Marge: Look at all these clever pencil holders.
Lisa: Ooh, I wanna get the Kronk.
Marge: You don’t want something that overshadows the pencils. How about this Popli?
– The Simpsons
Kev’s sister Helen and I text one another when we are Ikea-adjacent. The origins of this decade-old game are lost, but the general idea is that it’s enough fun to go to Ikea to make it brag-worthy.
We even text when we just see an Ikea in the distance. Best text ever was from Helen on holiday, reproduced here in its entirety:
We’ve bought a fair few things from The Big Blue Box in our time, and while Ikea is quite affordable, I’ve developed a few ways to get out cheaper and faster (while still having fun).
1. Stay on Target
I’ve worked enough retail to know that the biggest mark-ups are not on big-ticket items — retailers keep a bigger chunk of the purchase price for cheap, funky extras. This is why Ikea insists you walk all the way through the Marketplace area to reach the cashiers. The little decorative stuff is so shiny and goes into your basket so easily! But it adds up.
Unless it’s just a lark, we usually go to Ikea with a PLAN. I’ve researched the options online or in the catalog. We’ve measured all the relevant spaces and checked against the item’s dimensions. We use the “shortcuts” in the floorplan to go to the right display to try out the short-list of things that might work. This method helps us avoid becoming distracted in the toy area with no furniture picked out until they start closing up shop. Not that that ever happened. In Croyden. In 2004.
This approach doesn’t mean that we don’t check other stuff out or maybe make an extra purchase or two. C’mon, it’s IKEA! But it does mean that we don’t buy a table that we don’t have room for (“it looks like it would fit!”) or go home with a lot of random junk that doesn’t look so great at home. Ikea has a LOT OF STUFF, and it helps to keep in mind what your itch is and the comparatively limited ways that Ikea can scratch it. Funky storage baskets don’t scratch my coffee table itch!
2. Go When It’s Slow
Ikea is not as much fun when it’s overrun by locust-like hordes. If you enjoy crowds, by all means check out Ikea on Saturday afternoon! But if you have specific things in mind and want to get out while you’re young, try a Monday evening. It’s also easier to get through the check-outs and to find help at slower times.
Regardless of whether it’s slow or not, you might want to avoid the self-checkout tills. I use those just about everywhere I can except Ikea, where the system seems to stall Every Dang Time. Ikea’s carbon-based cashiers are just faster.
3. Start at the End
I’m a devotee of Ikea’s As-Is section. Unless we’re heading in to pick up a small item from the Marketplace section, we go in through the out door, past the check-outs and into the As-Is area. The department contains display items, scratch-and-dents and returns at a huge discount.
Our best as-is deals have been on furniture items, including a couch for 70% off and Billy bookcases half-off. If you have a large enough vehicle, a bonus is that the stuff is already assembled. Slipcovered couches and chairs are usually offered assembled but “naked.” You can buy the slipcover full price, or there might be one in the as-is area (although I’ve never been lucky with textiles there). I skip them in-store and buy Ikea slipcovers on ebay. There’s a thriving and competitive secondary market there, and it’s waaaay cheaper than after-market makers such as Bemz.
Smaller as-is items (frames, lamps, kitchenalia) are usually damaged, but may be good for a hack or a fix — found a great bowl marked “damaged” a few years back, and I’m still not sure what was supposed to be wrong with it!
As-Is is particularly well-stocked early in the week, which is another good reason to go when it’s slow.
Mid-month, Helen will be here(!!!) for a visit, and I intend to take her to Ikea. (And other places too, Helen, I promise.) We’ve never been at Ikea together, so I’m not sure if it’s entirely safe. Worst case, we’ll communicate entirely by text the whole time.
ROLL ON, MID-AUGUST!