It was right before the Super Bowl, so we decided to shop at IKEA, a big box furniture store.

chancedagger.wordpress.comI was helping a senior citizen to purchase some bedroom furniture for her new apartment.  IKEA is renowned for offering attractive furniture at good prices.  But there are some quirks, and it may not be the best store for senior citizens.

That afternoon, the average shopper age would have increased dramatically when we visited.  This is because at IKEA, the average shopper age is about 22.  But even with us shopping, this average did not increase by much.  There were about 13,000 shoppers on the premises, plus or minus.  Two shoppers a bit over 22 years old wasn’t going to nudge that curve.

IKEA is iconic but also ironic in many ways.  It is a Swedish mega super-dooper store, the Super Bowl of furniture outlets.   However, when you think of Sweden, extreme mass-consumption and giant, over-the-top big box stores don’t come to mind.  Yet, IKEA is a palace for mass-consumption, albeit a low-rent district palace.  IKEA’s explosive growth has been helped by the explosive growth of personal space.  In the US, living quarters have expanded dramatically, and one needs to furnish all of those additional rooms.

IKEA’s layout is late-20th century factory store.  You park in an expansive parking lot that requires police escorts on weekends to handle the traffic.  Once inside, you take an escalator up to the display floor, which features a long and winding road through acres of furniture.  The path is roundabout and difficult to stray from.  There are a few shortcuts like in Candyland.  But overall, once inside the big IKEA box, you are their’s for the afternoon.

The store offers modest furniture at lower prices, but nothing in life is free.  To achieve the discount, you must identify what you want and then pick up the package in vast warehouse that appears at the end of the long and winding show room path. 

You are invited to lug the packages home by yourself.  Then comes the college-age ritual of assembly- hours and hours spent attaching the carefully labeled pieces, guided by an illustrated guide which should make sense if you are an engineer.  It is possible to have someone else select the correct furniture box, assemble and deliver it, for a hefty fee.  But this is not expected and is clearly not part of the IKEA experience.  You’re supposed to do it all by yourself.

IKEA’s quality is OK but the furniture design life is somewhat less than that of a bridge.  Should you wish to disassemble the furniture and attempt to move it, probably the design life will drop by many years.  If it doesn’t fall apart, the finished product does look pretty good, in a retro-modern kind away.  This and the relatively low cost attract the hordes that congregate at the store.

The IKEA near my house is so busy on weekends that the nearby freeway has warning signs to expect traffic jams at the exits.  The day of our visit, hundreds of twenty-somethings were mulling about testing the chairs and mattresses. 

IKEA is definitely for the young, where the youth is not wasted.  The store layout and facilities had little support (or invitation) for senior citizens to shop.  Gamely we made our way.  We found the desired items, deciphered the Swedish names, and made it to the check out counter after an hour of wandering through the furniture desert. 

Delivery was to be in 3 weeks, but the (patient) attendant let us know that an order could only be entered up to 10 days in advance.  Otherwise, there was another fee, 10 dollars a day. Distraught, we wandered another 30 minutes to the exit, resigned to visit another day (you could type in the order on the web, but this also involved a large fee).  Near the exit, we shuffled past the restaurant, where Swedish meatballs were roasting. 

The wafting odor of the meatballs trailed our exit, back out into the mega parking lot.  Policemen were trying to manage traffic control as the 20 somethings dragged their boxes to waiting trucks and vans.