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Quest for the Holy Grail (…er, closet)

By - January 15, 2007 (Updated: July 25, 2019)


I’ve been trying to think of the perfect literary work to describe the weekend that Andrew and I have just had. The Trial comes to mind. We weren’t actually on trial of course but it did seem that there were unseen sources pulling strings around us. The futility of our time spent this weekend also makes Waiting for Godot seem appropriate.

One thing is for certain, if Existentialists like Kafka and Beckett were alive today, they would be setting their works in IKEA… oh, and they wouldn’t be fiction.

You all know that I love IKEA. I don’t own a stick of furniture here that’s not from there. Sure, putting some of the stuff together can be an exercise in creative thinking, patients and sometimes sheer will (or force), but until this weekend I hadn’t had a problem with their customer service.

Ok, much as it annoys me when people whine about how things in Europe are not like home, here’s my one rant – Belgians listen up. You’re a civilised people (well, except behind the wheel). You dress a hell of a lot better then we do back home, so obviously clothes are important to you. There’s this little invention that seems to work well for us in North America. It’s called a built in closet… some of them are even walk in. I know, it comes as a shock, maybe it seems a bit scary – but trust me, you’d love them.

Andrew and I actually ‘inherited’ our closet from the previous tenants. It’s a white pressboard job that looks like a 49.95 Carrefour special. Two of the three drawers don’t work, the bar that our clothes hang on is sagging and the whole structure lists to one side. I’m just waiting for it to collapse in the middle of the night when the Calico jumps on top of it one last time.

It’s also way too small. Half of Andrew’s clothes are living on a rack in the spare bedroom and half of mine are in a heap at the bottom of the closet. It did the job four the past two years, and it was free, but it’s time to move on.

I’ve known which IKEA closet I wanted from day one. It just hasn’t been a priority. But honestly, I’ve had enough and I’d like to be able to hang all of my clothes up again.

So we arrived at IKEA at suppertime on Friday night – admittedly, never a good idea. We made our way to the closets, found what we wanted and checked out the options. Then we went to the cafeteria for a bite to eat and to discuss was bits and pieces we needed. I had checked the availability of the closet on the IKEA website the night before and everything was supposedly in stock.

We went back over to the ‘closet help desk’ and told the clerk what we wanted. Unfortunately the baskets that I wanted for my sweaters weren’t in stock but she gave us the aisle numbers for the rest of the parts.

Of course, you can’t just go to IKEA to get the one thing you’re looking for, so we picked up some other pieces along the way.

We arrived at the aisle for the closet and doors – The doors were there. The closet was not.

We went to the warehouse information desk. The clerk there informed us that they had a shipment arriving tomorrow morning. Great, just what we had hoped to avoid – IKEA on Saturday… if only we knew the worst.

We got home tired and annoyed but optimistic we could still achieve our goal that weekend.

The next morning we got up and headed to Antwerp to pick up my printer. Why didn’t I get it myself you may ask… after all it’s just a
printer. Well, let’s just say that this is just a printer, in the way that a Hummer is just an SUV. It’s a behemoth. It also cost as much as a 1992 Ford Escort. But I am proud to say that I bought it myself with my photography money. (But again, more about the printer later) Poor Andrew managed to lug the giant box back to the car without having a coronary.

Then we decided we would be smart and go to the IKEA in Antwerp to pick up the baskets that we couldn’t get for the closet at our IKEA until next week. We thought we were so smart…

First off, getting to the Antwerp IKEA involves some interesting Belgian road trickery that involved driving by the store about 8 times without actually being able to get to it, then diving across 47 lanes of traffic and into the tiniest parking lot in the free world.

By the time we made it into the store, we were already more than slightly frazzled. We asked the clerk for the baskets and wonder of wonders, they were in stock.

We also realised that my monster printer was going to need a home, so we found a cheap coffee table that would do the trick. That is, until we went to the warehouse and it was out of stock. Oh but I did manage to get something to put it on – it just cost three times as much. Well, in for a penny, in for a 1993

Frustrated again, we did manage to get the baskets without further pain. However, now two whole days of our weekend had been written off and still no closets.

We arrived at the house at 7pm and dropped off our purchases. Andrew was determined to see the closet fiasco through to the end. So, we jumped back in the car and headed over to our IKEA to pick it up. We bypassed the store and walked into the warehouse – Still no closet. We went back to the info desk. Andrew put on his serious face.

He explained that we had been told that more closets would arrive today and we had made a special trip to pick it up. Apparently 10 closets had arrived that morning and 10 were sold before we got there. There would be more arriving Monday morning.

Fed up, Andrew decided to go to the customer service department and file a complaint. We waited, and waited and waited, until finally our number was called. Andrew explained our saga and how we had been told repeatedly that the parts we needed were available. I chimed in that the website had also said the closet was in stock.

The clerk looked at us with a mixture of pity and fatigue. ‘Well the website isn’t updated that regularly,’ he explained as if talking to a very small and slightly dim child. Well, obviously not…

Andrew asked if they could simply hold the parts we need when they come in on Monday. Not possible. He did write up our formal complaint however and spoke to one of his higher-ups to see what they could do for us.

It amounted to a big fat nothing – they gave us a copy of the written complaint and told us that the next time we were in the store to get the closet we could be refunded for mileage. We live less that 5 km away from the Zaventem IKEA.

If they had offered to pay for the minutes wasted in the store, we’d have a free closet.

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