Tuesday 7 September 2004


Ah, timing. I rant away about Ikea's dreadful attitude to their customers, not realising that I should have waited a couple of weeks for them to demonstrate just how much worse they can get.

Yes, I went to Ikea last Friday. Why, when I hate them so much? Well, I've always maintained that Ikea is an utterly dreadful shop that sells really excellent products. Unfortunately, I want those excellent products, and no-one else sells them. Grr.

Anyway, first of all, they're introducing a 70p charge for paying by Visa or Mastercard, in an attempt to get more people to sign up to the Ikea credit card. (Amazingly, they are trying another tactic to complement the extortion: some bright spark has realised that one of the reasons no-one was taking their card was that it had an interest rate of about thirty zillion percent, and they have actually lowered it to something normal. Frankly, I can't see someone who displays those sort of thinking skills lasting long in the organisation. Anyway.) Fair enough, you might say, and I'd agree: it may show a startling lack of commercial nous, but they're free to take whatever type of payment they like in whatever way they like. No, what gets me is the way they're advertising it.

As you approach the store, there are teaser posters. "70p! Find out more inside!" "70p. What's it all about?" I paraphrase, but you get the idea. "What 70-pence bargain could be awaiting me inside?" you wonder. Once you're in, you're assailed by an announcement over the tannoy about every five minutes, shouting at you how wonderful it is that you can now pay 70p for the privilege of giving money to Ikea, an activity that was previously free. And the disconnect is bizarre: they're trying to sell this like it's some sort of benefit — at one point, the dreadful announcer says that, as well as the new charge, there are "even more savings" — but they still use the phrase "Ikea imposes new credit card charge on customers." Imposes? Isn't that a bit negative? Weird.

And then I got stuck in the lift. That's a first for me. It was only for a few minutes, so I can't really fault Ikea's emergency lift-opening response times, but there was a rather telling little detail. The security guard who got us out of the lift didn't speak to us. She spoke into her radio, telling someone that the lift was now open and we were out of it, but she didn't say a single word to any of us; not even a "Hello," let alone an apology or an "Are you all right?" She even avoided eye contact. Something fundamental is missing in Ikea's staff training. They just don't like their customers.

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