Posted by: Rodney Shaw | July 7, 2009

Why I Hate IKEA

A person gets to make his last mistake only once. I almost made mine tonight. I went to IKEA. It was nearly fatal.

IKEA is the most confusing collection of cheap stuff under a single roof in any town. There were piles and piles of second-quality textiles and things made out of cardboard. There was lots of veneer. And they were unashamed; the bargain basement was on the first floor.

I saw the largest collection of wax paper lamps I have ever seen in my life. On second thought, I don’t recall ever seeing wax paper lamps before going to IKEA. And innumerable futons. (Or were those beds? I am not sure.) I have no idea what the marketing strategy is for this carnival. Instead of excelling at anything, it appears they are pursuing mediocrity in countless expressions.

There didn’t seem to be enough choices of any one thing—something was definitively unsatisfying about everything I saw, and therefore I never saw, for instance, a bed that I cared to spend five bucks on. And at the same time, there were way too many of everything—there were no less than 3,028 unsatisfying beds. They have heaps and piles and stockpiles, but at the same time they have nothing at all.

There is no way to describe the place. It is something along the lines of a road-side furniture vendor meets Home Depot meets Costco. All this chaos is strewn through a cavernous building about the size of a Texas high school football stadium. There aren’t very many employees, but most of them push pallet jacks.

IKEA is not a store; it is a marketing labyrinth. All you know for sure is that there is an entrance. Beyond this nothing is certain. The front door opens up into a one-way, narrow aisle that snakes through the place. There is an occasional arrow on the naked concrete floor pointing the way or a sign hung from the exposed rafters that announces the next collection of junk, but there are no exits, no ways out. Turn after turn after turn after turn. I thought it would never end. It was like a bad dream in a spook house. And each turn brought another display that looked like the one in the last room. The trip was so long that at the mid-way point the trail spilled into a meatball diner where weary travelers could stop and refresh themselves before continuing on their journey. I must admit that is about the weirdest thing I have ever seen. Seeing people on a date at a furniture store is odd.

There is a cultic dimension to IKEA. There is a devoted following—Ikeans, they call themselves. They will invite you over to their house or corner you in the church foyer. They tilt their heads slightly, raise their brows, and ask, “You been to IKEA, yet?” They do not ask in an inquisitive just-wondering-if-you’ve-checked-out-this-place-yet sort of way. Oh, no. It is scolding. It is condescending arrogance of infinite magnitude, the voice of one of the elect speaking to the uninitiated. The unspoken subtext is that everything you own is trash and should be replaced with white, veneered, particle board furniture and cardboard accents imported from Helsinki.

And if they can’t get you, they will go after your kids. My daughter keeps saying, “Victoria got such-and-such at IKEA,” or “Alexis’s mom got her this really cool piece of junk at IKEA. We ought to go there sometime. They have meatballs.” It’s subtle.

Being lost in the bowels of such a place is terrifying. At one point I wanted to break and run. I don’t know where I would have gone, because I don’t think I could have found the exit, but I wanted to run nonetheless. And scream. I wanted to run and scream. And set my hair on fire. Yes, that was the feeling I had. I wanted to set my hair on fire, scream bloody murder, and run as fast as I could. I wanted to run like a bottle rocket without a stem and bounce around and run over things and run into things and spew flames all over everything until something broke down.

Their strategy must be to wear you down so you will buy something—anything—before you leave. They even have a store after the check-out counters. So after you pay, you can go shopping again. We were some of the braver ones. We didn’t buy a thing. Just as I was preparing to set fire to my luscious locks, as we were walking through what looked like a Sam’s Club with towering shelves loaded with cardboard boxes, we saw the exit. We made a run for it! I was tempted to stop at the hotdog stand by the door, but I figured better hotdogs could be found elsewhere.

IKEA is what happens when America imports rather than exports.


