An Amused Shopper’s First Ikea Experience

Thomas, the oh, so proper British voice on Waze, got the pronunciation wrong.

“Turn right. Then, keep right. Then, Eekaya will be on the right.”

“EEkaya,” I said. “Is it EEkaya, or Eyekeeia?”

“Eyekeeia,” my daughter said.

“I think you’re right,” I said as I kept right. I had heard it pronounced by my sister, who had told me about Ikea, and who would know such things. “But I like EEkaya better.”

Just then, the trees to my right parted, and the incredible blueness of the Ikea building came into view. It was the second time I had seen the building. I had forgotten about the blueness. This picture, carelessly shot with my phone, does not do it justice. It is bluer than my Air Force Blues, and about as blue as my Nivia bottle. It is about as blue as blue can get and still be blue, and not, say, purple. And the only thing that out-did the blueness was the goldness of the single contrasting color. I asked my daughter if it was yellow or gold, and she opted for yellow. I thought it was gold.

It was a great, square Lego of a building, not a window to be seen, although I would soon discover that I was wrong about that. The windows could have only been on one side that had been obscured by trees, so as to not disrupt the overpowering experience of that first blue impression.

I eyed a cop standing near the entrance, and wondered if something had happened, or it he was part of store security. I found a parking spot near one of the wide sidewalks that run between some of the rows of cars, and we got out.

By the time we made the short walk to the front of the store, the cop was gone. We dutifully went into the entrance. A couple of young associates gestured vaguely as we went in the only possible direction that one could go in. We found ourselves in a stream of people winding about the store. It was not crowded, but one definitely did not want to go upstream. I took a picture of an illustrative corner (which turned out poorly), and opined that the only thing that was missing were arrows on the floor.

That’s when I noticed the arrow on the floor. I took a pic of it as well. There was something unusual about the arrow. It was oddly luminescent. It nagged me for a short while before my daughter pointed out that it was not painted on the floor, but projected.

We tried out a wing chair, and then rejoined the river of people.

“We’re being herded,” I said.


My daughter had no comment.

The furniture was true to the catalog that Ikea had sent to my home some months ago. A preponderance of white and steel, pale wood and modernity, except the odd wing chair or other enduring classics. Some of the couches looked very comfy. I pointed out a dinette set and said, “I like that, but it’s way too short for you.”

I live with tall people. At 5’6″, I’m the shortest one.

Most of the furniture did seem a bit short. I spotted a corner desk for $168, that looks very similar to the one I am using now, and which I paid $199 for. It looked equal in quality to mine. But, it seemed a bit short. I didn’t bring a tape measure, so I can neither prove nor disprove this impression.

At a kitchen display, we spotted something we wanted. It was a tablet stand, of pale bamboo, perfect for my iPad, and perfect for our (tall) kitchen table. When I decided I wanted one, my daughter said she wanted one as well.

There was only the one tablet stand visible. On it was a tag that indicated that I could pick one up in the Kitchen Showroom. I looked around. Was I not standing in the very definition of a Kitchen Showroom? I spotted a little back room and went in, but it was apparently a Pantry Showroom. There was nothing in there that did not have a similar blue tag.


There was no help for it. I would simply have to remember the tablet stand when I reached the actual Kitchen Showroom. Or maybe there is an App for That? Turns out, there is. And the introductory description even addresses the very need that I encountered just then. “The IKEA Store app is here to make shopping in the store smooth and simple. From planning your visit to remembering everything when you get there …”

So there. That’s what I did wrong. I neglected to plan my visit (at all), and I failed to download the app. I have also been neglecting to properly capitalize IKEA.

We rejoined the flow and after a short walk, I did find the Kitchen Showroom, which contained neat stacks of stuff, all clearly identifiable and packaged in white. After a brief search, we found our tablet stands and rejoined the flow.

At this point, I began to look around for a restroom. There was a one-dimensional map of the store that depicted all the various departments with large dots, arranged in a row rather than a representation that showed all the turns and twists. It reminded me of subway maps. No attempt to be realistic, other than what is ahead or behind. I discovered that the restroom was near the store restaurant, which was only a few stops ahead.

“We’ll have to check out the cookies when we get there,” I said to my daughter. She agreed. I had heard all about the delicious cookies from my sister–the same one who had provided the authoritative pronunciation. We found the restroom, but since I had neglected to grab a shopping cart on the way in, we had no where to put our not-yet-our iPad stands. I had no convenient husband around to act as my merchandise holder, so I broke a strict shopping taboo by bringing the tablet stands into the bathroom. We did our business in the spotless bathroom, and then went in search of cookies.

