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IKEA Customer Service Really Failed This Weekend And I Won’t Be Back Soon.

If I don’t step foot in another IKEA again for a long time, it still probably will not have been long enough. And that hurts, because I really did like poking around inside their gigantic showrooms. Although I stopped buying furniture there a while ago (because it tends to not last too long), it was a good place to pick up all sorts of knick-knacks for the house.

But no more, not if I can help it.

Last weekend, my wife and I decided to take a trip to IKEA. The reason? We had a gift card to the store and we needed a few things for our kitchen. We do not have an IKEA in our neighborhood and it takes about 30-45 minutes to get to the closest one. So we headed out, found a parking spot eventually (I thought people stopped shopping after Christmas!) and spent the next 2.5 hours walking through the store. We picked up a new dish drainer, a few glass storage jars for rice and pasta, a picture frame for an oversize print I am having made, and a few other odds and ends. The reason it took so long just to get these couple of items was because the store is so big and there is so much to go through. OK, so now we are done shopping.

Heading down to the register, we seemingly encounter every resident of Los Angeles standing in line. I am not kidding – there were at least 15 people in each line ahead of us, but whatever – we had already spent 2.5 hours shopping, so might as well stand in line and buy the stuff we came for. After being in line for a little while, I calculated that we had been gone from our house for about 3.5 hours just to go to IKEA. Insanity, I tell you. But then came the kicker…after ringing up my purchases, I hand the girl my gift card, and she says:

Sorry, we are not taking gift cards right now, our system is down.” Um, what?

She proceeded to tell me that she could take cash, check or credit card, but that they could not process my gift card. So I asked for the manager, and she sent me over to this guy sitting behind what looked like bullet-proof glass (do they have that many problems with customers?). He told me the same thing – the system is down, nothing he can do, sorry. I told him it would have been nice if they had put a sign on the front door and told people that, but he said nothing. So I asked to speak to the “real” manager of the store, and some woman came out with the same story – “sorry, that system is down, we cannot process it”. At this point I was fuming because I had left my house almost 4 hours earlier just to pick up some random stuff, only to find out I had to pay for it with my own money instead of using the gift card. Wait, isn’t a gift card the same as cash? So aren’t they, in fact, not giving me the money that someone else gave to them, for me to use? There has to be a law against this somewhere… Anyway, I then proceeded to do her job for her, by coming up with a few ways to make this customer happy:

1. Exchange my gift card for a store credit worth the difference between what I was buying and what was left on the card. They called the phone number, they know how much the card was worth. Nope, no dice. Sorry sir.

2. Take my gift card, deduct the value of what I was buying, and issue a new gift card back to me with the balance. If people can buy stuff, then they can buy gift cards, which means they can issue one. Nope, no dice. Sorry sir.

3. Let me take the stuff home, and they can figure it out later. I offered to let them keep the card and have them figure it out when their system is “up”, and mail me back the card. Nope, no dice. Sorry sir.

So after hours in this IKEA store and dealing with such an incompetent manager, my wife and I walked out without buying anything. The stuff we were buying was not that expensive but it was the principal of the matter – in effect, they were holding money that someone had given them for the gift card, and they were not allowing (or accommodating) a customer to use said money. And I would understand if the store was closed, or all their phones were dead, or they were not taking credit cards…but those scenarios were not the case. It was just that they were not processing gift cards for some reason, and they did not bother telling a single patron of this before they got to the front of the line. The girls behind me in line were going to use a gift card, and the guy in the line next to me said “They are not accepting gift cards? What a load of crap”. I imagine that there were a lot of unhappy customers that day, seeing as how people probably got gift cards for Christmas and were looking to use them that day.

I plan on selling my gift card and letting someone else deal with the store because I have zero interest in going back anytime soon…especially with any of my own money Let that be a warning to anyone – some days, IKEA does not take gift cards and will not make any adjustments to try to make the customer happy – so you might want to ask at the front before spending hours wandering through the store. Can you tell I am peeved?

Ahh, I can let it go now…


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Comments (32)

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  1. TheGuy says:

    This same thing happened to my wife an I last week. She loves to shop for cloths at Macy’s so I got her a gift card for her stocking. When I bought it they gave me a 15% off coupon to shop after Christmas. Then last week we went in so she could pick up a few things. When we got to the register the girl working there said the coupon wasn’t valid with a gift card. I couldn’t believe it, she said we could use any other form of payment except a gift card. I tried arguing the logic behind this stupid move but she explained the system wouldn’t accept a gift card a payment. I was prepared to walk but my wife didn’t think it was as big of a deal as I did and opted to pay via check card.