© Rodney Shaw and 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rodney Shaw and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



  1. I Hate Ikea and I needed a definitive reason other than poor service unshipped product and a charged credit card along with 3 hours on the phone.
    Thanks for summing it all up for me.
    I will save my time if I ever come across one.

  2. I live in Winnipeg, MB, Canada & we just had IKEA open here. I only went there because my daughter wanted one of their duvets as a Xmas present. What a nightmare this place is!

    Everything you say is funny but oh so true. The product wasn’t in stock in the size I wanted, although the website said it was. The fabric was so flimsy (threadcount 120) I figure it MIGHT last one washing if I was lucky. The place is like some weird barn with people wandering around like strange zombies. Shipping items costs a fortune, because I was told by a CSR, that the warehouse for product to Canada is based in California. Does this make sense ?? Duh??

    I swear I will never go to this store again – crappy, cheap product, poor service & a cult-type environment!!! Add me to your list of “I Hate Ikea!”

  3. Funny piece – but I’m afraid I love Ikea. It is what it is, you may have to be in the mood, but you get what you pay for. I just got a £17 table for my artshed – it may be cheap but will be a usefull creative tool for a long long time. Tea lights, yes, but got to throw a cactus in there too. Billy bookcase sold every 10 seconds worldwide – they must be doing something right.

  4. I wonder if the author has seen the “30 Rock”episode that tackled this very issue….

  5. Today I drove an hour and a half to confront the same exact thing. Cheap, cheap, cheap ….3rd world JUNK! What was all the hype? Dorm room furniture. To top it off, they were advertising pork sandwiches or something or other over their loud speaker. Gross.

  6. Tooooo funny! Great post!

  7. ahahah

  8. I laughed until I cried, wish I had written this!

  9. After much deliberation and postponing, my wife and I (ad)ventured over the IKEA. As we pulled up to the parking garage, the need for attendents were the tip- off that we were heading into an exerience. The garage was bustling with pedestrians, cars pulling in and backing out, shopping carts everywhere, kids in-tow behind moms in a hurry. We all rushed the entrance, heading eagerly into the bowels of this behemouth warehouse. As you enter, our senses were on alert as the food smells from their restuarant mixed with the smell of particle board and veneers hit us. Add in the mass of humanity, you are caught up in the flow through a maze-like tour with arrows pointing you in the right direction. Through the massive amounts of hearth and home items for all to peruse. People were salivating over this stuff, which appeared to be made in China. We followed the maze to the exit and couldn’t get out there quicker. We took a pass on all the Swedish design stuff and the 50 cent hot dogs too. Reminded me of a flea market or tourist attraction instead of a shopping experience.

  10. Rodney, I feel exactly the same way and am so glad that I am not alone.

    IKEA is awful.

  11. I’m half Swedish, I’m a cabinet and furniture maker, and IKEA represents everything I loathe- shoddy workmanship, planned obsolescence, mediocre design, and of course ‘I get everything here!’ People who use only Apple gadgets, drive only Beemers, work only with Festool machines, and of course ‘I did my entire house in IKEA…’ So I suppose Ikea only exists because there are an awful lot of people who delegate their sense of the aesthetics to a company, sit back, and relax.

  12. Great writing! You had my wife and I laughing til we teared up. She hates the unending maze. I think some of their stuff is clever. We went for lunch yesterday. I had meatballs. We had a coupon.
    Thanks for the laughs.

  13. “Their strategy must be to wear you down so you will buy something—anything—before you leave.”

    😉 that is exactly the point. Being in there for the first time, you already figured them out.
    Nevertheless if you have a girl-friend or wife you will have to spend more time in this female-heaven-filled-with-useless-stuff.
    Trust me on this one. The diner place in the middle was only created for the men to leave their wives to themselves.
    No control means more spending!

  14. People always talk about ikea being the answer for budget furnishing… how about buying reused pieces? How about waiting and doing without a fully furnished room for a while? How did imported junk become preferable to empty space… oh, marketing.