The restaurant area is the lone part of the store that had windows. it had a cafeteria-style serving area, cash registers, and plenty of tables. We beelined for the dessert section, and looked around for the fabled cookies. And while I saw plenty of other delicious-looking desserts, such as cupcakes and sliced chocolate cake, there was not a cookie in sight. Perhaps I should have looked near the cashiers. While there, I looked at over dinner menus, which looked quite nutritious and delicious. I was tempted and speculated that my daughter might find find something she likes here. She informed me that she would prefer McDonalds.

We left the cafeteria and found ourselves in another Kitchen Showroom. This one had lots of dishes and cookware. I thought I saw a cast-iron frying pan, so I headed there, as I am always in search of the perfectly-sized cast iron frying pan. I found a frying pan, but no cast iron.

My daughter expressed a wish to check out, so I inspected one of the subway signs. I noticed that there were a few shortcuts indicated, and one led to the exit. I found the indicated shortcut, which is a narrow passage between sections, sans arrows. Think of it as a tributary in our river metaphor. We did have to swim upstream a short ways to get to said tributary, but no one gave us any dirty looks.

Ahead of us, there were only other Showrooms visible, so I asked one of the ubiquitous sales associates, who wore blue and yellow striped shirts, where the checkout area was. She indicated (without using so many words) that if I were to continue to swim downstream, I would find myself there.

And I did.

As we headed toward the cash registers, I, at last, spotted the cookies. I picked up a box.

“They’re tea biscuits,” my daughter said.

And that’s exactly what they were, except I thought they were more like animal crackers, each shaped as an I, a K, an E or an A. I had been envisioning a delicious chocolate chip cookie, not animal crackers, no matter how delicious they were reputed to be. I put it back. My daughter made no objection. We were checked out with the perfect blend of efficient and friendliness. On the way out, we passed a “Wrapping and Inspection” table. There was no Inspector about, so I wondered what that was all about.

And we were done. Our first IKEA experience was in the bag. Without a bag.

We hit a McDonalds on the way home.

11 Thoughts to “An Amused Shopper’s First Ikea Experience”

  1. My first IKEA experience was in Hamburg, Germany. We’d gone to Germany to visit our friend and her family, and we made the three-hour drive to Hamburg specifically so we could go there. It’s quite an overwhelming place–huge and yet somehow efficient. I still have the small kitchen shelves I bought there–they’re just the perfect size for spices. A couple years after our visit to the Hamburg IKEA, one opened in Charlotte, N.C., a few hours from us, and we’ve been there a few times. I like it, but can rarely justify driving several hours just to go there, so we don’t make it there very often. And I didn’t know about the cookies! I’ve never tried any food from there, minus maybe something from the cafeteria during our first visit.

    1. Tia Nevitt

      I hope you saw some places other than IKEA while in Hamburg! I’d love to tour Germany one day.

    2. My first IKEA experience was somewhere in the Belgium/Netherlands area, I’m not sure because my sister-in-law lived in Belgium close to the Netherlands border and I’m not quite sure where we were! Anyway, I was glad to have an experienced IKEA shopper with me, because the place would’ve been completely overwhelming without that. She introduced me to the IKEA Swedish meatballs. Yum.

  2. Alice

    Yes, once you’re in that store you have to follow the path! They make it difficult to leave quickly. Next time you’re there try the Swedish Meatballs. The exact same meatballs are served at every IKEA in the world. There’s something very unifying about eating them. World harmony, in a meatball.

    1. Tia Nevitt

      I did see the meatballs, and they did look tempting! You’re too funny about the world harmony.

  3. I’ve never been to IKEA. It sounds a bit intimidating, what with the whole expectation to plan out the trip before hand. (One does not simply walk into IKEA…) Definitely an adventure. 🙂

    1. Tia Nevitt

      I think my drop-in experience was definitely worth doing, but if you know someone who’s been there before, that may help. My daughter and I were mostly wandering around, with no particular purchase in mind.

    2. Just plan for at least an hour and follow the arrows. You’ll be fine.

  4. I think it sounds a bit intimidating too! I’m glad you made it out alive (albeit without cookies).

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Yes, I did think there was something a bit nefarious about how difficult the exit was to find.

      1. They are sneaky like that.

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