As the world's largest furniture retailer, IKEA can be a massively fun yet potentially stressful shopping experience as the huge stores offer so many amazing things to see. To make the most of your IKEA experience, be sure to check out these behind-the-scenes facts and secrets shared by actual employees as detailed in IKEA veteran Johan Stenebo's book, 'The Truth about Ikea: The Secret Behind the World's Fifth Richest Man and the Success of the Flatpack Giant.'
Affectionately known as the "Long Natural Path," the maze-like showrooms are designed to get customers to lay their eyes on the maximum amount of items while shopping according to former employee Johan Stenebo. It is also curved every 50 feet to prevent shoppers from getting bored while walking around.
There are many quick routes throughout the store for both safety and stocking reasons, and they are opened to the public although it's not advertised. Most often they are unmarked service doors. According to employee Paula, you can walk through any door with no one stopping you unless it's marked "Employees Only."
"They're always changing," says employee Paul Robertson. "They used to change them fairly frequently because we had a lot of repeat business, so customers would get familiar with the shortcuts and know how to zip through. After a while they would change the shortcuts to force people to go around the long way again."
All those partitions that separate display rooms are on rollers and lock down during open hours. According to Paula, at the end of the night they move all the walls out of the way so that they have a straight shot to the trash. This also makes it easier to rearrange display rooms.
You might have noticed that IKEA has piles of small, practical items that are so cheap, it's almost impossible to pass up, which employees refer to as the "Open the Wallet" sections. According to employee Rob, the idea of these sections is to encourage impulse buys, making you buy something you didn't even realize you wanted.
In the same vein of the "Open the Wallet" section, the stores also employ the "bulla bulla" technique, which is when they stuff the bins to the point of overflowing. This creates the impression of volume, and thus inexpensiveness. This tricks customers, aka us, into thinking were getting a deal.
You are allowed to touch and test all the items, which means that you can lay down and take a quick nap if need be (and after trekking through IKEA that is totally necessary). According to IKEA spokesman Josefin Thorell, they want customers to feel at home in their stores, and to hopefully fall in love with that mattress so much that they sell a few extra.
According to employee Jana, the pillows on the display beds only get replaced once a month, and the pillowcases only when they are visibly soiled. The same goes for blankets and duvet covers. You've been warned.
Jana went on to lament that many customers may feel a bit too much at home and open items. Everything they sell in the store is on display, and you're more than welcome to touch those items, lay your face on it, whatever you please. But as soon as a box is opened, the store can no longer sell it, so they have to scan it out.
Employees will of course help out, but only when requested. "You were supposed to only help customers if they asked you for it," says Rob. "We were told that's a very Scandinavian way of how stores work." This also applies to the warehouse section, where you will be expected to find and lift your own items unless it's clear you need assistance.
With all those bookshelves on display, that means IKEA needs a lot of books to fill them, so they turned to their employees for help. Yet according to Rob, there are guidelines, like finding books to match the color scheme of the display, and of course choosing nothing racy.
There is much more to the eight-digit serial number, such as the last two digits indicating the color of the item. So say the last two digits were 40, that could mean that the item is blue. This indicates that any item in the 4 range would be a shade of blue. So 41 may be light blue and 42 would be dark blue.
Each name of every product is carefully chosen within a theme. Some examples are bookcases take on the name of occupations, bathroom items are named after Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays and fabrics and curtains are women's names.
It's a given that most places of business have their own lingo, and IKEA is no exception. Jana detailed "Code 22" means that the cash lanes at checkout are very backed up and any employee with register experience must report to the front. Marie talked about "Code 99," which means a kid is lost in the store. This actually happens a lot, as there are many, many places a child can hide in.
If you have a popular item from IKEA pinned on one of your boards, you might want to go buy it ASAP. Paula says whenever a particular item becomes a Pinterest sensation, those items sell out very quickly.
From the immense size of the store to the huge selection, shopping with your significant at IKEA can quickly become a stressful and emotional experience. Jana says she has seen couples fighting all the time, so if it does come down to it, just know that you're not alone.