Is there something SHÅDI going on at IKEA?

29 August 2012

ikeaSome 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.


  • Darren
    why would you pay £400 for a mattress in ikea? ikea is all about cheap tat. does not make sense. if you want a good mattress you go to a mattress shop, not a cheap tat diy shop.
  • Al
    Surely you 'consumer champions' know that refunds to debit cards take 3-5 days (and often more depending on which bank you're with)? The refund not being back after 2 days is the fault of how the banking system works rather than Ikea's.
  • Sicknote
    What's the problem here; Julie decided that she wanted to buy some cheap crappy furniture and decided pay peanuts. Why is she so surprised that got a bunch of monkeys in return. Silly tart if you ask me.
  • dvdj10
    Yer this is a common problem. I tried placing an order for around £900 with Better Bathrooms but the order failed. I tried again but it failed again. So I rang my bank and they told me that there were two pending auth transactions for £1800 in total. Better Bathroom swears blind they never took my money despite admitting there was a problem with their site that night. I had to wait 5days for them to drop off my account.
  • Tom
    I have had the problem before with IKEA, when you order and pay for a good that's not in stock. They tend to let me have the more expensive abet different item for the same. This is probably why they are out of stock in the 1st place.
  • Al
    For anyone who wants to know what's going on, have a read about 'Authorization hold' on wikipedia. It's standard banking practice around the world and something the Ikea press office shouldn't really need to explain.
  • Paul
    As Al said the refund issue is all down to the banks taking ages to do a refund. @dvdj10 - by design they put a hold on pending amounts until transaction completion...this is called a shadow payment. The transaction didn't complete in your case due to the site's problem, so basically the money was no-where! It can stay like that up to 10 days while the bank wait for the authorisation signal, then give up and release the hold. Better Bathrooms would have been correct in saying they don't have it BUT they could/should have contacted your bank by fax to ask them to release the hold on the funds.
  • nell
    Yes, we had the same thing. Paid at the till for sofa, loads of waiting at the collection counter, then finally told out of stock and we'd have to queue at different desk for a refund! I was livid, they at least agreed to bump us up the refund queue to get served quicker, but we were pissed off. Wish you hadn't reminded me of this, I was planning another dreaded Ikea trip soon as we're moving house this week.
  • Banjit D.
    Dis site is well bad man. I thought dat you woz talking about and got all interested coz I needs a wife isn't it. Wen it started talking about all dis self serve I knew dat it wasn't wot I woz finking isn't it coz I is alreddy doing it dat way aiiii.
  • dvdj10
    @Paul, sorry yes you're correct, I meant to say there's was nothing they could do rather than taking my money. The retailer can contact the bank to clear it but most retailers swear blind there's nothing they can do about it and blame the banks. Which is horse shit!
  • Pizza A.
    Agree with the above, this payments instantly but refunds taking days / weeks is nothing new and applies to most retailers. Also agree, why the hell would anyone pay £400 for a mattress from Ikea, their beds and mattresses are a funny size for a start (unless that has now changed) and you can guarantee anything that takes as much use (resisted the urge to say "punishment" oooffff) as a mattress will last mere days if its the usual Ikea quality.
  • Mustapha S.
    So a silly bint with fat fingers now constitutes news?
  • Mr P.
    For any other mugs forced to call premium phone lines, I recommend you use a telephone at work. You will find there is no charge. If calls are logged at your workplace, wait until a colleague you hate is at lunch, and call from their desk instead. You're welcome.
  • KT
    Just had a similarly perculiar customer services experience. I ordered three blankets, which were supposed to be Christmas presents using the online service (although my local IKEA is also Birmingham) I made the order on 26 November (thinking I was well ahead of the game). Since then I have had three seperate texts from them. One on 27th nOve saying that my order will be delivered 09 Dec A second text sent on 30 Nov saying that my order will be delivered on 17 Dec And a third which I received today (11th Dec) saying my order won't be delivered until 16 Jan 2014!! No explanation as to why. I tried to use the delivery tracking option on their website but it generates a system error - so that's currently not working. I also tried to use the 'Ask Anna' online advice option on the website, but again this is currently down. I tried to call them on the general customer service number, it rings twice and then cuts me off saying 'user busy'. No hold message, and no more than 2 rings before it cuts out each time. In the I have emailed them asking them to cancel my order but the response time for emails is currently 3 days so I still don't know the outcome. Definitely something strange going on - i was really surprised at how difficult it was to contact them - it's as if there's no-one there at all.
  • Dave
    Wednesbury is in Sandwell, which may as well be Birmingham. And it has a Walsall postcode, which also isn't Wolverhampton. The store is about as far from the centre of Birmingham as it is Wolverhampton and probably a lot quicker to get to with the Aston Expressway and the M6. But good facts, BitterWallet.

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