Ikea must truly be the world's most democratic place. While equipping our apartment in Madrid, we made the requisite stop there. After spending an hour and a half configuring something called the "blobbi" or the "schlaghklumf" or some other lump of unpronounceable Scandinavian syllables for our living room couch and various other pieces of furniture, we were in for a nasty surprise. Things have changed since our last stop in Ikea outside Paris in the mid-nineties. You no longer drop off your ticket at the warehouse and wait for them to bring you your boxes. Each piece of furniture comes with it's own aisle and item number; you grab your cart and off you go to the warehouse to find each individual item and lift it onto your cart, before proceeding to checkout. This might work just fine for one or two items, but gets tiresome when you are equipping a whole apartment.
Talk about a company that knows how to squeeze a margin. I look at the smiling employees (they all mostly seem happy to work there) re-stocking items and ask my husband if we couldn't just hand one of them 20 or 30 euros to get our stuff for us? He said this just isn't done and they would be offended that I am trying to subvert their egalitarian Scandinavian ethos with my filthy American money and expectations. I wonder about the supposed high level of youth unemployment in Spain and other European countries. Surely it wouldn't cost Ikea anything to let these people earn tips by getting people's boxes for them at the warehouse? Where's the evil in paying for extra service? Why isn't Ikea online, or is it?
Marc tells this story to Sacha (Labourey)--our friend and former colleague at JBoss and RHT, who sympathizes. "I know what you're saying. The other day, I needed to buy some furniture for a family house in the mountains. I called up Ikea and told them that I had rented a truck and was going to drive 200 km just to get some furniture there and could they please reserve the pieces I wanted. They responded: No, we can't do that. All we can tell you is that there are eight of those items left and they are going fast, so we recommend you hurry."
We find ourselves reflecting. When we were young and didn't have money, we went to places like Ikea. Now that we're older and more settled, we are still still doing many of the exact same things. Some things don't change.