The distinctive appeal of Ikea fills store like Disney Land

SUNRISE, FL — It was the special appeal that a classically basic, $49, full-size bed frame had for me, with my exceptional eye for quality, integrity and a bargain, that drew me to join the masses who pulled into the Ikea store in Sunrise, Florida this afternoon.

A map of the location could be next the “Way the Hell and Gone” entry in the dictionary, which was one more thing that made me feel clever and industrious for going there to get a simple basic pine bed. My uniquely simple classic thrifty quality taste led me there. Only to be ushered in by no fewer than half a dozen of those guys with torch-like things who lead you to parking at major outdoor concerts (and easily more; I stopped being surprised enough to keep track). It’s not a store, it’s an event, it turns out.

You line up to get on the elevator, to walk through the front door, to walk through the place. If you forgot something in your car, like I did my glasses, it doesn’t occur to you you can go back and get it.

Your fellow Ikea goers push carts with big yellow bags stretched across the handle, so they don’t have to forgo any of the new necessities they discover along a trek that is actually reminiscent of a tour of the Guggenheim Museum. There’s only one way to go, one way out. The occasional store maps, which illustrate the maze you are in, show “short-cuts” the name, in this context seems to hint at “for losers,” but even if you are tempted to bypass the education in how to live in a room that has every necessity, and looks comfortable and completely unembarrassing, for a total of $750, or how to live in 230 square feet — it turns out those short cuts aren’t there. Perhaps no one used them, so they closed.

But discovering one of the little disillusionments of Ikea is reassuring; you already knew it was too good to be true. What a minor falsehood a missing short cut is.

More serious, as you wind your way around to where the tour is getting serious is the discovery in relatively small print that some of the beds that are on sale require the purchase of an additional mid-beam. That is substantially more crucial information than adjusting the store map for closed short cuts. This means you could get your bed frame home, put the whole thing together — add the slats, that, incidentally, they also don’t make a big deal of telling you your bed frame will be incomplete without (but at least that information is online) — and have the mattress fall right through the frame and onto the floor. Then you would have to go back to way the hell and gone, line up to park, take the elevator, walk in the store, through the exhibits of how to live in 230 square feet, or like a oxymoronically tasteful yuppie for $750, just to get a mid-beam. It seems like it would be simpler for everyone, including the call center customer service reps dealing with legions of new enemies on a daily basis, to put it in the box with the rest of the bed.

The maze had wound all the way to the “self-service” (as if there was some other kind of service, in other words, as if you were taking a clever, independent, plucky person’s option, when that is the only place the maze leads) when I saw that “this needs a mid-beam sign.” It put a chill through me, and I tried to file it away, but let it slip my mind in the midst of locating aisles 28 and 30, (by common aisle definition they are one and the same) for, respectively, bed frame and slats.

Then, on the cart jostling, warehouse store type check out line, one customer after another hit some kind of obstacle that halted their progress and led to dialogue with the great cheerful guy whose function I had once dreamed was only to pass the scanner over cartons of goods, and tell people when to swipe their credit cards. Two guys up three carts ahead got into a discussion with the cashier that lasted at least 20 minutes while everyone behind them began to gesture, make faces, slap the boxes of wood stacked up on their own carts (everything but talk, on the whole because Ikea draws an international crowd it turns out, who can’t count on complaining in the same language.

I told him, the young woman with an ornate Italian sounding accent said, this is the cash register, not the information counter, no?

So I went up and said, why not call a manager to work out the details, we are all waiting.

And the big cheerful cashier said nonchalantly I’ll get to you shortly.

And when he did, what do you know, I got the same individualized attention. He said, This bed might need a midbeam. To which I said, if I have to get back on this line, I’m leaving everything right here. To which he said, then your mattress will fall through right on the floor, which showed he hadn’t been listening, so I explained no it wouldn’t because I wouldn’t have a bed. Then while we waited for someone to call him back to tell him if the Fjellse bed needed a mid-beam we passed the time discussing ways to make that addition less of an ordeal . . .

And then it turned out it didn’t — that I had cleverly picked out a $49 double bed (plus $20 for the slats) that didn’t need one more extra piece — and I completed the transaction, wheeled my cart out, leveraged the lead heavy box of bed bits into my car, and felt very uniquely smart over the whole adventure.


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