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Itís taking over. No home is safe. If you havenít already got an item of furniture from IKEA, you will soon. Itís a virus and you are particularly vulnerable on bank holiday weekends, like this one!
I joke, but is there no street in the UK where IKEA hasnít taken hold? I myself have succumbed to this virulent form of dťcor. But if you havenít already, Iíve drawn up a list of pros and cons to help you decide if you want to welcome the virus into your life or whether you want to batten down the hatches and resist.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO SUCCUMB TO THE IKEA VIRUS?
(1) CHEAP IKEA is cheap and cheerful, when you compare it to other equivalent furniture stores. The reason it is so cheap is because it specialises in flat-packed furniture that you assemble yourself. This means that the store doesnít need to pay for anyone to assemble it and you do the work yourself. For value for money, IKEA is the top dog. For example, we needed a toilet roll holder and they sell a sleek metal one for £2. Typically, as Iíll discuss later, theyíd run out completely. So, we ended up buying exactly the same style from Homebase for £22.99. Big saving at IKEA, I think youíll agree.
(2) CHILD FRIENDLY IKEA caters well for children. They have crŤches, with funky looking pits of balls to jump into (wish I was still a child sometimes). However, unless you go on a Wednesday morning, you might have to wait to drop your kids off. When I went yesterday, the queue for the crŤche was 45 minutes long. IKEA also has an excellent selection of stuff for childrenís bedrooms, especially storage solutions.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO RESIST?
(1) TIRING AND OVERCROWDED Get
your trainers on, do your warm-up exercises, make sure your bladder is empty and bring along some snacks. Negotiating this store is like undertaking a military exercise. Unless youíre looking for a pot plant, IKEA is a good 2-3 hour shopping experience. Prepare yourself. And if youíre shopping with a partner, make sure youíre loved up and there isnít an argument brewing. Too many times has hunger, tiredness and irritability turned into squabbling and weíve left without purchasing what we came into get. Oh, and by the way, on the weekends it is very crowded!
(2) BLAND Ė EVERYONE HAS IT Someone once told me that when you start furbishing your first house, you go to IKEA. As you get a bit more money, you progress to Habitat. With a bit more cash in the bank, you can head to Heals. And when you really are raking in the dosh, you progress to the Conran Shop. What Iím trying to say here is that IKEA have cornered the market for modern, value-for-money furniture. The flip side of this is that every other house is full of IKEA stuff. A few months ago we went house-hunting, and looked at 45 one bedroom flats in London. Iíd say 30 of these were mainly furbished with IKEA stuff. I canít tell you how boring it became after a while. We were so happy to view a flat with character and individuality (i.e. didnít have IKEA furniture).
(3) THINGS ARE OFTEN NOT AVAILABLE If you are going to IKEA with one item in mind to buy, try to call beforehand to check it is in store. Iíve lost count of the number of items Iíve wanted and got to the relevant section and surprise, surprise, theyíre out of stock. I think it is because they donít want to pay for extra storage space at the back, so they donít keep massive surplus stocks on site. But, if you donít have easy access to a car and have travelled quite a way for a specific item, it is rip-you-hair-out-frustrating. I admit to nearly throwing a childish sulk when they had run out of the cabinet we wanted. I think I even stamped my foot (shame on me!)
(4) WAITING FOR HOURS AT COLLECTION POINT Some of the items are available immediately and you can leave once youíve paid for them at the check-out. But other items have to be ordered beforehand and then collected from the collection point. So once you get through the whole store, you need to take your receipt to the collection point. You then have a wait of 30-60 minutes, while they get it from the depths of the warehouse. Aaah, fun and games. And if you want to get the items delivered, youíll have to take them around to the delivery desk afterwards yourself.
(5) OUT OF TOWN One of the ways that IKEA cuts its costs is by basing itself in large out-of-town locations. Because it sells flat-packed furniture, most people need cars to take away the products. I can see the sense in this, but as someone who doesnít have a car and relies on public transport, this annoys me no end. To get to the nearest branch (Brent Park), I have to take two changes of public transport to Neasden and then walk for 15 minutes alongside the North Circular Road, crossing over railway lines and the major road. This is ok on the way there, but imagine struggling back with heavy furniture. Itís just not feasible, so the only alternative is home delivery or the IKEA taxi service. As Iíll mention in my next point, try to avoid the home delivery service if you can. The taxi service is well worth the money if you are thinking of spending a bit. The cost depends on where you live, for me it cost £25. They pack everything into the taxi (more like a small van), drive you and the furniture to your home, and help you offload everything.
(6) DELIVERY Now, if you donít have a big enough car or indeed a car at all, you will have to get the items delivered. We got loads of office furniture delivered at work and it was supposed to be delivered between 8am and 12am. So, lo and behold, it arrived at 8pm at night the next day. And half of it was missing. Just be warned Ė the IKEA delivery service is notoriously unreliable (see the Watchdog page on BBCís website for more tales of inconvenience about IKEA delivery).
In conclusion, IKEA is immensely popular. So much so, that Iíve compared it to a virus. At first, I succumbed easily to the cheap prices and convenience, but Iím starting to regret it as I look around at some of the furniture and feel my flat has lost a sense of identity.
I was going to give it 3 stars, when I wrote half of this op a few days ago. Since then, I returned to IKEA to pick up something that wasnít there the last time I visited. I rang before to see if they had the item in stock and they told me they had plenty. When I got there (2 hours later), they had run out and said they had not had any in stock for the past week: ďPerhaps the person you spoke to on the phone had read the wrong details on the computerĒ. So, another wasted journey. For this inconvenience, Iím feeling cruel and so Iím going to give IKEA 1 star (the one star is for its cheap, but too often unavailable, products).
If you want to check out where your nearest store is, look at their website: http://www.ikea.co.uk
Brent Park is my local too and I agree about the queues and lack of staff on hand, they have improved the parking however, it used to be set up so that you couldnt take trolleys to your car, so if you got something large you had to get your car and drive to the tiny loading area, on a saturday afternoon that could mean sitting there for three hours, waiting your turn, no exageration! I wouldnt go near the place on a weekend or even much after midday as I consider my life too short to stand in lines. But I have to confess I do still visit there once a month or so although I have become more descerning over the years and dont fill my blue bag up with all the cheap stuff they have on display, These days I know what I want and head for it and get the hell out of there quick!