The Seven Levels of Ikea Hell

By IAN HARVEY/Principle Curator

It turns out Hell isn’t that hard to get to, in fact, it’s just about 24 minutes from my house in the guise of the North York Ikea store.

IKEA - Wikipedia
Ikea, Swedish for out of stock

It’s getting out Hell which is the big issue.

You see, I’ve been to Hell and back. It was a special kind of Hell, a place which I’m sure was the inspiration for Groundhog Day if not Dante’s Inferno.

Dante’s version was the first of three poems and was positioned as a comedy but I really don’t see anything funny about Hell. I mean, it’s Hell, for a reason right?

IKEA - SEKTION Base cabinet frame White
Sektion base cabinet

In my case it was Ikea Hell. Those who have been on the same journey can look away now, I know the PTSD will be kicking in and you’ll need a moment to breathe and centre yourselves.

Like most trips through Hell it started innocently enough. A couple of years ago we were redoing the main floor two-piece bathroom and we opted for kitchen base cabinets because there’s enough space and because the footprint of the first floor is just over 600 square feet, so anywhere we can create closed but accessible storage is a bonus.

Easy peasy. One base kitchen cabinet at 30 inches, two side cabinet at 15 inches each and I’d make a couple of fill pieces down the side since the space is actually 62 inches.

I was wary of Ikea but since Suzanne worked there for years in HR and Kitchens (strange combination don’t you think) she insisted it was the simplest and easiest way so we picked out the Akrum cabinets around Christmas time and agreed on colour and style for the drawers and doors.

That’s when we entered the first level of Hell because come February when I sat down to order it turns out Ikea had switched to a new fangled base line up called Sektion. This required a rethink but after an hour or so on the phone with someone and looking at the Website we figured out our order. We opted for delivery because everyone knows the store is Hell incarnate.

It was $80 but we thought, heck, two hours waiting around to order, have the pieces pulled, check them all, load them, drive home unload… was worth it.

And it was right up to the time I found out the new Sektion cabinets use a rail to mount them against the wall and no where when I was ordering did it tell me I needed to order the $10 rail separately. Having put together three Akrums in the past, I knew the top cabinets required a rail but not the base cabinets. This changed, apparently.

I had unknowingly entered the Second Level of the Seven Levels of Ikea Hell but I did get them to pay for the shipping when I pointed out that nowhere on the web page did it offer either the option to order the rail or suggest it was required.

Then I got to the second cabinet assembly and realized it was the wrong size. Now I was really on my way to Hell and back.

It also rendered the $80 I’d spent on having it all delivered a complete waste of money. Now I I had to hump the packages up to Ikea to return them, then stand around in kitchens to get someone to take my new order. Another two hours I’ll never get back.

And so to the Fourth Level of Hell. On returning home I kept thinking about how it cost me nearly $100 more for a couple of bits of chipboard slightly bigger than the chipboard I’d returned.

I looked at the receipt and realized they’d only credited me for two of the six drawers and with tax, I was short $90.

We were on to the Fifth Level of Ikea Hell in just three days. Back I went. Hung around at the returns desk. Gave them my story, told them I’d talked to the CSR by phone too. They checked with Loss Prevention and okay, here’s the $90 back.

Whew. Off home again and back to the bathroom where I arrive at the Sixth Level of Ikea Hell: Forvara drawers.

I won’t bore you with the details about how badly designed they are and how cheap and nasty they are but I will tell you that the instructions are crap.

After assembling the six drawers it turned out they wouldn’t close because they were overlapping each other. I called the support line and was told I had to put them on differently, so I did. It was worse.

Right there, we reached Level Seven of the Seven Levels of Ikea Hell.

So then I very calmly called support again.

“Could I talk to someone who has actually assembled these drawers for this cabinet?” I asked.

“Oh, no we don’t have anyone here like that, we just look at the manual,” they said.

BTW there are three different manuals which reference the drawers, their assembly and mounting.

After two or three rounds, an escalated email with pictures I got a call back.

Apparently the lower drawer is mounted using a red template in one position. The upper two drawers are mounted using the same template in a different position though you’d have to be clairvoyant to figure it out from the diagrams they give you in the manuals.

“Yes, well this is a new line and so it’s all new to us,” she said.

Having been through the Seven Levels of Ikea Hell, however, and lived to tell this tale without going postal I am left with some life lessons:

1) Ikea’s cabinets are getting cheaper and nastier with Sektion. The three cabinets, two doors and six drawers and drawers cost us about $900 with tax. Really, all told, the materials add up to $40 of wood and plastic, $15 for shipping and warehousing and $60 in customer service support. That’s why they charge so much because they spend half of the profits paying for employees to help you figure out why it doesn’t work.

2) Here’s the really big lesson for Ikea. With all it’s billions of dollars of revenues, fancy schmancy catalogues, advertising campaigns and branding in a digital age, why does it not have a You Tube channel? Have they never heard of Vimeo?

You can order a $10,000 kitchen on line through Ikea but you can’t find a single freaking video acting out the assembly steps from the manual?

Really? Not a single, non-verbal but with title overlays in the 17 languages for 28 countries you operate in?

Really? Peter Agnefjäll, CEO of Ikea Group. Call me. I have a few friends in the media business, a couple have their own agencies and I know several camera operators. We can do this for you. Take a couple of months of planning, couple of months of shooting and a couple of months of editing and uploading.

You could add $1 to each kitchen piece to pay for it all. And then you could cut calls to your Call Centre by 80 per cent.

Just sayin’. Cuz if you’d been through the Seven Levels of Ikea Hell, you’d get it.

2 thoughts on “The Seven Levels of Ikea Hell

  1. Totally resonate with “Really? Not a single, non-verbal but with title overlays in the 17 languages for 28 countries you operate in?” after a hard day of navigating through 3 manuals for a sofa bed only to realize they have combined all 6+ variants of the sofa into a single manual with absolutely no directions or indications. Bummer!

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