    Someone tell me why stores issue gift cards but then refuse to accept them…

  2. Clare says:

    That incident is vaguely reminiscent of theft, imo, especially after proposing reasonable work-arounds to rectify the situation. It’s amazing that so many retail stores can get away with de-prioritizing customer satisfaction. Gotta love bureaucracy.

    I would refrain from shopping there, too.

  3. Lily says:

    You could always try to sic Consumerist on them.

    I never had a problem with the Ikea I use (in New Jersey), but I never tried to use a gift card there, either.

  4. david says:

    Clare – that’s what irritates me the most, is that it DOES feel like theft in that someone had already given them money for that gift card, and they did not want to give it back.

    I won’t be back for quite some time, if ever again. Although seeing TheGuy’s comment above, I guess it can happen anywhere.

  5. Mrs. Micah says:

    I agree that it seems like theft. I mean, they have the money and essentially issued you something which they said would replace the money. But now they won’t take it. Classic.

  6. crazypumpkin says:

    I’d suggest writing a complaint to their corporate office, cc-ing the store manager. You may also want to make a complaint to your local better business bureau. I am a firm believer in loudly complaining about things like this. It’s the only way businesses will learn that their customers won’t tolerate certain behaviors.

  7. plonkee says:

    I’m actually planning on going to Ikea this weekend (love cheap modern furniture I’m afraid). But I’ll certainly be avoiding the gift cards.

  8. Ugh, that sounds awful! We too have had terrible customer service experiences at IKEA (though we keep going back, they really do offer tremendous value). I would see if the Consumerist has any executive contact information for IKEA and send them a letter!

  9. Patrick says:

    Hmmm. I would be very peeved as well. At the very least they should have prominently posted a sign on the front door announcing it to their shoppers.

  10. […] IKEA Customer Service Really Failed This Weekend And I Won’t Be Back Soon – My Two Dollars. What is with bad customer service these days? […]

  11. Rob Madrid says:

    For more customer service horror stories check out Ellen Rosemens collumn

    “Here’s a New Year’s resolution for Canadian companies: Fix customer service”

    http://www.ellenroseman.com/?p=92

    speaking of such does anyone know how to insert a comment into a post. I see it all the time, inserting a long link doesn’t look good

  12. […] Two Dollars – David had an issue with Ikea customer service. He doesn’t think he will go there again soon, and I don’t blame […]

  13. Anne says:

    Your attorney general may be interested in this story. Imagine how many people must have tried to pay with a gift card, were refused, and instead of walking out like you did, instead paid with cash only to come back another day with the gift card. Not a bad little trick on IKEA’s part.

  14. david says:

    Maybe Anne – I am considering writing that letter this weekend. I sent a note to IKEA customer service and got nothing back, as I expected.

  15. Geir says:

    IKEA customer service is horrible…. There is no other way to describe it. I will never buy anything there again.

    I have never experienced anhything like it in the United States. They refused even to give me a store credit for $ 70 for an item that I brought back with a receipt, since 4 months had passed since I had purchased the product. I left the item on the counter and left the store enraged and unbelieving…

    As I left I met another woman who experienced similar treatment. Why do people shop at IKEA? I can understand that this kind of customer service can work in Russian, but not in the US…..

  16. Yellow Shirt says:

    Well, your first problem was going to IKEA on the weekend. I work at IKEA and weekends are hell.

  17. Yellow Shirt says:

    GEIR: you have three months to return an item at IKEA, it says so on the back of the receipt, AND on the front. You’re the kind of customer we complain about on our own blogs.

  18. david says:

    You are right Yellow Shirt, what was I thinking shopping on a weekend when the store is open. How stupid of me!

  19. […] Two Dollars: IKEA Customer Service Really Failed This Weekend And I Won’t Be Back Soon. Who doesn’t take a gift card? How is that possible? […]

  20. […] Two Dollars: IKEA Customer Service Really Failed This Weekend And I Won’t Be Back Soon. Who doesn’t take a gift card? How is that possible? […]

  21. deepali says:

    I’ve always hated IKEA. The stuff is cheap crap that falls apart immediately, the customer service is bitter losers who can’t get a job elsewhere, and the store is poorly designed specifically to make everyone irate. It’s worse than Wal-Mart.

    Any place you have to drive 45 minutes to is not worth it. Sell the card and let some other sucker deal with the hassle.

  22. SavingDiva says:

    I would write a few letters–one to the better business bureau and another to IKEA’s corporate office. Also, I would send a letter rather than an e-mail. I know a few companies are forced to respond to all letters, but not all e-mails.

