Let’s Talk About…IKEA
Inevitably, in this life, one will encounter challenges so daunting it takes every fiber of one’s being to press on. There will be times when the task at hand is so physically and mentally punishing it is tempting to just give up. Alas, I experienced one such moment today as I embarked upon the ritual performed by oh-so-many broke students across the world: Battling with IKEA furniture.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love IKEA. Those Swedish people know a thing or two about efficient furniture design, not to mention a positive customer experience. I adore that parents can check their kids at the entrance. I revel in meandering down a pathway through what appears to be a several-football fields-sized house with way too much furniture in it. I thrive on the scent of Swedish meatballs wafting past my nostrils as I consider whether to buy the BJÖRKUDDEN or the STORNÄS dining table for my little apartment. I dig feeling like Lisbeth Salander, if even for a moment (despite the fact that 1) I know nothing about computer hacking and 2) she is way cooler than I’ll ever be).
Things started to get complicated, however, when I left the store. Despite the very clear instructions, I managed to do just about everything in my power to sabatoge my own furniture-building experience. If the directions told me to screw the table leg onto the outside of the frame, for example, I would immediately attempt to screw it onto the inside. I wish I could blame my idiocy on poorly written instructions, but alas, they are all pictoral:
After much sweating and cursing, I reigned victorious over my table. 1 point, me!
However, I got a bit over confident at that point, and started building the chairs with too much gusto, which ultimately led to 1) fairly severe blistering on my right thumb, ring finger, and palm and 2) my breaking several critical plastic pieces that I’m sure are important to the structural integrity of the chair. I’m not going to lie – I actually considered just winging it for a moment and trying to keep building with the broken pieces, but quickly reconsidered after I pondered the negative effects on my body / psyche if I were to sit in the chair and have it promptly collapse.
2 points, IKEA.
On a positive note, the customer service people at IKEA are very helpful, and shipped me replacement parts free of charge, so I will commence the good fight again in a mere 5-7 business days. IKEA won the battle, but I will win this war (if I don’t I’ll have nowhere to sit in my apartment).
In all seriousness, though, IKEA has a really interesting business model. It’s the kind of company that I would love to do a case on next year at HBS. Their customer experience is great, the design and packing of the furniture is innovative, and they are a huge, multi-national brand with an impressive supply chain. Plus, after you buy your furniture and collect your kid from the kid-check, you can go have a meal of authentic Swedish meatballs. How many other companies do that?!
In closing, I’d like to acknowledge that this experience reaffirmed what I already knew about myself: I would suck at being an engineer. Guess it’s a good thing I’m going to business school…
I’m glad we talked about that.