Secrets to a successful IKEA excursion

I think I have discovered the secrets of how to get in and out of IKEA without too much trauma:

  1. Timing.
  2. Planning ahead.
  3. Entering at the exit.
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Kamprad (IKEA’s founder) designed flat-packing furniture that you could easily stack in your car…

Let me explain. Matt and I went to IKEA almost as an afterthought back in May. We had rented a car to go get some other items at the Barkaby shopping mall area: the outlets are there, as is IKEA and the huge Stadium sports store that is now attached to it. We went to Rusta for discount toilet paper among other things, and finally to IKEA to get a new plant pot on wheels and some steak knives.

We pulled in at somewhere around 11 am — before lunch, on a rainy day. The lot was almost empty. (Rule #1: Timing is everything!)

You know the drill: the IKEA floor plan is a twisty maze meant to lure you into buying things you had no idea you wanted. In and out through the compactly designed kitchens, wide open bedrooms, and so forth, you follow the arrows on the floor. You pick upi compact fluorescent light bulbs, pillows and sheets, and all sorts of other non-furniture items, placed appealingly in your path. IKEA supposedly calls this “opening your pocketbook.”

It’s exhausting, and expensive. We plopped pillowcases and cuttingboards in our big yellow IKEA bag; we picked up things I can’t remember now. We bought them all, needed or not. It works, that meandering maze. (Remember this later: Rule #2 is planning ahead!)

We left, tired from standing on the concrete floors for too long and hungry enough that I acquiesced to eating at MAX’s (it’s sort of like Burger King, only it has gluten-free, vegan and other interesting options on the menu!).

But on Sunday this past weekend, we somehow rocked it. We arrived at around 1:30 pm, which reinforced Rule #1: we were lucky to find a parking spot, and walked with the other zombies in the front doors and up the escalator to the entry to the display-floor maze. We detoured immediately to gather our strength in the café, which was packed with people. The lines for trays for picking up food, the dessert bar, even for coffee were at least six people deep if not a dozen. We turned on our heels and left as quickly as possible, sans food or drink.

At this point, Matt peeled off for the Stadium sports store (big sales!) and I went back downstairs to find a bathroom. Once that was taken care of, I was about to head back upstairs to dive into the maze, but instead, buttonholed a young woman in an IKEA vest handing out yellow bags to the steady stream of people coming in the front doors. I asked her where I might find outdoor furniture (utmöbler), and she said, in Swedish, “Right behind the cash registers.”

Oh! “Can I go in the out doors?” I asked.

“Sure!” she answered. “That’s better. Then you don’t have to go through the whole top-floor displays.” (Or something like that, again in Swedish.)

Whoa! In the out door! I’d suggested that to Matt when we arrived, but he’d nixed the idea. And yet, that’s what I did: waltzed right in the exit, passed through the lines of people waiting to check out with their stacks of things, and saw my quarry set up on the floor behind the cash registers. Jumping ahead to Rule #3: It’s okay to skip the maze if you know what you want. Enter in the exit!

But that means you have to follow Rule #2: Know what you want, before you even get in the car to go to IKEA. One of my colleagues had done the research online and assigned me the task of picking up the outdoor furniture for our office (wooden bistro tables and chairs). She gave me the name (ASKHOLMEN) and how much it should cost. I spent a few minutes looking at the floor models, scratching my head to figure out where to find the boxed versions, and then headed back to look for an information desk. Packed with people (#1, timing!), I skipped it for the self-help computer kiosks. There I found the article numbers for the chairs and tables, and the aisle and shelf numbers as well.

After a quick detour into the tschotschkes rooms at the end of the IKEA maze, to see if they had office folders (no luck — should have looked online first!), I took a hidden shortcut to skip the lamps/dishes/glassware/plants and grabbed a big cart on my way into the warehouse, strode over to the aisle and shelves I needed, stacked the items on the cart, walked over to the end of the checkout area, where things were relatively empty and calm (IKEA has introduced four-item self-checkout kiosks where you do it yourself — but really, who walks out of IKEA with only four items??), paid, and navigated my cart out into the packed parking lot.

Matt and I figured it took about 20 minutes to complete this IKEA shopping excursion. That must be a record. If not for worldwide competition, then certainly for me!

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