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Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Into the belly of IKEA
On Thursday night I was volunteered to go behind enemy lines. The target: something called a Forhoja. The captors? The minions of the fairly sovereign nation of IKEA. The reason? Because my grandparents wanted one but they're too old to navigate the hostile corridors of Portland's newest franchise outlet. Also: no one else in my family was willing to do it and I'm a sucker.
My always intrepid sister agreed to tag along and, after being blown off course on I-5, we snaked through North Portland towards our destination. The area surrounding the store was a stronghold. For reasons unknown, PPD had the main road leading to the parking lot blocked off, directing traffic towards a empty field instead. As FedEx and Alaskan Airline jets bombed overhead, we rolled over lumps and dead grass towards IKEA's main entrance. Why the unnecessary detour through what they had dubbed "overflow parking"? To add a further sense of adventure, I guess.
That night IKEA was about as busy as your average Costco. There was really no need for the police presence or the detours. The crowd inside would have been tolerable if it weren't for the megastore's insane layout. Instead of the one-level sprawl found at the IKEA in Renton, this one is divided into two floors, the top one accessible by a series of small stairwells. The elevator was also broken, causing a bottleneck of strollers leading to the main showroom upstairs.
The Portland IKEA also has a substantial amount of smug signs everywhere. Take a look at this one:
Doesn't that make you want to get a lifetime subscription to Adbusters and give up consumerism for at least a few days? Equally obnoxious is a series of disclaimers in the 2nd floor restaurant, which offers cheap Swedish meatballs and .99 cent breakfasts. How can IKEA sell hearty meals for such a low price? According to signs positioned over the trash cans, it's because customers are required to bus their own tables. A further explanation outlines how this allows IKEA to hire fewer employees and pass the savings on to their customers.
Despite it all, there's no denying that IKEA furniture looks cool, at least on the showroom floor. The rickety desk I bought in Renton is liable to fall over any second now but the $14 chairs I purchased are still holding up. After a search at an internet kiosk upstairs and a conversation with a clerk that was convinced we had come in search of a spatula, we tracked down the Forhoja. It wound up being a rolling kitchen cart.
After a lengthy hike through the showroom and into the warehouse downstairs, we located the bin where the Forhojas should have been only to find it empty. The mission had proven fruitless. We went all the way out to IKEA for one thing and they were sold out of them. Based on the full bins around us, this was apparently the only item unavailable in the entire store. We'd come all the way out there for nothing.
There was only one thing left to do before heading back to base: eat $1 ice cream cones in the parking lot while watching planes take off over the glowing megastore.