IKEA's Customer Service Is Awful, What Should I Ask For As Compensation?

Here’s a question that never gets any easier to answer. When a company’s customer service drives you into a blinding rage or otherwise severely inconveniences you but doesn’t actually cost you any money… what, if anything, should you expect as compensation?

Reader Amara was trying to buy a couch. The couch was out of stock. IKEA said they’d order the couch from another store. So Amara waited. And waited. And waited.

Amara writes:

Question: What recourse do you ask for in a formal written complaint when you have not had a monetary loss? We’re going through a customer service ordeal with IKEA and – had we gotten the correct information at the time – we would have just gone to the Target down the street to get our couch.

Should we return the couch in protest? Keep the couch and demand a discount? Demand store credit? Or is an apology all we can hope for?

The Story: During the 4th of July weekend, my husband and I went to IKEA to buy our long-awaited couch. We had sold our old one when we moved apartments and went to North Africa before we could get around to buying another one. Back from our globe-trotting, we though the Saturday holiday would be a great time to go our normally packed South Philly store.

We picked out the Mysinge loveseat ($340 frame + cover) and then went to the customer service island to place our order. In hindsight, I should’ve known it was all a bad idea. The guy was young and looked as if he wished he were down at the shore.

He woke up enough to tell us our couch was out of stock but we could place an order and have it shipped to the store. He told us it would arrive by the 19th at the latest. We decided we could handle sitting on the floor of our living room for 12 days or less. He said they would give us a call when the couch arrived and asked for day and evening contact information. We paid for everything and left.

By the 17th, sitting on the floor was starting to feel not so Zen anymore so I called IKEA South Philly. The woman happily assured me, without feeling the need to check the order, the couch would be there by the 19th but they might need a day or two to sort out the shipment. And then she hung up.

By the 21st, our collective backsides were killing us so I called IKEA South Philly and asked why I hadn’t gotten a call yet about our couch. This time the woman looked up my order and said it wasn’t there. Then she told me that the 19th was just the estimated delivery date and that the original customer service guy should have told us that our order could take two to three weeks OR MORE. Had we known that, we wouldn’t have bought the couch there.

I escalated to the manager who was apologetic but explained that there was nothing they could do. They were shipping our couch all the way from New Jersey! He reassured me that I would get a call when it did arrive.

On the 27th, I wanted to find out if we would spend yet another weekend on the floor waiting for THE CALL. The IKEA South Philly guy checked my order and told me our couch was, in fact, at their location. I asked 1) how long it had been there and 2) why I hadn’t been called. He checked with the South Philly store manager and replied 1) they had no idea and 2) because they don’t call people unless the customer specifically asks them to on the order form and our order form had no such notation. The order form does have my phone numbers on it but that’s apparently beside the point.

I escalated to the store manager who told me that calling a customer was “just a courtesy” and since I didn’t request be called I wasn’t called. I explained again that the original customer service person said we were going to get our couch in 12 day and they would call us when it arrrived.

I expressed my frustration that I’d had four different interactions with four different explanations. During the second call, both a representative and a manager looked at the account and told me I was going to be called when the couch eventually arrived. Why didn’t they notice I didn’t have the apparently necessary “call me” note if it’s so important? The store manager was apologetic and seemed genuinely surprised when I asked for the address to make a formal complaint.

IKEA Attn: Customer Service Department 9930 Franklin Square Drive Baltimore, MD 21236

Now what? What form of recourse should I ask for in my complaint? What can I reasonably expect from this kind of situation?

There are (at least) two schools of thought on this one.

Philosophy #1) By buying from discount places, you take the risk of getting crappy customer service. Sometimes you will save money and you will be happy. Other times you will be annoyed and mad. This is the price you pay for being a cheapskate and shopping at places that don’t give a crap about you, don’t offer health care to their workers, cut costs at every opportunity, and/or otherwise do not offer “customer service.” This is also known as the “Greater Walmart F*ckwad Theory.”

Philosophy #2) IKEA should compensate you because they save boatloads of money by cutting customer service costs. If they screw up really badly, they should be able to throw you a gift card or something after they’re done rolling in their ill-gotten gains.

Here’s what you’re guaranteed to get from writing a complaint letter—peace of mind. You’ll feel a lot better.

And you just might get something more out of it. Maybe a gift card. We think it’s not a wasted effort to write a letter just because you’re mad.

All you can lose is the cost of paper and a stamp. Ask IKEA what they are willing to do to keep you as a customer. If the answer is “nothing,” then you’ll know to take your business elsewhere.

What do you think would be fair compensation for Amara’s troubles?

(Photo:scentzilla)