Man Fights IKEA Customer Service Over Defective LILLBERG Couch, Loses

A week after we moved and put the new covers on, our IKEA LILLBERG sofa broke. Right in half. The main support beam gave out right at the dovetail joint, and even split a board in the process. We were devastated, but figured that we’d be able to wrangle something out of it. Standard customer service would replace the couch, right?

brokelllilberg.jpg

My fianc

e and I purchased a sofa from IKEA in August of 2006 for our new apartment in Bloomington, IN. We purchased it from the Bolingbrook, IL store because it was near her parents house, where she was staying until the move. It’s a wood frame model with separate cushions, almost like a futon, but we appreciated it’s minimalistic design and size – long and deep. The cushions also had removable covers, which was a feature that we liked. Fast forward to a year later, after we decide to move across town to a rental house. There’s no way we can get the couch out of the door and we’re afraid of damaging it, so I take it apart using the instructions that came with it. We assembled it in our new living room according to the same instructions and decided that when we took a trip back to Chicago that weekend, we’d spend all the IKEA giftcards we’d been saving up. We blew all $300 we had in giftcards on new furniture and then decided that as a treat we’d buy $60 worth of new covers for our sofa. Which was a mistake.

After calling about a bad zipper in a sofa cushion, I learned that IKEA’s policy for returns and exchanges relies on going back to the original store that you bought the item from. So I called the Bolingbrook store and spoke with a standard customer service representative. This girl said that we’d have to bring it into the store, no other way to go about it, and once in the store, they’d be able to do a quality inspection of the item to make sure it wasn’t just regular wear and tear. It was a bit frustrating, but prospects looked good. The main hurdle seemed to be to convince IKEA to ship us a replacement so that we wouldn’t spend $150 in gas money to replace what is a $150 sofa frame – money that we didn’t have to begin with.

I called back the next day and after getting the same spiel, I asked to speak with a supervisor. I told the supervisor the issue that we had, and how it was a near impossibility for us to get to the store. She agreed to let us send in photographs of the break, and asked us for the receipt information while informing us that the warranty was only good for thirty or ninety days (I don’t remember which one it was). Which was our first problem. We didn’t have the receipt. We’re not sure if we threw it out after keeping it for a year, or if it just got mixed up in the move. We’re assuming the latter since we’re normally really responsible for this sort of thing.

I sent the supervisor photographs of the couch, and she responded asking for the receipt information. I asked her if she’d be able to look up the receipt information based on the credit card we used to purchase it and the date of the purchase – we had the bank statement since it was purchased with a debit/check card and we were able to see that information. She responded that she was unable to do this and would not be able to help us along any further without this information.

I should mention that throughout this whole process, I was formulating a Plan B. An Executive Email Carpet Bomb. With the help of countless Instant Messenger conversations with Ben Popken, I was getting closer and closer to developing a list of executives who might hear my plea. I had the basic email formula from when I emailed the customer service representative and submitted it to the Consumerist – good thing I did, because it turns out that the formula isn’t used by higher ups. The day I decided to try and track down the names of IKEA executives was the day that The Consumerist broke the story of the corporate email addresses. So I formulated a letter and sent it off to the higher powers that be:

Dear IKEA,

I have been a very loyal customer. When I moved into my first apartment in Chicago, I spent four hundred dollars furnishing it with IKEA furniture. When I got engaged and my fianc

e and I decided to move to Bloomington, IN, we spent at least four hundred more. We asked only for IKEA giftcards as Christmas presents and saved up for a year, so when we finally took a trip back to Chicago to visit her parents, we bought three hundred more dollars of IKEA furniture and products to furnish the house we moved into.

In the last purchase, we bought $60 worth of new cushion covers for the Lillberg model sofa. We have loved this sofa and had it for just about a year, when about two weeks ago it cracked. The main support beam underneath the cushions along the front of the couch broke in half down the dovetail joint and split one of the main support boards in the process. I’ve included thumbnail pictures of this break from all angles. We purchased this couch at the Bolingbrook, IL store in August of 2006, and were distraught because it is the only couch we own and we loved it so much that we spent sixty more dollars on cushion covers in order to preserve the couch for years to come.

I have been in contact with customer service at Bolingbrook, and was recently told that the only solution would be to bring the couch into the store with the original receipt. After asking to speak with a supervisor and explaining that I do not live near the Bolingbrook store anymore, I was told that I would be able to send in photos of the couch in an email and she would try to help us out. But since we have just moved again, we haven’t been able to locate the original receipt. We contact the same customer service representative and asked if she would be able to look up our receipt information based on the card that we used to purchase it with, and she said that we had to have the original receipt or there was nothing that she could do for us.

By looking at the pictures, it’s fairly obvious that it was a basic structural failure of the product. We did not abuse the couch or engage in any rough use. I even took it apart and gingerly transported the pieces separately when we moved in order to avoid any breakage. We were hoping that we could get a replacement sofa frame shipped to us, but have been unable to contact anyone who could help us. A couch that is advertised for every day use should not break in just a year of every day use.

We would gladly try to bring the couch to the store if we lived in the area. But as it stands, our house is located 249 miles from the Bolinbrook store, and to transport it there we would be spending about two hundred dollars in gas for a round trip in order to replace a two hundred dollar couch. If we had the four hundred dollars to spare, we would have just tried to replace the sofa on our own dime.

