A letter to Ikea

Keith Snyder
Brooklyn, NY 11217

To: Ikea Customer Service
8352 Honeygo Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21236

July 18, 1998

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am taking a break from assembling my 73×73 “Expedit” wall unit to express to you my gratitude for how interesting Ikea has made my life today.

What could have been simply another boring weekend has been transformed into an adventure, the likes of which I experience only when I shop at and subsequently assemble furniture sold by your lovely company.

My first thank-you goes to the service counter, where they increased my sense of suspense by drawing out the “fifteen-minute wait” by an additional fifteen minutes! How clever! They knew I’d be doubly happy when my gray “Expedit” wall unit finally appeared.

This same impish sense of humor was evident when, after the hour’s drive back home, I unboxed my gray “Expedit” wall unit to find that it was a black “Expedit” wall unit. Please forward my thanks to the service staff for sensing my poor interior design choice and taking it upon themselves to correct it.

Still chuckling over this delightful detour to my expectation, I began to assemble my black “Expedit” wall unit.

In hiring documentation writers who place clarity above simplicity, most companies reveal that they are humorless entities without the personal touch. Ikea is to be commended for their choice to create assembly instructions which not only do not use words at all—thus allowing people who may not speak the world’s primary languages to enjoy the identical experience on long Saturdays around the globe—but which allow the illustrator free range for his own personal artistic license. A less creative, free-spirited company would balk at releasing technical drawings which show holes where they are not and do not show holes where they are, which do not explicitly show the consumer how to differentiate the side pieces from the top, nor the top from the bottom, and which have no indication of the fact that the shelves are not intended to sit atop their supports, but rather surround them. But I have learned to look forward to Ikea’s droll, delightful, impressionist documentation. After all, if Seurat can create the impression of people at a French seaside using only colored dots, why should an Ikea technical illustrator not create only the impression of accuracy?

Also please thank your documentation team for allowing me the luxury of putting aside my precious projects for an hour or two of three-dimensional puzzle-solving. How did you know I so enjoy Rubik’s Cube and Chinese woodblocks? I have had my black “Expedit” wall unit assembled and disassembled three times now, and I still have not solved it! A hearty congratulations to your dedicated staff—I assemble and disassemble things all the time as part of owning a music studio, and you’ve managed to do what teams of Japanese, Dutch, and American documentation writers have failed to: You’ve got me stymied! I’ll beat you on this next go-round, though; I believe I now see it. Of course, the only reason I see it is that I seem to have run out of other combinations, but a brute force solution beats none.

(I do, however, think it is not entirely fair play to hide so many of the pre-drilled holes. I can see hiding one or two, but gluing veneer over two entire sides and leaving only the faintest dimples as evidence of the holes lurking beneath them seems a bit out-of-bounds and not quite preux, wouldn’t you say?)

Please also forward my thanks to whoever designed the veneer. While most consumers would be satisfied with a nice, clean, smooth, featureless gray—oops, I mean black!—surface, you were able to discern that I prefer to think of myself as an individualist, and would thus find such perfection boring. I’m very impressed with your foresight: Kudos to you for knowing that after the third complete reassembly and repositioning of my black “Expedit” wall unit, not a surface would remain unchipped. I am now the very proud owner of a brand new $249 shelf unit which looks as though it did not survive that last Florida hurricane. Thank you so much for allowing me to express my non-conformity through my interior furnishings.

Please also relay my gratitude to the sophisticate who intuited that six would be too symmetrical a number of plastic feet for the bottom of such a work of art, and who therefore removed one from my package, a subtle and insightful move, and one more commonly associated with the Futurist art movement than with most furniture stores. The positioning of five plastic feet into six pre-drilled holes was an unexpected and delightful intellectual and aesthetic challenge, and one which brought a wry smile and a colorful comment to my lips.

It seems I have so many things for which to be grateful that I would simply drone on forever if I tried. If you continue to give all your customers such excellent solutions to their needs—Needs they weren’t even aware they had! Wow!—the future of your company is easy to predict. After all, happy customers are return customers.

