way out.


Ikea stores - still a mazeI ask Jasper for the quickest way out. He gives me a few directions which seem simple enough. But, as it turns out, I missed one of those secret portholes, and I find myself reliving my youth trauma all over again. I am indeed lost in the store.

While searching the exit, my panic increases. I am lost. I am indeed very lost. Ok…keep calm… you’re an adult now. No need to panic. I try to remain cool, while I walk through the store, which seems a LOT larger than possible. Each time when I think I am nearing an exit, another corner comes up.

On the road, I come across huge sections with near-individual frames. Pallets with nothing on them but 5W LED-bulbs. Pallets! Not just a shelve, but whole pallets, stacked up high with LED-bulbs.

My being-lost anxiety now is topped with the anxiety I often feel when exposed to the excesses of consumerism.

Then, I spot salvation: a sign saying Exit. I am almost there.

I turn the corner and arrive in…

The warehouse

Yes, it is the exaxt thing I tried to avoid the whole time. I am now in the warehouse. Stacked to the brim with pieces of furniture. People with large carts grabbing boxes. They act confident, like they’ve never done anything else. But to me, these large rows ow 5m high scaffolding-style storage is simply… overwhelming.

I look down, and rush to the exit. Past the cashiers and outside.

I made it.
I am still alive.
I will have to come back, but I might just live through that as well…


where the hell did I leave my car?


One comment

  • March 6, 2017 - 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Hahaha, such a funny read! I’m sorry about your trauma tho! I absolutely love IKEA and I used to go a couple of times a year but since I moved to Ireland it’s now a 3 hour drive.. so I rarely go anymore but I do still love it every time! Did you try their restaurant? The meatballs are fantastic!

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