  15. I wish all churches would read this before settling for IKEA items for their furnishings and not having to repurchase everything over time.

  16. I recently had my first experience with the terror that is Ikea, and I turned to the internet for some consoling and found this post. Thanks for posting this; it’s good to know that I’m not alone.

  17. Great writing!!!

  18. I am at IKEA a lot these days..I think what I like about it the most is the style..I agree with you that it will probably not last us to our last breath, but it is super fun in the mean time! SOOOO what were you thinking at the

  19. As usual, Bro. Shaw, you maketh a weary heart healthy…your Ikean remarks were enjoyed by me and my husband. I miss you guys so much. Now about Ikea…their furnishings do meet the budgets of some.who are suffering from addiction..if they want to keep going back and going back and going back!
    oh, yeah, the website is under construction but the email address is good

  20. One mans trash, is another mans treasure……

    James 2
    1My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
    2For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
    3And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
    4Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
    5Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
    6But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

    JMHO:-) I say most of this in jest, knowing that you, Brother Shaw, would be the last person to ever make light of the poor, and our IKEA ways…;-) ha, ha!

    Funny article though;-)

  21. I must admit that I had those same feelings when walking by your side…but they did have some cool cheap organizational things…hmm…maybe we should make another run over there?!:)

  22. I am so pleased that we have such a great church culture that one of the saints can destroy the associate pastor and everyone is still friends. Well done, Aida.

    But, Aida, I note that, though you mention the one income, four kids, and trying to be part of building the vision, you failed to mention your big, beautiful house. 🙂

    IKEA is soul-destroying.

  23. Oh my, where do I begin? This is your blog so you can say whatever you want. However, you chose to email me a link on this particular subject and mentioned my daughter and myself in this attempt to ridicule. You obviously wanted a here it is, Bother 🙂
    First, of all, I agree that Ikea is a place full of mediocre stuff. But it works for people that have one income, four kids and trying to be part of building a vision. I find it funny that you mention when “Ikeans” ask if you have been there it’s in a condescending and arrogant way, when it is YOUR arrogance and condescension that I read throughout this expression of thoughts.

    I like quality things as much as you do, but realize that I must be content with what I can afford at this time in my life. So for now, bring on IKEA, Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s Target and I will buy their “trash”.

    BTW, I would have loved to see you set your hair on fire. I might save some IKEA money and pay to see that!

  24. This post is hilarious! I’ve never been in an Ikea. Thanks for the warning. LOL

  25. Enjoyed this witty read!
    I must confess, however, that IKEA has wonderful accessories — and if you are a college student on a budget, it’s the place to be. Very aesthetic, though we all know it’s not Grade A quality.

  26. Despite this, Seth and Sarah’s housewarming committee is requesting that all gifts be in the form of IKEA gift cards…hahaha.

  27. This is so cool. It’s what so many of us REALLY think about this store, but are too chicken to say out loud for fear of riling the fans.

    Instead of setting fire to your “luscious locks,” wouldn’t it be cool to see some of that stuff burn? Tons of plastics, weird colors, melting and melding into puddles and weird shapes…

    Thanks for a great post, as usual.

  28. OH!!!!!!! Rodney, That was so funny… makes me never want to enter the doors of those stores ever.
    Thanks for the WARNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. “They have heaps and piles and stockpiles, but at the same time they have nothing at all.”

    The Swedes (or Finns or whoever they are) have discovered the way to America’s heart!

    Great post. I was reading this late at night and my chuckles were disturbing those sleeping nearby. I’ll really have to psyche myself up for my inevitable visit to Ikea (sounds like I should prepare for a Disney-like experience 😉 ).

  30. There are a few good things about IKEA – Tea Light Candles in bulk that I can’t find anywhere else.. Uh, my wife can’t find anywhere else. The closest one to us is about 60 miles away and there is absolutely no way I’ll drive there just to get candles…

    Good post!

  31. hilarious! best laugh I’ve had in a while!

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