  23. L says:

    I understand your frustration, although, as someone working in customer service, a lot of those things that you suggested are completely out of the control of even the managers of those big stores. If our gift card system goes down, there’s nothing we can do about it. Nothing. While, if the system had been down for a while, it would have been nice of them to post a sign on the door, but what happened if the system had gone down while you were already in the store. They don’t usualy make announcement for that type of thing.

    People seem to think that gift cards are better than paper gift certificates, but they cause a lot more headaches.

  24. SC says:

    Yikes, I would’ve been pissed.

    While I understand sometimes things are beyond their control, they should’ve posted signs when they knew of this problem so people at least knew–especially as it sounds like a lot of people were using gift cards.

    This kinda happened once at Costco–only way to pay was cash or check (debit/credit/and I’m assuming gift card) was down. People were pissed. I wasn’t buying a lot–was planning on paying cash so I had the money, but they only had signs at the cash registers–should’ve told people at the entrance (as they’re entering) of the situation so people could turn around and save them the hassle.

  25. Patty says:

    Ouch, makes me glad that we don’t have an Ikea within a decent driving distance. What I think they were doing (or trying to do) is to make you wait that month where they can then charge you for the pleasure of holding on to the card. Because I am willing to bet that they are one of those companies that have the fee tacked on that for every 30 days that the card is not used $5.00 gets taken off.

  26. I have never understood the big attraction to IKEA. One came to our city about a year ago and we’ve been by it dozens of times on the freeway, but have never stopped. My husband’s job actually gets the returned (broken) merchandise. It seems to be low quality merchandise from what he’s seen. On another list I’m on, the ladies are all happy and excited, and several are jealous for a couple of members who just got a new IKEA. After reading your post, I’m even more persuaded to stay away…

  27. David says:

    Really Patty? Ouch – but will have to check into it, and I will be sending a letter to the AG’s office of California for sure.

  28. nedm says:

    It’s pretty rare when a system is down. Considering that it’s GE that does the finances of most store cards (ikea, home depot, lowes etc) if something wrong happens at ge it effects all the others.

    In order to legally comply with sorbanes oxley EVERY purchase must be accounted for. There’s been restrictions in terms of what the receits say, what state laws say etc. For example paying for something with a check one day and you return the other you won’t get you’re check back because it hasn’t reached it…checks are extreamly slow because you deal with companies that have their incorporation in one area that services one of the branches of the federal reserve and not the others.

    Often times if a product is used you might end up with store credit back even if cash was used because now you’ve used it to the point where it isn’t able to be sold as new.

    Since the system was down consider the following

    1) they didn’t know what was on your card…could be $5..could be $5,000. until the system was up there’s no way to tell

    2) Gift cards/merchandise credit etc are NOT the same as cash. Cash transactions mean your change is in cash and you usually keep the receit to prove you paid for something. While credit issued involves the ability to issue a card. If a store cannot issue cards (which they said) then they can’t subtract anything off the card

    3) what you were asking for is transactions to be done after the point of sale and that’s illegal in some areas. That’s like issuing a post dated check to a place

    4) keep in mind this isn’t just ikea…walmart had trouble with their own cards right after Christmas.

    if you want something that is “like cash” then just use cash

  29. david says:

    they didn’t know what was on your card”¬¶could be $5..could be $5,000. until the system was up there’s no way to tell – Yes, they did. They called it in and sure enough, that worked fine.

  30. L Stein says:

    I have complaint with one of your store supervisors I have sent him two emails in regards to speaking to one of his supervisors or and the head-office, and by the way I reside in Toronto Canada. I would like to speak to someone about this matter as soon as possible but I am not sure who to contact from here, I also called Ikea ans spoke to someone she couldn’t even give me a proper email address. This is concerning one of your products I had consumed and got very ill.

    Regards, L.Stein

  31. Joseph says:

    We went to Ikea today to buy a few things. After checking out I noticed they were selling food items in the area just outside the checkout area. I found a 1/2 pound chunk of swiss cheese, and attempted to purchase it. The sales clerk in the food area rung up the cheese, and I noticed that they had included sales tax. In California food items that are not hot, or intended for eating on the premises are not taxable. Of course I refused to pay the tax and left the cheese with the sales clerk. I called Ikea’s “customer service” explained the problem. The “customer service” person put me on hold for 20 minutes. She came back and told me she couldn’t find someone in customer service to help me, and I’d have to call back. I told her that I thought I was talking to “customer service” but still couldn’t resolve the problem. I should have paid the sales tax, and filed suit in small claims court (I’m retired so I have the time).

  32. david says:

    Thanks for the comment Joseph…it’s amazing what companies get away with, isn’t it?

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