IKEA Wouldn't Sell Me An In-Stock Item, But It Did Ship It To Me For Free

Responding to last week’s post about a guy who couldn’t get IKEA to sell him a desk it had in plain view because the store does its restocking overnight, Ross writes in with a story of how he found himself in a similar situation. Only Ross came out a winner by guilting the staff into shipping the item to him for free.

He writes:

I read the article that Brian wrote to you on February 4th regarding an IKEA experience with his desired desk being “out of stock” but still in plain view. I too had a similar experience, but had a better outcome.

I went to IKEA in Palo Alto before Christmas 2009 to purchase a Poäng chair. They are the thin wood frames that you can choose the finish of the wood and then the type of cushion you want. My girlfriend and I had already found the perfect combination for us the last time we had visited. The last trip, they didn’t have the cushions we wanted so we left with some kitchen items, but no chair.

After walking around for a while and grabbing some other items we wanted, we went to the warehouse area to pick up the boxes for the chair. After searching for 15 minutes, we had found everything but the frame. The area looked a little disorganized like someone had come through and moved items around so I went to the customer service desk to ask for some assistance. This is where I started to get frustrated.

The man standing at the customer service desk came over and kindly helped us look for the missing box. After a minute, he stated that they looked like they were sold out and that we would have to come back tomorrow. I asked if her could check the stock in the computer. He said that it wouldn’t show anything useful because they are in inventory, just not accessible at this time. I had noticed a pallet of boxes with the right part number right above where we were standing. I asked him if he could bring some of those down. He told me that they restock at night and in the morning and that it was not possible for me to get any today for safety reasons. He then returned to his post and assisted some other customers.

At this point, I was pretty angry, but trying to keep my composure. My desired christmas gift to myself and girlfriend was just out of reach. It would have really brought the room together if we just had that chair! I fumed for a minute, thinking about what to do. I walked down the isle and saw a guy on a forklift moving some items around near the back of the warehouse. I walked over to the roped off section he was in and asked if he could bring something down for me. He said that they only do that at night and that he wasn’t allowed. After trying to ask in other ways, I gave up. I didn’t want to turn into the guy who uncomfortably wont let an issue go. I’ve worked in a demanding customer service environment and know how much of a pain it is when someone wont give up on trying to make you circumvent policy. I decided I would try the customer service rep one more time.

I asked the CSR if I could have some sort of assurance that it would be there tomorrow if I made the hour long drive in the morning. He said, rather fatalistically, that people come in and buy all of one particular item and that they could not predict the buying patterns of customers. I made some comment about not being happy, and he interjected randomly that he would not recommend me climbing up and getting them down myself. I thought that was kind of funny that he had a recommendation about something that seemed pretty dangerous. The boxes weighed maybe 45 pounds and are large enough to be be hard to cary. Getting that down from 8 feet up while balancing on structured, metal shelving, seemed kinda crazy.

I finally was so angry that I asked for the floor manager and was directed to the checkout area. This was the second trip I had made to IKEA in as many weeks and really wanted to finally get the chair. After speaking with another person, waiting 10 minutes, and cooling off, a nice lady came over to listen to our story. She re-stated that they could not get the items down for safety reasons, but told me she would ship the missing item free of charge direct to my door. She took my address, phone number, and called me the next day to process the order and send it out. I had it the following day on the front porch and happy about not having to spend another 2 hours in a car to and from IKEA or any money on shipping charges. I knew that there was a way to get what I wanted without being a jerk to the staff.

Kudos to Ross for the expert negotiation tactics. Have you ever pulled off a deal as sweet?