8 IKEA Shopping Tips From A Former Employee

A former IKEA worker tells us how some tips for making your jaunt through furniture Legoland more enjoyable and efficient.

1. IKEA lives on add-on sales, and where they make their money. The stores are designed to get you though every department, but there are shortcuts. Use them liberally; ask for the fastest way to where you need to go. There’s a ton of cheap stuff along the way for you to grab, and it adds up fast. Before you check out, evaluate what’s in your cart and if you really need/ want it and you’ll save a good chunk of cash. Also, in the first showroom area, avoid what’s called the ‘open the wallet’ area- tons of small, cool, cheap stuff you can grab- it gets you in the buying mood, and ‘opens your wallet’. Everything there is duplicated later on, so if you see something really cool, write it down and look for it later.

2. The 30-day return policy is (sort of) a lie. IKEA will generally return stuff like wal-mart (but should not be confused with that evil place), so keep receipts if at all possible. And if anything is wrong with the product, take it apart and bring it backw. Be sure to check the boxes for damage before you check out.

3. Go midweek, even in the evening. Particularly if you’re buying a lot of stuff. It’s slower, and coworkers are going to be more available and willing to help.

4. IKEA sells tons of cheap crap, but the higher priced stuff is well worth the money, lasts for a long time and usually carries a warranty.

5. Just because something isn’t on the shelf doesn’t mean it’s not in stock. Note the article number shown on the tag, and find someone at an info station (or walking around) and have them look it up. If it’s out of stock, there is usually info on when it’s coming in. Note: most peons won’t know all of this, so if they don’t know or are confused, seek the almighty duty manager. They can find out (and might give you free stuff. Ask). If the item is truly out of stock, and there is no delivery info (which means it’s 4-6 weeks out, minimum), they can sell you the floor model, BUT at full retail price. At this point, be on your best behavior, and ask if there’s any way at all it can be discounted, because of that scratch or whatever (remember: be nice. If you’re a dick, they won’t help you after this). What can be done if you play your cards right is this: They’ll send you, item on flat cart, to the as-is department. While you’re on your way down, they’ll call and tell them Jane Doe is on her way with article 503.243.22 from the sales floor, and can you give them an as-is price on it? Once there, they’ll mark it down some for you and you’re good to go. NOTE: Once something becomes as-is, it’s just that- you can’t return it, no matter what, so make sure you want it.

6. If you’re buying lots of stuff (e.g., kitchens, home office, furnishing whole house): buy in stages. This way you can use your (friend’s) truck, instead of delivery (which is by the piece). Also, when pieces come up with missing parts or damaged, you’re already going back, so you don’t have to get all upset about making another trip. Also, when doing this, talk to a few people in (workIKEA, kitchens, whichever department) to get to know them and their knowledge of the product, so when you come back, you know who to talk to (when I worked in kitchens, a few customers asked my schedule for the next week so they’d come in when I was there. Not that I’m so great, it just meant I knew their order, what they were doing, and they wouldn’t explain every time they came in. It always turned out well for them).

7. Missing parts are the bane of everyone’s IKEA experience. The following steps are the best way to resolve this: A) Know what you need. Each screw, peg, etc, has a part number. This is found on the first page of the instructions. Also, each item has an 8 article number, printed right next to the bar code. Knowing these two numbers will save you tons of time.
B) call your local store. Do NOT speak with the operator; they usually won’t do you any good. Ask for either the department it’s from (Living rooms, kitchens, etc) or the recovery department.
C) Tell them the article number and they’ll look up the product, and can pull up its instructions (if you’re missing the instructions, they can also print them out and mail them to you), and the part number you need. They can then mail it to you.

8. If you’re having problems with a CSR (‘coworker’) politely ask to speak with the duty manager. They have to call them. Managers at IKEA usually live and breathe IKEA and will do anything to keep you happy. So get the manager, explain your situation, and they’ll bend over backwards for you.

(Photo: Ben Popken)