Being Ikea Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry


On Sunday, my sister invited me to go to Ikea with her.  She’d been there Saturday to pick up some closet dividers.  They were out of stock and the service rep told her to come back the next day, when the shipment was scheduled to arrive.

So I agreed to go.  It had been two years since my last visit to Ikea and the trauma of the experience had faded.  Ikea is like childbirth in that respect.  You forget the pain (or so I’ve been told).

My sister was well prepared for our journey.  She’d borrowed a hatchback, the better to load boxes into.  When I met her at her door, she was wearing an old pair of sweats and laden with rope and duct tape — ideal for collecting dusty furniture.

Or a kidnapping.  I’m still not sure what the duct tape was for.

To be fair, Ikea has a very successful n0-service business model.  To wit: build your own damn furniture.  It’s how they keep their prices low and I respect that.  But there’s a difference between no service and bad service.

You’ve probably guessed where this story is going.  We looked in vain for the shelving, then waited at a service station for a rep, who told us the delivery was not on the expected truck.  No shelving today.  Tomorrow?  Maybe.  Their conversation went on for about two minutes.  My sister was unfailingly courteous (you could drive over her foot and she’d apologize for screaming).  But it was obvious from her expression she was annoyed.

Not once during the conversation did the service rep say the words, “I’m sorry.”

We both remarked on the omission as we made our way to check out, my cart littered with .99 cent coasters, $1.99 bamboo shoots and $2.99 cutting boards.  As the cashier scanned my items, she asked, “Did you find everything you were looking for today?”

We looked at each other.  “Actually, we didn’t,” I said.  “She was told to come back today to pick something up and it wasn’t here.”


And that was it.  No, “I’m sorry you had that experience,” or “I’m sorry, I can imagine how frustrating that must be,” or even, “I’m sorry to hear that.”  Nothing remotely resembling regret passed the woman’s lips.

As we rolled away, my sister asked, “Do they train people not to say, ‘sorry?'”

By now, you’re probably thinking, “This is a social media blog.  What’s your point?

Here it is:  In the good old days (how I miss them), the rule was if someone received exceptional customer service, they’d tell on average four people.  If they received bad service, they’d tell 12.

How do you think that statistic has changed in the new world of social media?


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