Ikea’s Assault on the Delusional Do-It-Yourselfer

by Shawanda Greene

Hammer and Twisted NailsWe’re cautious throughout the entire business relationship with a company we know will rip us off.

Then, we go and let our guard down when dealing with organizations that offer great value and awesome customer service.

Well, we shouldn’t.

It’s fun picking on those who engage in shady business practices. However, we have to be just as skeptical of the good guys.

Today, I’m giving the Bank of Americas and Comcasts of the world a break and turning my loving frustration on a store I adore.

My apologies if I offend thee, dear, sweet, Ikea.

If you’ve never heard of them, Ikea provides a low hassle shopping experience and decent quality home furnishings at an affordable price.

There are many ways Ikea keeps prices low, but one of the biggies is by selling furniture unassembled.

Within the first 30 minutes of entering an Ikea store, customers have been known to suffer feelings of delirium or euphoria.

These are natural reactions when you realize you can create a beautifully mature living space for half of what you’d spend at a traditional home store.

Unfortunately, such maniacal excitement makes you vulnerable to foolish spending.

Before subjecting yourself to the seductive marketing tactics of Ikea, a little self evaluation is in order.

Shopper, know thyself.

There are three standard varieties of Ikea customers.

Which one are you?

The Genius

You buy only what you can install or assemble.

Ikea doesn’t showcase disassembled furniture – only fabulous, completed products which are often displayed in a professionally decorated room.

A naive buyer doesn’t understand what it takes to get from a fragile mess of wood and metal to a finished masterpiece.

The Genius, on the other hand, knows she’ll need basic tools such as a stud finder, leveler, screwdriver, drill, tape measure, motor skills, dexterity, flexibility, agility, and cat-like reflexes.

For people who don’t enjoy or who’re mentally incapable of putting things together, pass on buying furniture from Ikea.

Dark Wood, 6-Drawer Ikea Dresser

This dresser came in two boxes and a million pieces. I paid $279 and three hours of back aching, non-stop labor for it..

The Bum

You never get around to installing or assembling your purchase.

Now, I don’t have access to the raw numbers, but I suspect this is the largest group of Ikea shoppers.

With Ikea stores being located miles from civilization, the high of a purchase generally wheres off during the 45 minute drive home.

As a result, you’ll likely toss aside your treasures and promise yourself you’ll get to them tomorrow.

But you won’t.

Three years later, you’ll stumble across a dusty bag of Ikea goodies you vaguely remember buying.

Ikea Bag O' Stuff

It happens to the best of us.

The Klutz

You’ll break your new Ikea purchase during assembly.

A well-read, Celtic Sea Salt eating scholar like yourself should be able to follow simple pictorial instructions. Yet, you get your ass handed it to you by an end table and an L-wrench.

You’re either too lazy, too busy, but, mostly, too embarrassed to return it.

Whenever I go to Ikea, I’m surprised at the number of people who’re returning items they’ve destroyed.

For every person who returns a broken product, there are probably ten with a pile of sad, mangled furniture pieces sitting in a dark corner of their garage.

Ikea Eye Chart Lamp

Thankfully, I was able to salvage this one.

Still, I’d hate for you to miss out on the Ikea experience.

Here are some helpful tips.

a) Clean your house and rid your place of crap you’re not using before a field trip to Ikea. During the process, you might find that bag of mysterious Ikea goodies mentioned previously.

b) Measure the areas you’re going to organize, furnish or decorate. With prices so cheap, you’ll be tempted to take a chance on an item that might fit.

c) Pick a color scheme. Don’t throw a bunch of random articles in your cart. When you get that hideous yellow lamp home you’ll wonder what you were thinking.

d) Take pictures. While under the hypnosis of Ikea, your memory is unreliable. In order to know whether a particular item will work with your existing decor, you need photographic evidence.

Have you purchased anything from Ikea or a similar store that required assembly that you didn’t use?

Did you enjoy this article?
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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

@barbfriedberg December 20, 2011 at 10:12 AM

Ikea is my guilty pleasure!!! I usually assemble what I but, but have been known to pay someone to put together a piece or two. Thanks for writing about my favorite shopping destination!!!


Shawanda December 27, 2011 at 6:52 PM

Between me and you, when I go to Ikea, I make a day of it. The biggest draw for me are the Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. Mmmm.


JP @ Novel Investor December 21, 2011 at 3:52 PM

Haven't bought from IKEA but have assembled my share of furniture. I think the companies purposely add extra pieces just to mess with your head. Making you think you missed a step or two along the way.


Shawanda December 27, 2011 at 6:55 PM

Or on the flip side, when companies don't give you enough pieces. I can't think of anything more terrifying than realizing you're short a few components. Especially when you're half way through your project. To me, counting out screws is the most nerve racking part of at home furniture assembly. Fortunately, I've learned to do this before I start.


Andrew December 24, 2011 at 12:57 PM

We once bought a set of shelves, the cutesy name of which I've long since forgotten. During our last move, one crucial piece went missing. They now have pride of place in the attic.


Shawanda December 27, 2011 at 6:59 PM

About 5 years ago, while packing for my relocation from Orlando to Washington, DC, I trashed a brand new shelf and two brackets I'd bought from The Home Depot. I just couldn't stand to bring it up here knowing I'd never install it. I would've given it away had I not waited until the last minute to pack.


Amanda L Grossman December 27, 2011 at 9:03 AM

I love IKEA! However, I have found over the years that it is great to buy some things there, but not other things. For instance, I bought that same Hemnes dresser when I got my first apartment out of college. Unfortunately, the drawers dont hold much weight and my sweaters made them bow. I had to hammer in nails around the bottom edges for extra weight support.

Oh well–I'm still a big fan!


Shawanda December 27, 2011 at 7:03 PM

I've recently had an issue with my bottom drawer. I've been too lazy to take my clothes out of the drawer and fix it properly, so I try to be very gentle with it for now. Other than that, it's held up better than I expected.


Evan January 5, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Despite passing Ikea 3 times a week since I was 8 I never really had any experiences with it till I got to College when buddies were shocked that this "mecca" was 15 mins away (where I lived lol). After that I got to know the allen key pretty well


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