• jdettmann

Bedlam


The man assigned by IKEA to allen-key our flatpacked bed into a three dimensional format turned up when he said he would last Tuesday and told me he thought the job would take him about an hour and a half. An hour and a half later he was finished. In one corner of the room stood a bed, and in the other was a pile of cardboard. I thanked him and he left.

But that evening, as H went to take the cardboard out to the recycling, he came across a little hidden treasure. He found the bag the screws and bolts and bits of dowel came in. And it wasn’t empty. Oh no, not by a long shot was it not empty. Inside were were sixteen inch-long pieces of dowel, six important looking screws and four plastic stoppers.

Now I don’t know how much IKEA furniture you have had the pleasure of assembling in your life, dear reader(s) but the thing about IKEA is this: they run a very lean operation. They are not in the business of giving you more than they think you need. In any area. The meatballs are carefully counted out as they are scooped onto plates in the cafeteria. There are no free bags. And there sure as hell aren’t twenty-six surplus-to-requirements parts included with a daybed.

I agonised over what to do, because I hate confronting people about anything. I settled, eventually, on a cheerful and ever so slightly passive aggressive text message.

‘Hi, Allen Key [not his real name], thanks for today. We’ve just noticed a bunch of extra bits in a bag: quite a few wooden cylinders and six screws and some plastic stoppers. Do we need to add them to the bed somewhere?’

Why I didn’t feel I could just say ‘Workman, you did your work badly. Come fix it immediately’ is a story for another time, and we will also not go into why I thought a man who builds IKEA furniture for a living would not be au fait with the term ‘dowel’ and why I instead went with the ditsy-sounding ‘wooden cylinders’, thus making it sound as if I’m the one who doesn’t know her hardware terms. A conversation for another time.

His answer was as follows:

‘Hey no worries and no not at all, I’ve just figured out the quickest way to assemble IKEAs furniture without reading their instructions, you’ve got nothing to worry about though, it’s not going to break lol I guarantee it.’

Well, where to even start with pulling that apart?

Firstly, telling me not to worry twice makes me worry twice as much.

Secondly, WITHOUT READING THEIR INSTRUCTIONS? Are you an anarchist? I didn’t pay for flatpack anarchy. You have to read the instructions. You just do. You can’t just do it however you want. That is not how this works. IKEA furniture barely works even if you follow the instructions to the absolute pictogram. It doesn’t stand a chance if you just whack it together as fast as you can, with no respect for the numbered sequence helpfully and essentially lain out for you in the instructions.

Thirdly, ‘lol I guarantee it’? I’m no lawyer but I have never seen an episode of The Good Wife or Rumpole of the Bailey or Judge Judy where such wording stood up in court. I can see it now:

“But, Your Honour, Allen Key said lol he guaranteed his work. See, it’s right here on my phone: ‘LOL’. Well, no, actually it wasn’t in caps. It was just ‘lol’. What do you mean LOL has to be in capital letters for the guarantee to be legally binding? What do you mean case dismissed?”

It didn’t end up in court. I just reported it to IKEA and they were suitably horrified by the laissez-faire attitude of Allen Key. They sent round Baz Who Does It Properly, and he did it properly. When Baz left there were no extra bits, hopefully because he put them all their proper places in the bed, but possibly because he just pocketed them. Which is exactly what Allen Key could have done in the first place and I would have been none the wiser.

The next day, May Blossom’s very old bed collapsed. It had been showing signs of its imminent demise, which we had been studiously ignoring. Once so many of the slats had disintegrated that our firstborn and her mattress were disappearing from sight like Artex into the Swamps of Sadness in Never Ending Story, we gave in and bought a new one. From Ikea, of course, because we are nothing if not pathetically devoted to that big ol’ dumb old yellow and blue boxstore and its convenience and cinnamon rolls.

I put the new bed together myself. It was pretty easy. I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

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