IKEA: Miss Business and the Three-Legged Desk

This letter to the IKEA store in Leeds dates back to about 1996 when I was trying to furnish my new study at home. Unfortunately, I was ‘assisted’ by a particularly unhelpful member of staff who took great pleasure in ensuring that my IKEA order was always incomplete.  

Dear Customer Relations,

Effectiv Office Furniture

A couple of months ago, an IKEA Business catalogue1 arrived at my architectural practice and immediately gained my attention as I was in the process of designing an extension to my own home – including a good sized study.

I have to say that I was fairly impressed by the range and having decided what I would need to create an ideal workspace, I even sized the extension to accommodate the furniture.  Earlier this month the extension was completed and I set out to buy my 2 desks, bookshelf, drawer unit, chair, filing cabinet etc etc.  I established by telephone that I was not allowed to order my furniture because it was for home and not the office and I therefore had no reason to open a business account (which turned out to be a big mistake!).

My wife and I therefore set out taking both family cars (there was a lot to transport) on the 92 mile round trip to your store.  In that you routinely seem to out of stock of much of the Ikea Business range, we seem to have been lucky that we ended up short of only one 140 x 70cm desk. We were advised by your young lady (I shall call her Ms. Business) that in future we should always ring and check that the required items were in stock before making the 92 mile round trip next time.

On reaching the service desk in the warehouse, we were informed by Mr. Warehouse that Ms. Business had only arranged for us to have three legs for our first desk (her logic presumably being that we could support one corner on a pile of Ikea catalogues until we managed to locate another desk and three more legs to complete the L-shape we were hoping for!).  Mr. Warehouse kindly amended the paperwork and we went on our way.

Before making the 92 mile round trip again tonight, I followed the advice of Ms. Business and I telephoned and was told that yes, you had the desk top and two more silver legs and the rail connector thing that stopped both three-legged desks from falling over. I subsequently arrived at the store and asked for my desk top, my two remaining legs and my connector thing that stops that stops the desks falling over, was given my slip of paper and went off to see Mr. Warehouse again – spending lots of extra money on other items along the way.2  I was handed my trolley, paid for my purchases and left to load the stuff into my car.

It was then that I thought “Hang on a minute, that was a bit cheaper than I was expecting” and I opened the box containing the desk top. No rails. How in God’s name did Ms. Business expect me to attach the legs!  So, eventually getting back through the doors which only open when your going outwards, I ask Mr. Security to guard my trolley and I start the whole procedure over again.

I tell Ms. Business that she hasn’t given me any rails (which, of course she knows damn well) and the conversation goes like this:

Ms. Business:      “There’s only five sets of silver rails in stock and there all reserved for business account holders so you can’t have them.”

Me:                             “But I telephoned in advance just like you said and you said you had it all in stock”

Ms. Business:     “Ah, but you didn’t ask whether we had any rails in did you?”

(So it had been the very same Ms. Business I had spoken to)

Me:                             “Oh for Pete’s sake…”

Ms. Business:      “If you’re going to be abusive I’ll refuse to serve you”

Me:                              “Since when has ‘For Pete’s Sake’ been abusive?”    

Ms. Business:      Silence

At this moment being abusive seemed like a really good idea which would have made me feel a whole lot better.  Strangling the woman would have cured me completely.  I nonetheless restrained myself admirably under the circumstances. 

Now strictly speaking, Ms. Business had been correct in that I had not checked whether you had any silver rails in stock.  Nor had I asked for any.  I was stupid enough to think that when you ask for a desk top and legs, you get the things that join them together.  It did not take a degree in engineering for Ms. Business to figure this out (when I asked for the stuff, or earlier when I had phoned to see if it was in stock) Indeed, when I bought the first desk, I did not ask for rails either but they miraculously appeared on my trolley.

So far, it has taken nearly three weeks, about six hours of my time and 276 miles of driving to get to the stage where I have still not got enough bits to put my furniture finally together.  Ms. Business expects me to drive another 92 miles, waste another 3 hours of my time and put up with her snotty, smart-arsed attitude to get one last box of bits.  Even then, having phoned again to make sure they’re there, I’ve got to get there before she has the chance to sell the bloody things or reserve them for a business account holder.

Surely, there must be a way that I can get the missing bits without going through this charade.  I have spent the thick end of a thousand pounds in your store this month and have been treated very badly.  In the circumstances, can I send a cheque and have you send me the goods without charging me your normal delivery rates?

Please can I have some customer care?

Yours etc

The letter resulted in a telephone call from the UK managing Director of IKEA who, it has to be said, was extremely helpful.  I never did see Ms. Business again despite continued regular visits to the store so it remains possible that she managed to get a job as a doctor’s receptionist – or perhaps at Guantanamo Bay – where her highly developed interpersonal skills could be utilised to the full.

  1. For American readers, Catalogue is the British spelling of Catalog.  It isn’t a universal rule however.  Kellogs Corn Flakes is not spelled Kellogues Corn Flakes. 

  2. Mainly tea light candles.  Its weird but I seem to have several thousand of them. 

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