Saturday Endurance at IKEA or The Running of the Ikitarod

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It seemed the most apt picture for this post. © Copyright Bill Boaden and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The Boffin and I spent the morning at IKEA. A Saturday morning. This is something we rarely do for good reasons. He has more patience for the IKEA Saturday crowd than I do. Me? I call some of them IKIDIOTS, an isolated group of shoppers who ruin it for the rest of us.

For people who are not familiar with IKEA, it is a furniture/home store originally started in Sweden but now based in the Netherlands. Its business model is based upon lower cost, modern design furniture that you put together. (My in-laws called this suppository furniture because you put it up yourself. Fantastic!)

IKEA has grown massively worldwide and is a staple in Europe and in U.S. metro areas. So, the reason IKEA is especially crowded on the weekends in the States is because that is when those who live further afield have the time to get to the stores. I understand that, and I make allowances for people who do not know how IKEA works normally.

But some people are just…um…yeah.

Saturday, Sunday, and holidays are when the IKIDIOTS commence the race that I call The Ikitarod.

Like any endurance race, The Ikitarod has several phases.

  1. Revolving Door Obstruction – The IKIDIOTS always manage to hamper the sensors of the huge revolving door at the entrance causing it to stop. Then they just look around and not actually move their bodies in order to deactivate the sensors. The door actually does not move again until about 5-10 minutes later when the IKIDIOTS figure out they are the cause of the problem.
  2. Atrium Gazing – Once they get past the door, they stare all around at the huge open atrium while standing right at the foot of the escalator, once again, blocking any forward movement. At this miraculous moment is when they realize that they need the pencil, blue product slip, and yellow bag. Then they will go retrieve the items.  Take advantage of your chance to get up the escalator because the IKIDIOTS will return to the same spot to stare at the dining table and six chairs on the floor display.
  3. Sign Search – Upon finishing the ride up the escalator, the IKIDIOTS proceed to look for signs directing them where to go next even though there are arrows on the floor guiding the path. Looking for these signs requires them to stand directly in the middle of thoroughfares, including right at the top of the escalator.
  4. Cart Procurement – Next on the agenda for the IKIDIOT is cart procurement because why block pathways with just their bodies when they can use a portable hunk of metal in an awkward way too? And they only need to push around a pack of napkins, a bag of tealights, their yellow bag, and a dustpan apparently. But don’t worry that is not the end of their purchases because…
  5. Restaurant Stop – The IKIDOTS must stop in the restaurant, having left their carts on the periphery to take up the cause of customer obstruction. They grab the dining tray carts and bash them into your ass when all you want to do is order some meatballs in peace. Then they leave the dining carts around at random while they go off and accidentally grab other people’s shopping carts because everyone else’s has napkins, tealights, yellow bags, and dustpans.
  6. Shopping – Shopping for IKIDIOTS usually means a lot of wandering, trying to figure out tags that give complicated product locations like AISLE and BIN, and wondering what those funny names for those coffee tables actually mean. These activities are very engrossing because…
  7. Sprog Search – Their kids get bored and wander off. They usually end up in the Children’s section on the spinning egg chair.
  8. Large Furniture Pick-Up – Now the fun part comes when the IKIDIOTS either exchange the shopping carts for the flat carts or try to handle both kinds when it comes to picking up the large furniture. They forget how physics really works. At least they forgot how two different kinds of matter cannot occupy the same space, and some things are just too large and dense for certain spaces which leads to…
  9. Customer Injury – They will hit someone as they get that BILLY bookcase off the shelf and/or…
  10. Property Destruction – They will knock over the plants in the nursery section as they look for one last thing even though they have a full HEMNES entertainment center in tow.
  11. Checkout Annoyance – Being too cheap to buy the blue shopping bags, the IKIDIOTS get all butthurt, complain, and try to sneak out of the store with the yellow ones.
  12. Loading– Then they leave the store and come to the realization that the sofa they purchased cannot be adhered to the top of their Volkswagen Passat with twine and Blu-Tack. Then they hog a loading space for an inordinately long time while other people are needing to get in to take care of their purchases.

The cinnamon rolls can wait for mid-week shopping, my friends.

Nothing But the Best for Mom.

I just came home from the pharmacy.  While I was there, I was in the greeting card aisle with a gentleman who was chuckling while taking a picture of a card and sending the photo via his phone.  Being in the States, it wasn’t awkward for me to say, “Oh, a really funny one to share with friends?”

He replied, “Na, it’s my mom’s birthday.  This is her card.”

I realized that he created a new definition of an e-card.

So, is he being cheap, or is he just using modern technology like the rest of us do with birthday greetings?

The Netherworld of HomeGoods – Merrie Olde England Edition

As I stated in my previous post about HomeGoods, you are entering an alternate reality anyway.  However, what started off as a mission to buy new bedsheets for the guest room yesterday turned into an odyssey into an England that exists in a tourist with arrest development’s mind.  Armed with my phone, I am happy to provide evidence.

Let’s look at this biscuit tin, shall we?

Yes, Old Sheffield Village, the village of about 550,000 people that was once one of the top steel producing cities of the world. It is still a city known for the manufacturing of high quality cutlery and high speed steel used for drill bits and cutting tools.  It is also redeveloping and redefining itself to adapt to the 21st century. How quaint.  Obviously, this is a case of the Asians trying to make an English country biscuit tin and not quite getting the language right.

Moving on, I found this little number amongst the mugs.

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I think it was supposed to be the Union Jack, but it looked more like a bad idea after a night of pub crawling.

Bill: “Oi! Peter! “Let’s paint the Union Jack on this mug using our knobs!”
Peter: (Passes out)

Of course, one must always…

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No, that trend shows no signs of dying over here. We can get tea to go in our mug.

