Friday, December 14, 2007

Fulfillment

We placed our cabinet order from IKEA last night. If you think that a huge, multi-national company would have a slick, efficient order fulfillment process, you probably still believe in the Tooth Fairy.

First of all, let me start by saying that the cabinet style decision-making process has been very stressful and time-consuming. Here’s the Wall of Difficult Choices that confronts otherwise loving couples at IKEA. By the time you reach the end of the wall, you’re either completely alienated from one another, or outright abusive.

decisions


My wife and I were at loggerheads over these two cabinet door styles, which happen to be conveniently located next to one another. I won’t tell you which one I liked, but I will tell you we’re not getting it.

cabinets


To get to the kitchen cabinet center, you must ascend this escalator. You may notice something peculiar about it – there’s no corresponding “down” escalator. You have to walk through the entire upstairs of IKEA and descend a staircase. Then you must walk through the entire downstairs of IKEA before you reach an exit. This, I suspect, is to prevent husbands from bolting from the building, abandoning their wives in search of alcohol.

up_escalator


Prior to our visit to IKEA I had downloaded their Kitchen Planner software, which enables you to drag and drop IKEA products into a layout of your kitchen. You can change cabinet door styles and handles on the fly, and view a rotatable 3-D view of your kitchen. When you’re finished, it prepares a complete order list with prices, which you may then upload to the IKEA servers.

When we arrived at the store, we opened our Kitchen Planner file on a workstation and printed out our Kitchen Planner order. The salesperson directed us to a desk full of order forms and little IKEA pencils. She told us to take an order form and “copy everything from your Kitchen Planner order to the IKEA order form.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You mean you want us to copy the order by hand?” I demanded. “Can’t you simply use a printout of the Kitchen Planner order?” The answer was “No.”

pencils


So I laboriously copied the order, growing to hate the stupid little pencils, worrying constantly that I might make an error. I handed her the order form, and she went over to a computer and copied my hand-written order into the computer. That’s right, she copied it AGAIN. I was speechless. But I watched carefully, and sure enough, she made a mistake which I was able to correct.

When this process was complete, we were given a printout of the final order and sent down to the checkout area. “You must give this printout of the order to the cashier,” I was told. Once again, I had to ask: “Can’t you just transfer the order electronically?” The answer was “No.”

After the long trek to the checkout area, I paid for the order, and was then directed to the Stock area, which had two doors, side-by-side. One was labeled “Pickup” and the other was labeled “Home Delivery.” The kitchen we had ordered weighed over 1,700 pounds, so there was no way I was taking it home with me. Unfortunately, IKEA doesn’t enable me to arrange for home delivery when I place the order. Instead, the entire kitchen has to be pulled from stock, checked for completeness, and then wheeled out of the “Pickup” door and into the “Home Delivery” door, where I then have to arrange for delivery.

The process of removing my items from stock was expected to take an hour or so. To relieve my boredom, I browsed through the little shop of Swedish delicacies that has been set up right outside of the checkout area. If you’re wondering what happens to Swedish pop groups once they disappear from the charts, they’re cut up into bite-size chunks and sold to Americans:

abba


This product isn’t toothpaste. It’s fish eggs in a squeeze tube:

not_toothpaste


Eventually my order was ready, so I paid for delivery and left. I had spent about two and a half hours at IKEA. All the way home, I was wondering why I couldn’t simply pay for my Kitchen Planner order and home delivery at the workstation in the kitchen section and leave - the process would have taken all of 15 minutes. On my first visit to IKEA, I was struck by how much thoughtful effort had gone into the design of everything. But apparently, there are some chinks in the armor.

3 comments:

Kimberly said...

Loved the Swedish pop groups comment. Too funny!

I'm amazed at the way they make you place the order. Why would they allow the opportunity for human error (twice!) in the process when it could all easily be done electronically? I wonder how long it will take them to figure that one out!

david said...

The fun has yet to begin. Parts parts and more parts.

Anonymous said...

just hearing "IKEA" makes shivers go down my spine...
their shelfs and cabinets are painstakig to put together...