I now return to my $249 chipped, incorrectly (re-re-)assembled, black “Expedit” weekend project. Although I would love to do this all the time, I cannot always get to New Jersey, so next weekend, as a way of replicating the experience, I am considering staying home and banging myself repeatedly in the head with a hammer.

My best regards,

Keith Snyder
Pleased consumer

(And no, IKEA never wrote back.)

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Filed under Humor, Ikea, My writing

21 responses to “A letter to Ikea

  1. Haddayr

    I am sorry, but this was so funny that I cannot find it in my heart to express sorrow for your maddening experience as it was so entertaining for me.

    I am a bad person.

  2. It’s had probably over 100,000 hits since I stuck it up on the Internet for no good reason. (The best day was over 10,000.)

    I will not be remembered for my books.

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention A letter to Ikea | Keith Snyder -- Topsy.com

  4. Did I detect the tiniest hint of sarcasm in there, Keith?

    You will be remembered for your books – if and when you write that instructional book for aspiring writers. I know of no one with more wit and wisdom writing about writing today. Seriously.

  5. Well thanks!

    I should probably expand the Hack Writers’ Guide

  6. I’ll remember you for your books but I confess that I also appreciate the more immediate gratification of the blog.

    I’d like to get my hands on the person or persons who thought assemble-it-yourself furniture was a good idea. I haven’t battled IKEA yet (and may never) but I have assembled (sort of) enough of this kind of furniture that I truly feel your pain.

  7. The next time I’m tempted to write a blistering letter of complaint, I hope I remember this and adjust my approach.

    Well played, sir.

  8. Tara

    That’s what you get when a professional writer with a keen wit pens a complaint letter.

    Absolutely fabulous!

  9. Gordon Atkinson

    You know how people type lol all the time.

    I laughed out loud.

    Keith…..KEITH. You know me. You know I would not bullshit you on this. I’m at home alone. Out loud I did laugh.

  10. Loved it. Reminds me of “Open Letters To People or Entities Who Are Unlikely To Respond” at McSweeney’s.

    Anyway, I bet that wall unit has character, bra.

  11. Marcella

    Keith, This is one of my favorites. I made a copy of this several years ago when you first put it up on your site. I revisit this story every once in a while for a good laugh. About two years ago we bought, what was supposed to be, a temporary greenhouse. It came with two sets of instructions, one on paper and one on a video, available on the manufactures web site. It showed two people putting the greenhouse together in what appeared to be under twenty minutes. It took us a good four hours of struggling to assemble the damned thing only to discover that parts were missing. What? We never did get the door to close all the way and ended up having to duck tape it shut. This is not a satisfactory solution when you have to check up on your plants in the middle of the winter.

  12. Barbara J Brown

    Thanks, yet again, Keith.

  13. Ram

    Nice story but what I don’t understand is why do you keep going back to the store. It does not seem like this was the first time their or first problem with their stuff but yet you kept going back. Someone should write you a letter of congratulation for keep going back to a store you know is going to screw you

  14. Andrew Barron

    My 14 year old son commented yesterday when I was struggling with a dresser, “If they get any lazier your going buy a bed and come home with a log and an axe”! Just about peed my pants.

  15. Megan

    I bought one of these yesterday and was searching the web for tips & tricks before I open the box and tackle the project. I stumbled upon your letter and laughed so hard I cried. I’ll be thinking of it later tonight after the box is open. Thanks!

  16. jgnewton

    I think they must have changed the rules/instructions from when you first had to put together your black behemoth, as ours went together relatively smoothly. (I say relatively as I wouldn’t have found this letter if I hadn’t had to search for a solution to a frustrating roadblock.) Thanks for telling IKEA what we all want to tell IKEA, though.

    p.s. My favorite part of the illustrations is the little person on the phone with IKEA–the one who has obviously gotten frustrated with his “piece of cake” project–but failure to provide a phone number for the little lego man to call. Well played, IKEA.

  17. I don’t know how you remain so light hearted …. I would have thrown a rod, complete with steam issuing from my ears, grinding of teeth, and a few choice four letter words. Thanks for the laugh!

  18. Michael

    Such a positive outlook on everything you have mastered in this best of all possible worlds. Best product review since http://www.amazon.com/review/RXXPVOUH9NLL3

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