Customer Service: 90’s Style

After a solid week of coding with a prototype phase and integrate phase cycle [prototype the feature in a new app and then integrate it into the larger app knocking off items of my to-do list] I thought a good break would be to get and build a new work table.  There was no other choice for me than the $99 Ikea Bjorkudden table.

First, I should say that this was a pleasure to build.  Second, it is a perfect size and is completely solid.  I would highly recommend the product.  Now it had been some time since I have been to an Ikea.  This was my first time at the Brooklyn Ikea as I previously used to go to the Long Island one.  But the Brooklyn location shaved probably an hour off the commute.  My rosy recollection of Ikea was one of awesomeness – and maybe in the 90’s this was the epitome of customer service.  But in the 10’s now with a decade of Apple Store and even Best Buy store experiences the bar has been raised exponentially and my nostalgic trip to Ikea quickly turned frustrating.

I knew exactly what I wanted and immediately went to their online website to buy it.  After signing up for yet another website to make a purchase at and putting the item in my cart I could not understand why I could not choose the Brooklyn location for the pick-up (even though it told me the item was “most probably” in stock).  I was not about to have it shipped since this would have added $40 to a $99 product.  I called them up and after a series of “press this to go there” prompts I was talking to a customer service person who politely laughed at what I was trying to do.  Bad sign – right.  I mentioned Best Buy as an example of the “buy it online and pick it up in store” model of excellence.  I was only greeted by a polite “we don’t have that” response.  Well, off to Red Hook I was.  Upon arrival to their massive garage in Red Hook it was not apparent where the entrance was despite having Entrance signs pointing in a direction.  The design of the store is to maximize you looking at every single one of their products – whether you want to or not (yes – there are hidden shortcuts but they aren’t very clear by design).  Kitchens, bedrooms, dining, living room, work areas, appliances – you name it I had to walk through this obviously constructed maze which smelled of the type of desperation a supermarket has for you to buy the TV Guide and gum at the checkout.  After 5000 steps on my Fitbit (half my daily 10K goal) I had, on what they call my shopping list, the product name and 8 digit nonsensical article number of 800.890.03 (which I already knew from the website look-up) which I thought would be some enumeration to get to the item in their massive warehouse.


Brooklyn Ikea Warehouse

Brooklyn Ikea Warehouse

Finally, reaching their simply massive “get it yourself” warehouse of boxes I realize that I was missing the crucial Aisle and Bin Numbers which nowhere was it pointed out how crucial this was.  Going to a terminal to look the product up revealed it was “out of stock.” Not good.  Asking a couple of people who worked there resulted in stares of “what do you want me to do?”  At this point they lost all creditability and I was tired from the long walk so I thought let me at least try to figure out what area these tables are in and maybe their inventory system stinks and they really do have it.  Well – guess what gentle reader – you guessed it.  They had plenty of these!  I put one on my physical cart and went to check-out.  But this is not where this story ends.  Oh, no.  The checkout was another huge area of frustration with no express lane or Apple Store style checkout person asking me “let me take your money sir and you can walk out with our awesome product.”  No – I had to wait behind people with hundreds of trinkets where the Jedi Mind trick worked on them.  Also, of note at this time, is that every lane had a person dropping a plate or two which where loose resulting in massive delays.  Finally, after checking out, finding the car, having the 15 minute twine rush I had time to think in the car about just how awesome the Apple Store is and how a system that has not changed since the 90’s has fallen behind and even makes Best Buy’s retail experience a joy.  I tried to be fair and image any one of these items happening at an Apple Store but simple could not.  Love the product and went out of my way to give them my money for it but the 90’s style customer service needs a serious reboot.

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