Is there something SHÅDI going on at IKEA?
Some of you think us Bitterwallet types just like to grumble. Not so. We really like it when you tell us your problems so that we can investigate the cause of your festering consumer sore.
Anyway. Julie* contacted us last week after a particularly stressful altercation with those Nordic flatpackers IKEA. All Julie was trying to do was to buy a mattress. Julie told us
“I purchased a mattress from the Birmingham** store for nearly £400. It wasn’t available to self serve, so after ordering with an assistant (2 items in stock) and paying for the mattress I was directed to pick up where I was given a number and asked to wait. After approximately 10 minutes I was told it would be a further 15 minutes wait as they needed a forklift to get the mattress down. Ten minutes after that I was told there was no mattress in stock and that I needed to go and queue up for a refund. After queuing for another 6 minutes, so over 25 minutes in total, my money was ‘refunded’.”
So far so whatever. However, having received her refund Julie left her friendly neighbourhood IKEA and went to purchase another mattress two days later. Unfortunately she was unable to do so as her bank told her there was no money in the account as IKEA had placed a hold on the funds (owing to the payment authorisation). Julie asked her bank to check, but they had no notification of any credits going INTO her account from IKEA. So poor Julie was left with no money and no mattress.
So what could she do? Undertandably perturbed, she rang those helpful sorts at IKEA.
Julie called the store customer service enquiry line( at 13.5p plus 12.35p per minute) and was then held in a queue for ten minutes. Must be a peak time to call, 3pm on a Thursday. Unfortunately, after reaching second position in the queue, the phone line reverted to the engaged tone leaving her no option but to redial. She did and the same thing happened. She then tried ringing the 0845 358 3364 general IKEA customer service number from the website. There were no recorded messages hold here, but after ringing for a moderate length of time, again, the call went to an impenetrable engaged tone.
Finally, Julie tried to find a proper (not non-geographic) number for the Wednesbury store through Say No to 0870 so that she could talk to an actual genuine friendly IKEA person. The first time she called she was connected to the same 0845 number that was diverting to the engaged tone and the second time she was told by the security person who answered the phone that he was only able to connect her to that 0845 number, despite her explaining her considerable predicament.
At this point, Julie contacted us. Not just because she is an avid reader but also because she knew how we like to wear tights and fly around like consumer champions. We called the IKEA press office, also a 0845 number, but amazingly, this number worked without a hitch. The press officer told me they were aware of no problems with their phone lines but that they wanted to keep all their customers happy.
We asked IKEA a number of probing and in-depth questions, such as:
Does IKEA routinely sell items that are not in stock, necessitating this non-refund situation and enquiring why it takes mere moments for IKEA to process payments locking customers’ cash, but days to effect a refund? We also asked IKEA how much customers’ money was currently being held in this way.
We also asked them to confirm whether there was a fault in the telephone system that was preventing people getting through to ask where their several hundred pounds is or in fact whether it is company policy to make it as hard as possible for customers to speak to someone.
The following day they responded. Unfortunately the only question they actually responded to was to say they didn’t think there was a fault on the telephone system and that Julie’s refund had now been processed. They specifically did not respond to the point we made that most people, not being brilliant writers like us Bitterwallet lot, would not be able to call the press office to try and force the issue. However, they hope they have been able to “restore [our] faith in IKEA.”
So is this a one-off, or is this just the way IKEA works? Is it fair that a multi-million pound company holds on to people’s money because of their sloppy stock management preventing them from purchasing an alternative? IKEA love to force their ‘friendly’ image down your throat as every available opportunity but in reality, are they hard-nosed business people screwing the consumer? We’d love to hear from you if you have any experiences like Julie’s. If only so we can see Andy in the consumer champion tights again…
*not her real name. Her real name is probably something really silly.
** This is a Ryanair definition of Birmingham. The ‘Birmingham’ store is in Wednesbury, which is actually in Wolverhampton. Anyone who lives in either Birmingham or Wolverhampton will assure you they are very much not the same place.