I am very happy with the IKEA products that we have purchased. The quality and the value have allowed us to furnish a home for a fraction of the cost at a traditional furniture store. At the same time, we appreciate the values that IKEA holds. That is why we have been returning customers after all of these years. It makes me worried, though, that we have been able to get this situation rectified. One of the reasons we felt safe in buying only IKEA furniture has been the helpful customer service that we’ve received in the past. We simply cannot afford to replace this sofa on our own at this moment, and if this situation is not resolved, we will have to think twice about the next furniture purchase we make.

I have included many different photos of the break, but can provide larger images if you are interested. I would also like to be contacted about this issue by August 28th. It has been weeks now since we haven’t had a couch to sit on, and the sooner we can get this issue resolved, the better.

My phone number is _____________. I can also be contacted at jesse.raub@gmail.com.

Thank you for your patience and consideration,

Jesse Raub
____________
Bloomington, IN 47401
____________
jesse.raub@gmail.com

I tried to follow the basic tips I got from the last story about an IKEA EECB and from the posts about the book Unscrewed – I wanted to let them know that they’d be losing a lot of money from me as a customer. As I stated earlier, we spent $350 on our last trip, and at least $500-$800 in trips before that. Our tiny house resembles an IKEA shrine.

And a day later, I received a phone call from the Bolingbrook store manager. She asked me to recount my story and I did. And as soon as I had mentioned that I had moved to a new house in Bloomington, she insinuated that I may have damaged the couch in the move since they’ve never had any quality issues with the sofa before in the past. I reassured her that I took the couch apart and that I followed directions. She then implied that I must have put the couch together wrong and that it was my fault that it broke. She said that she would refuse to replace the couch, even if we took it into the store, even if we managed to dig up the receipt.

This was a shock. In our point of view, the entire time we were being told that the main issue was the distance from us and the store. We were fairly sure that replacement was inevitable, just not the free shipping. And to be honest, it was a bit insulting for her to tell me that it was my fault that the couch broke.

I was dejected, but got a letter from the IKEA corporate customer service branch a day later. This letter said that they would forward my information on to Bolingbrook and someone would contact me. The address was hand written, and the letter was personally signed. I thought, “Oh, this is great! These people actually care and will definitely care about how rudely I was treated!” I even had a documented case number and everything. On the letter was a phone number, 610- 834-0180 – the line that will connect you the IKEA corporate Customer Relations Managers.

Again, wrong. From what I’ve discovered, IKEA operates mainly as a franchise. All the stores function individually and almost independently from IKEA corporate, especially when it comes to customer service. I talked with one of the managers who pulled up my case information. I was ready to spew my whole story at her when she was able to re-cap it to me. All of my information was stored in the case and documented, and she was well briefed. She told me exactly what the Bolingbrook manager told me – they wouldn’t replace the couch, however this lady was much sweeter in telling me so. She explained that it was basically up to the stores discretion on whether or not they would replace the couch, and how there was nothing she could do. She also explained that there have never been similar complaints about the couch, and that if there ever were, they’d open up my case again and contact me. I asked if we could purchase a new couch and get free shipping. She informed me that the store could not ship this far, and that IKEA corporate wouldn’t be able to ship anything out either. And thus I was defeated. But not after spending 30 minutes on the phone repeating myself and trying to get her to budge an inch.

So what came out of this whole event? My advice to you if you ever need to contact IKEA customer service:

– Try calling the basic store. Start out easy – it might work

– Ask to speak to a supervisor. The supervisors are trained to be helpful – in fact, the call center supervisor was the only one who treated me with any sort of sympathy and attempted to help me.

– Try speaking to the Customer Relations manager.

– If none of that works, use the EECB. It will get their attention and somebody will contact you. At least you can get your case heard.

– ONLY TELL THEM THE BASIC FACTS. If I never said that I moved, they wouldn’t be able to blame it on the move. However, I do believe they would have tried to blame it on something else, but I didn’t need to offer that information before I was asked.

– If none of that works, try calling US Customer Relations and speak to an IKEA Corporate Customer Relations Manager, reached at 610-834-0180. They will create a case file for you, and it’s their job to make sure that all customer service inquiries are resolved in some way, shape, or form.

– Be persistent. It might not work in the end, but at least you can’t say that you never tried. I went all the way to the top and was denied. At least I know there was more than likely nothing else I could do.

After this debacle, I highly doubt I will be purchasing any other IKEA furniture. I’ve never had serious quality issues with the stuff in the past, but now I know that if I do, I’ll be screwed out of my money and left couchless. As for the broken frame? My dad’s coming down to visit us this Friday, and he’s bringing a power drill. Let’s see what sort of furniture hacking we can do.

Jesse did almost everything right, but In telling IKEA about his move, he gave them an excuse to deny his claim. Captured POWs need only give name, rank and serial number. The same principle applies in doing battle with customer service. Anything extra you give them can and will be used against you.

Also, he failed to at any point make it more costly for the original store to ignore you than to solve your problem. Consider the technique behind Company Ignoring You? Fax ‘Em To Death, or How To Kick A Scammy Car Dealer In The Nuts. They work by making a simple argument any business owner can understand.

Then again, perhaps Jesse’s next idea, getting a powerdrill and bolting the brace back together (bracing the brace is also an option), is the best, and one most in the IKEA spirit he enjoys so much.