Sweden has produced some pretty cool stuff in its time. ABBA, for example. August Strindberg for you literacy lovers. Ryveta. But one thing that's far from cool, and knowing me, knowing you, I hope you will agree (or will at least concur by the end of this blog post) is that a certain superstore, which design and sell ready-to-assemble furniture, appliances and home accessories is far from cool. In fact, it's totally un-cool.
In order to avoid slander, I'm not going to tell you exactly which shop I am referring too...but here are some clues. The company is the world's largest furniture retailer. It operates 332 stores in 38 countries and can offer you a bowl of meatballs before you pay for your new bed frame. You still haven't guessed it? You could say that you have 'no ikea what I'm on about.'
I have a number of issues with the superstore.
Mainly, I just couldn't understand how the shopping experience actually worked. I walked in to what looked like the set of Hollyoaks. I wanted to play out a scene but I was alone and wasn't sure how the other shoppers would take to a bit of spontaneous improv. I also wasn't pregnant/a drug abuser/an on the run convict or anything else that would fit in with the Hollyoaks style of storyline. People were properly trying out the beds...with their shoes on. Someone even sat on the loo. I wouldn't allow shoes on my bed at home- but in public! In a shop! Where were the staff? What was happening! It was all so confusing. If someone had jumped out and screamed 'you've been punk'd' there and then I would have believed them, thanked them for their organisation and gone home, still confused, but more understanding.
The store operated a strange one-way system. I felt like you had to keep on moving. If you stopped for too long the next shoppers would come up behind you and mutter something about your inability to shop effectively, putting yourself and the scrawled list on the back of your hand to shame. I couldn't deal with that. There was a lot of pressure; mamma mia there was a lot of pressure. At one point I genuinely got lost in the 'mirror room'. I should have started busting some Justin Timberlake inspired moves, but again, I was alone and terribly, terribly perplexed. WHO thought it was wise to plaster four surrounding walls in mirrors. Whoever was on CCTV for that room was missing a trick if they weren't streaming straight to YouTube. In order to avoid holding anyone else up I walked the full circuit of the shop three times and in those three consecutive laps, I only managed to pick up a milk frother- which I didn't even buy in the end as it required batteries and this credit crunch does not have time for that.
You basically had acts as a waiter whilst you shopped, which completely threw me. I wanted to just pick things up, but I tried to adhere to the pencil paper rule. One serious health and safety note I do have is that the pencils really were too sharp. Having given up on manually recording my order, I put the paper and pen in my trouser pocket, just in case I needed it later. But the pencil was so pointy I kept jabbing myself in the leg and so found myself limping and wincing, whilst trying to keep up to the shopping circuit speed and locate everything I was looking for. Someone must have thought Quasimodo had been let loose. The new element of pain made the whole experience feel like an assault course...I might write to Total Wipe Out with some new suggestions.
Eventually I decided enough was enough and resolved to ask for help. However, the moment I started speaking to a blue and yellow clad assistant, the stores megaphone piped up and started asking if "Mr Kitchen could please make his way to the kitchen section of the store, that's Mr Kitchen". NO WAY. Obviously, it was now impossible for me to ask for help without laughing/spluttering all over the place. So to re-cap, I was now hunched over in leg stabbing pain, red faced, on my forth circuit, laughing uncontrollably as I spoke and constantly looking over my shoulder in case the next gaggle of shoppers were about to lap me. All of that for a lousy pin board.
I have a dream that one day shopping will be made easy. I have vowed never to return to the flat-pack, one-way, pencil pricking, scary store again...not even if it begs and begs to take a chance on me. To Sweden, I say thank you for the music, the zipper and the safety match but when all is said and done I'm just not cut out for cut out, flat pack furniture.
(Did the ABBA references get sickening cheesy by paragraph three?)
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