A trip to IKEA can be a glorious thing – but if we’re honest with ourselves, it can also be a pretty stressful one.
You go up those entry escalators bright eyed, ready and raring for action, but it only takes one wrong turn or a glance at a conveniently placed coffee table to turn you off course.
You know that there are incredible purchases to be made if you can locate them, but in the midst of the busy aisles, stacked shelves and somewhat confusing directions, it’s all too easy to get lost or distracted (or covered in lingonberry gravy), and end up blowing your budget and carefully prepared list before you can say Billy bookcase.
Fear not, IKEA lovers, because there are ways to cheat the baffling system – it’s just a case of knowing how.
From the quietest time in the store to the best value meal in the canteen, we’ve rounded up some of the best IKEA hacks to make your shopping (and meatball eating) experience even better.
Time your visit right
We all tend to think that a first-thing-in-the-morning trip will be the quietest, but in a recent Reddit AMA thread, one IKEA employee suggested that the best time to visit a store was actually around 30 minutes to an hour after opening.
‘I see a lot of people coming in before the store isn’t even open to be first. The funny part is that they create a rush. The best time to go towards the checkout for no queue is 30 mins to an hour after opening,’ they said. ‘Also, weekends are always busy, try and avoid if you can’t stand queues.’
Choose your canteen meal wisely
During the same discussion, the employee was asked ‘What do you think is the best food deal in the restaurant?’, and it’s good news for meatball fans.
‘I always go for the meatballs, 15 meatballs + chips is around £5 which is quite a good offer,’ they replied. ‘For example, a big mac meal in mcds is £4.20’.
Go your own way (literally)
Always feel like you have to follow those pesky floor arrows? No more! As part of another Reddit chat, a second IKEA worker said whilst the shops do everything they can to guide you around the store in a helpful way, there’s no obligation to go to the typical route.
‘The creator of IKEA knew that the store would be overwhelming because we sell so many different things, so he did what customers think is the “maze.” It’s not meant to be that at all,’ the staff member explained. ‘Instead of having a big open space where you just hope you find the department you’re looking for, the walls we put up are meant to make it so you never miss what you’re looking for.
‘The arrows are just to try and keep the “how do I get to the checkout” questions to a minimum,’ they added. ‘Go against the flow. Don’t give in to society’s norms!’
Get to the returns desk speedily
In the spirit of totally ignoring the carefully-designed route that IKEA have laid out for you, you can also cut through several secret shortcuts to get to the area you need in double quick time.
‘As soon as you go in the store after the Welcome Host desk (the co-worker that hands out the yellow bags) there is a shortcut that takes you straight to the Customer Returns department,’ another Reddit comment details. Bonus tip: you can also go here to get any replacement parts or screws that were missing from a previous purchase, although you can also fill out a form on the company website to get these posted out to you free of charge.
Learn the Swedish product names
It’s a little extra effort on your part, but the staff member also noted that they’re required to remember the names of the most products in store by their Swedish name: ‘so if you ask me what the Pruta or the Hemsmak is, I can point you in the direction,’ they said.
This trick is probably only handy if you have a particular item in mind and want to find it quickly, but it does save you from frantically pointing to a poor quality Pinterest screengrab and asking where ‘the nice shelves with the boxy inner things’ live (we’ve all been there, and it ain’t pretty).
Get FREE tea and coffee
If you’re not already a member of the IKEA FAMILY club, you really need to rethink your dedication to the big blue and yellow experience, because holders of those magical cards drink hot beverages for free from Monday-Friday.
You also get an extra 10% off sale items, reductions on certain other products, offers on food and even the chance to ‘Swipe a Surprise’. Simply swipe your card at the checkout (or online), scan your receipt at the nearest IKEA FAMILY kiosk, and you could win prizes ranging from free products in store to a holiday. No, really!
Avoid the ‘open the wallet’ sections
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You know those little piles of attractive, affordable impulse buys scattered throughout the store? Or more dangerous still, the temptress that is the Market Hall, with its array of impossible-to-resist bargains for every room in your home? During a meeting with store manager Martin Albrecht, the New Yorker discovered that these are known as the ‘open the wallet’ sections of the shop: ‘an abundance of cheap goods – flowerpots, slippers, lint rollers – encourages the customer to make a purchase, any purchase, the thinking being that IKEA shoppers buy either nothing or a lot,’ they explain.
They also use a technique called ‘bulla bulla’, which involves stocking bins to the point of overflowing ‘to create the impression of volume and, therefore, inexpensiveness.’ If you’re trying to avoid wasting money on items you don’t really need, this is one trap you should steer well clear of!