We’ve all received IKEA furniture missing screws, but Marc received a couch missing an entire seat cushion. He figured IKEA would quickly hand over a replacement once he pointed out their obvious mistake. Nope! Several employees helpfully explained that the cushion “comes with the couch,” and that finding a replacement was “impossible.” A resourcefully inept manager finally resolved the situation by insisting that they replace the entire couch.
I’ve never written to your site before, but this story was so over-the-top ridiculous I had to share it.
In furnishing my new apartment, I recently bought a leather love seat from Ikea. For some reason, you can go in person to the store and order it for next day delivery, but you can’t do the same action over the phone. Calling-in routes you to Ikea Direct that draws its stock from a distant warehouse and takes much longer to deliver. Makes perfect sense!
My couch arrived the next morning wrapped in plastic and cardboard. I could still make out its vague chocolate-brown shape, which is why I was surprised to see a large blotch of white beneath the layers of plastic. I confirmed that it was the right couch with the driver and shrugged my shoulders when he said it was.
After an hour or two of building some of the other pieces that had arrived alongside the couch, I was ready to tackle it. I began to tear off the plastic and toss it aside like a yuppie on Christmas morning. Once all was torn away and done, I was presented with one leather couch that was lacking the seat cushion cover. Just a naked white cushion. I called the driver and asked him if it was still in the back of the truck. He said no and that it “came with the couch”, a phrase I would come to hear often over the following 72 hours. He said I should call the store. I dug through the packaging several more times in search of the wayward cushion cover to no avail. I called the store, but was routed to Ikea Direct, who told me that it would be no problem to send me out a new one. I told her I didn’t want to wait a week or however long it took, I was impatient and wanted it now! She said I would also have no problem walking into the store with my receipt for another one. I asked her if she could notate somewhere that I would be doing that so that they wouldn’t think I was some sort of thief. She chuckled that idea away and I added the task to my to-do list absentmindedly. This was Friday afternoon.
I didn’t make it to Ikea in Burbank until Sunday. I was told I would have to wait in the Returns & Exchanges line. When my number was called, I went up to the teenage clerk and asked for the various screws that Ikea always seem to forget and then explained the cushion situation. He nodded and disappeared to the back for a few minutes. He returned and gave me a handful of screws and smiled trimphantly. I reminded him about the cushion. He disappeared to the back for a few minutes and then returned and pulled up the product record on the screen. “It comes with the couch” he said definitively. I agreed, but told him that in this case it hadn’t. He seemed puzzled and disappeared to the back again. He came back and, turning the computer screen towards me for my benefit, he repeated that it “came with the couch”. After some back and forth, he disappeared to the back.
More than a few minutes passed. I saw him come out of another door a few feet away and begin helping another customer. Someone new popped up in front of me and asked how he could help me. I absolutely hate it when retail employees just pass you off without a word, without an introduction thus forcing you to repeat your story yet again. I explained myself to this Manager, and he said it “comes with the couch”. I clenched my teeth and tried not to scream. I recounted the timeline of the delivery. He said they would need to setup a home inspection or need photographic evidence. My jaw dropped. I told him I already had the expensive part of the couch and all I wanted was the cover. He asked if anyone could backup my story. I got the number from my cell history and he disappeared into the back to call it.
Ten or fifteen minutes later, he comes out from the back and hands my paperwork to yet another employee and walks right by me. I stop him and ask the outcome. He said they were going to take care of it. Immaturely, I asked if the driver corroborated my story, which he confirmed and walked away. The third employee told me to take a seat as it would be awhile.
It was awhile. An hour had passed since I first walked up. Manager returned finally and explained that another customer who had bought the same couch had needed a new cushion cover because theirs was torn, so an employee had yanked it off of the couch I would later buy. Manager said they were going to order me another one. I nodded and refrained from yelling “I told you so”.
Another couple minutes went by, Manager sent me over to the delivery desk to arrange the delivery of an entirely new couch. I objected saying it was a waste of fuel and time when all I needed was a cushion that could fit in a backpack. This was apparently impossible. At this point, now approaching two hours, I lost it. I told him that I wanted my initial delivery fee completely refunded as they had delivered a nightmare instead of a couch and that as Manager, he really should’ve done his homework and researched the issue before tacitly accusing a customer of wrongdoing with the implication that inspections and photographic evidence would be needed. I also pointed out that I had noticed the white cushion upon first glance but had assumed the cover was elsewhere in the packaging whereas an employee should’ve picked up on this immediately. All of a sudden, the Manager got all up in my face gangbanger-style and grunted that he hadn’t accused me of anything. I realized that he probably didn’t know what “tacitly” meant. Oops. I repeated that I wanted a refund. He exclaimed that he wasn’t charging me for the re-delivery. My jaw dropped a second time causing me to yank it up quick enough to fire back that it would be ludicrous to charge a customer for the store’s mistake.
The next morning, a new set of delivery guys came with the new couch. Before they could unload it though, I explained to them what had happened. They seemed puzzled. I told them that all we needed to do was swap out the seats, which we did. They were amazed at the store’s incompetence, which made three of us. As they pulled away, they yelled a hearty “thank you” for saving them (and their backs) the unnecessary loading.
It took a week of phone calls to Ikea Direct before I got my money refunded. Each time, the representative told me to wait for the Burbank store to call me for resolution, but to call back if they failed to do so. They finally did call me but were only willing to refund part of the fee, which I told them was unnacceptable. They called back and agreed to a full refund. I win!
This is exemplary of a common virus infecting corporate customer service. It is never good business to treat your customer like a criminal and to make an assumption without fact to back it up. The returns process is a tricky one in that it requires a good deal of actual skill, something that big box stores feel is unnecessary to endow their employees with. If you perform a return correctly, you retain a customer and their future purchases beyond the momentary loss of stock. If you don’t, you lose not just the money for the returned item, but potentially all the future purchases of an angry customer.
(Photo: Orin Optiglot)