Ikea phone guy: The “RATIONELLE” replacement shelves you ordered have arrived. You have five days to pick them up.
[We were on vacation, missed the deadline.]
Me: I’m here to pick up my shelves. Here’s the receipt.
Ikea young buck: Your five days have passed. The shelves have been returned to stock. I can charge you a restocking fee, sell you a new set (the same set, but now taken from the freshly replenished stock), and you can go to Customer Service to request a refund for the “old” ones you paid for but never received.
Me: That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard of.
Ikea young buck: I’m sorry sir.
[I go downstairs, pay for the “new” shelves, wait 15 minutes for them to be retrieved from stock. Go to Customer Service, take a number, let the ceiling-mounted hanging TVs squirt toxic CNN juice all over me. Notice how the wall-mounted buckets meant to hold free replacement dowels, pins, and Ikea-original smart fasteners are all empty. Kill time with a corn dog and box of lingonberry juice. One hour passes, no lie. Now I’m officially late to meet a client, but don’t dare give up my place in line. I’ve worked too hard for this, and a whole $25 is at stake. My number comes up.]
Ikea helpful lady: He said what? Let me check. No, your shelves haven’t been returned to stock. They’re ready and waiting for you. We’re sorry for the inconvenience. Here’s your refund.
And that’s how a 10-minute Ikea visit melts into 90 minutes. This is how we wade through phone trees trying to find clueful employees, whittle away the time we don’t have to whittle at the hands of incompetent high-school students, pay out of pocket to return defective items, tear out hair because of insane policies, slip through cracks not accounted for by automated systems.
Our lives as a series of frustrating encounters, connected by a fabric of retardation.