IKEA Survival Guide

Marathon?  Triathlon?  Hundred-mile trek through the desert?  No.  IKEA is the ultimate endurance event!

I learned so much in my 4.5 hour shopping trip with veteran IKEA shopper Sally and newbie Dott!  I will share it all here!

1. Go prepared.  Travel light: no coats or big pocketbooks.  Pop your wallet in your pocket and leave the rest in the car.  You can bring your cell phone but don’t count on reception!  Because of this, stay with your party or be VERY specific on where to meet up.  Bring some shopping bags that fit in your pocket.

2. Know the layout and have a game plan.  The first/top floor is a VERY long one-way path through display rooms.  The restaurant is there.  The second/bottom floor is the marketplace, where you actually buy the small stuff and then pickup the really big stuff, and check out.

3. Coming into Floor 1, accept a big plastic bag, but don’t take a cart.  Most of the stuff is just display here, but there are lots of  “end cap” items throughout.  Until this trip, I would have said don’t pick anything up on this pass, just keep moving and get it later in the Marketplace.  I have since adjusted my strategy on this one: If you want it, or think you might want it, take it now!  Hence the bag.

4. Pick up an order slip and pencil.  Use it to write down items you may want.  Make sure to write the aisle and bin number, Sally taught us, as this is going to save lots of time later.  Consider writing down alternatives, in case your first choice is out of stock.

5. Know the path shortcuts.  There are signs around that show them.  You can skip a section (but if you’ve come this far you probably won’t) but more importantly you can cut over to the rest rooms or cafeteria more directly, and come back to where you were, later.

6. Take a break.  Eat the famous meatballs.

7. Outside the cafeteria, sign up for IKEA Family at the kiosk.  Don’t forget to grab the card, as it is retracted quickly if you walk away.  Score some free stuff.  For us it was a frozen yogurt on this trip.

8. When heading down to the Marketplace, now you can get a cart.  If you see something you think you might want, put it in the cart.

9. DON”T GO BACK.  This is why you are taking what you think you might want.  You can ditch it later. I tried to go back to the display floor to get an item that we all three saw in bulk, but never found again.  I will spare you the details but will just say that it was just like one of those nightmares where you are running, running, running and never getting to your destination.  Complete with people telling me that it didn’t exist.  Sally eventually beat a display model out of someone but we never found the box we all remembered seeing.  So if you see it, take it, and never go backwards.

10. Pace yourself in the Marketplace.  How much time do you have left?  What did you really want to see?  Make sure you get to that today if you’re not coming back soon.

11. In the stocked aisles, get help with the heavy stuff.

12. Load your big stuff with the labels facing forward

13. Examine your cart.  Unload anything you really don’t want.  Don’t feel bad.  It’s part of the business model.

14. Pay with your debit card and get a substantial credit for next time. Keep your receipt.

As you can imagine this is fun for some people, such as the three of us, the polar opposite for others.

Did I miss anything?

9 thoughts on “IKEA Survival Guide”

  1. Oh you describe the IKEA experience to a “T”. My first trip there was with my daughter who was on crutches and in a bulky cast from having had achilles surgery ther week before……….not fun! But we went back!!

  2. 15. There is free coffee before 9 am.
    16. Check the website before you visit so you know what specials your local IKEA may have (including food specials!)
    17. It is dangerous to live within 10 blocks of an IKEA. First of all, your entire apartment will soon be IKEA. Second of all, you might become acclimated to thinking that IKEA is an acceptable date night destination. Each entree is under $10, if not under $5, and then each of you can get your preferred dessert (well, if your preferences run between cinnamon buns and vanilla fro-yo).
    18. ikeahackers.net – you’re welcome.

  3. Kate – I LOVE Ikeahackers.

    Mom – you forgot signing up for the Ikea family card – it’s their rewards program, and they kick it off with a free ice cream!

    Also, you can get the veggie medallion instead of mashed potatoes to make your meatballs a little teensy bit healthier.

  4. Jane, you have created the most comprehensive guide to IKEA that I’ve ever seen…..and I’ve been going since the early 90’s! Sounds like Sally was an impressive guide herself, which does not surprise me. When I lived in VA, we attended an IKEA dinner party – everyone had to bring an item from there, and we dined like kings and queens (of Sweden, I think). Yes, it can be dangerous to live too close.

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