Chapter 18 – Ikea

IKEA – you either love them or hate them or perhaps a bit of both.  We love their ingenuity fused with affordable solutions but hate the fact we’re surely confronting a 600 – piece puzzle that would confound even a rocket scientist…or architect.  And for the most part, when we order one or more items, whether in-store or online, it’s generally in the country we are most familiar.  This is where living in a country where the language is not your primary one – nor are the customs and policies can change the course of events.

In the United States, we are accustomed to placing an order, being given a delivery date – and then if something goes wrong, you will call, fully understand the voice mail options, eventually reaching a helpful and somewhat reticent customer service agent who will do their best to resolve any issues to the customers satisfaction.  Picking up the phone to make the call to customer service is where the similarity stops.

Needing a desk and organizers to be able to work efficiently, in Mid-December I placed an order with IKEA, having found the perfect combination of items at a most affordable price.  Given my rental vehicle was not guaranteed to be large enough, and not wanting to drive 35 kilometers into Bordeaux simply for a desk, chair and file boxes, I opted for delivery, which was scheduled for December 27th – just over 10 days later.  Good enough.  Roughly every 3 days I received a reminder email with a phone number to call if the date was not convenient.  On the morning of Dec. 27th, my phone received a call at 8:37 AM that I did not hear because of a ‘Do not disturb’ setting – so was missed.  As I noted before – this is where the similarities between IKEA USA and IKEA France differ.  I try to return the call, but it is such a labyrinth of voice mail options that might as well be Greek that I have no idea which option to select.  There is no direct line to customer service.  Assuming the delivery will come as scheduled, I wait….and wait….and wait – you get the picture.  Later I was informed, because I did not answer that call, my delivery had been cancelled.

Now at this point, you’re thinking, well, someone will call or email and give me a new delivery time – so I wait… call, no email.  Nothing to acknowledge the delivery.  At this point, I have tried to contact IKEA via email, online chat (where twice they told me my delivery was on schedule) and then call – lord help me.  Every time I send an email to customer service with my question, I am replied to on an email that cannot be delivered – no direct line.  Generally, once we’ve initiated an email with customer service, once you’ve opened that line of communication, there is the ability to respond back and forth until some resolutions is understood and agreed upon.  Nope – not in France.  Every time, I needed to initiate the process of finding the link on the website, entering all my information, then sending my message – which is replied to within several hours with an autoreply message.  Then – it might be a day, or it might be a few before you receive an email with their answer – which also cannot be replied to and will not be complete.  So, you’re left with the option of starting over, copying parts and pieces from the various emails so this person has an idea of what has been happening – and you hope this will be the last one.  Yes, there is an order number, but the litany of this process is so convoluted, the details bear repeating.

Realizing this is futile, and now armed with a French phone number, I try to call one more time.  At this point I’ve wasted hours on calls and emails but I know if I don’t call, nothing will happen.  So, I call and muddle my way through the voicemail options – to eventually reach a person who is either of the wrong department for my question or cannot understand a single word of English.  While I am trying my best to communicate with French – it is much more effective over the phone if the person has knowledge of a little bit of English.  Eventually I am connected to a person with a pretty good grasp of the English language and understand why they cannot simply schedule a new date for the delivery – and while it still does not make sense, at least I have an answer.  While I have this person on the phone, I ask if I can give him the details, order number, etc. in French so he can let me know if I am speaking it correctly in the event I’m not and I end up with an only French agent the next time I call.  For the record, I was speaking correctly, although he did correct my 1 from ‘on’ to ‘aan’.  Regardless, there is no other number that sounds like that, so I wasn’t too far off.

Ok – so this is what happens. Regardless of how many reminders for delivery you receive, you will also receive a call the morning or the delivery.  DO NOT MISS THAT CALL.  If you miss that call – even for a moment, your delivery will be cancelled.  At this point, the driver is to submit paperwork stating the order was not deliverable.  Why didn’t that happen?  No idea.  But the new delivery date cannot be put into the system until that occurs.  And it wasn’t until the call I made on January 5th (nine days after the original delivery date) did that process begin. Kinda makes you wonder how long my order would have sat in purgatory if I hadn’t called.  Customer service acknowledged the failed delivery and put that into the system – but that also meant I needed to phone no sooner than 24 hours later to reschedule my delivery.  (Yes, you read that right – on this date 9 days after my planned delivery it was finally being placed into the system as the failed attempt it was.) I don’t know if this was a fluke or if typically, the customer needs to call to get this process rolling, but it seemed to me that as soon as the delivery was aborted, I should have received another call or at least an email I could respond to with instructions to reschedule my delivery.

I am happy to report my furniture was successfully delivered on January 10th where I spent the day unboxing, portaging the parts and pieces to the second floor (third floor American) where it would reside, then assembling…piece…by…piece.  Two hundred and ninety pieces later, I had a beautiful desk, chair and individual organizers that would please the most obsessive, compulsive organizer on the planet, and I am no longer relegated to working on either the kitchen counter or dining room table!