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Or we can “Keep Calm, and Sail On”

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Although, for all I know, it could say, “Keen, Calm and Carry On” That conjures up a Lord Flashheart from Blackadder type of character, which would have been great for Royal Navy recruitment during World War II.

Who is keen, calm, and carrying on?  This guy!  WOOF!
“Who is keen, calm, and carrying on? This guy! WOOF!” Photo courtesy of the National Museum of the Royal Navy http://www.nmrn-portsmouth.org.uk/

Going into the kitchen section, I see somebody has re-licensed the Kilner name and started to manufacture the jars, and I don’t know how well these new jars are selling in the U.K.

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Thanks to the BBC, I have watched a documentary all about the Kilner company. Kilner started in the 1840s in Yorkshire and thrived through the Industrial Revolution. However, the company went bankrupt back in the 1930s. So, Kilner itself does not exist. The brand has a specific reputation for quality preserving jars.

That being said, I am not going to pay $4.00 for what is an empty Smuckers jam jar because it was made in England. (To those who put the gingham top on the lid, that was a bad idea. Smuckers does the same thing with its overly sugared fruit from Hell.) I was on the verge of looking for remnants of strawberries. This is one product that does not translate well over here.

But what about a wall hanging?  Perhaps a clock?

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Hey, I love Regent Street as much as the next person.  It has some wonderful shopping.  It is gorgeous around Christmas with its lights and decorations.  The architecture is magnificent.  It is a must-go place when you are in London. So to buy such a cheap yawn-worthy clock saying, “Regent Street LONDON” is a bit of a contradiction to the real thing when you think about it.

To sum up, after you kept calm and bought all your useless crap, you could stick it in your London shopping bag.

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And now you can feel really English.

The Netherworld of HomeGoods

For those in the UK, HomeGoods is the offshoot of TJ Maxx that sells the household items that the department stores and other fine retailers couldn’t push onto the consumers.  The idea is that you get a bargain by the big markdowns. You would know this store as Home Sense.

Well, stepping into a HomeGoods is really stepping into a warped stasis. These objects might make sense in one reality, but they cancel themselves out in most other realities. Alice’s trip through the Looking Glass was a doddle in comparison.

Right now, with summer approaching, we have a sea theme going on at HomeGoods. These are just two of many aisles of this sort of stuff.

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This would be OK, if I did not live in the Chicago suburbs. Yes, we have the Great Lakes close by, which are sea-like in scale. However, they contain this thing called fresh water that negates that whole seaside ambiance that this decor is trying to achieve. In fact, if people do have cabins, they are by the lakes in Wisconsin and Michigan. So, HomeGoods is using massive amounts of retail space to promote this delusion of being somewhere we are not and completely missing a market in the process.

Piggybacking on this alternate reality is this tray…

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We’ve been to Kennebunkport. Even drove past the Bush compound and waved. Nobody waved back. They must have known neither one of us voted for George W. We also didn’t buy anything when we visited the town. So this is our chance to get the souvenir we could have gotten…a wafer-thin tin tray that says Kennebunkport made in India and bought in Illinois. Only in America.

And just when you think your income isn’t disposable enough, you can buy empty wine bottles.

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Let me give you some advice, if you are considering this purchase. If you want to make some friends, don’t drink, and need empty bottles, buy some wine and invite some people around. I promise you it’ll be a much more pleasant time than going to HomeGoods. Your new friends will be happy to provide that liquid dispensation service. Trust me.

Away from the drinking and onto the food, I have no issue with shortbread. Who does not love this combination of flour, butter, and sugar? And it is lovely when it is baked into novelty shapes, but I think kilts is taking things a little too far.
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“I know! Kilt-shaped shortbread! Let’s equate it with wool and sweaty baws!”

I’m known to mentally ruin nice things.

Don’t think we left anything out for the kids.  Let’s start them on the road to galeophobia and behavioral therapy with this bean bag chair.

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If you want to add to the fun, insert a motion-activated sound device that plays the Jaws theme and attach extra durable leather straps.  Just plop them in front of the TV at night with their new, favorite comfy chair and enjoy their squeals of excitement.

Look, Alex, Shark Week's on!  I'll just heat up your mac and cheese.
Look, Alex, Shark Week’s on! I’ll just heat up your mac and cheese.

As if things couldn’t get any weirder, this mug simply stating “SELFIE” was the most perplexing object in the shop.

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I would guess you would only use this mug to use while you are taking a selfie. However, your friends would already be able to figure out you have taken a selfie, so it would be a lame joke. Maybe the mug is commanding you to take a selfie? But there are special treatments for people who take orders from inanimate objects.

Perhaps the mug isn’t inanimate? Maybe it’s a magical, mystical mug that just takes selfies. But how would it take it without fingers?  Telekinesis?  Can it supposedly bend teaspoons like Uri Geller?  If that’s the case, it’s a pretty crap mug because it should do something more suited to its purpose, like make tea. But you don’t, do you. You just roam the country, Selfie Mug, you narcissistic bastard, sneaking into people’s pockets and purses, taking pictures of yourself, without a care in the world, when you could be making hot beverages for others, and providing small moments of joy for humanity.  You probably damage cutlery too while you are at it.

I hate you, Selfie Mug.

Leave me alone with my crushed dreams and shattered psyche.

Heave-Ho, Heave-Ho

One thing we have in common in both cultures is the tendency to amass too many things. I admit the Americans win the contest as far as the amount of stuff we accumulate, especially since we have a significantly higher population (about 4 times that of the UK) with sufficient disposable income and more access to pointless products. Any nation that foists things like the Snuggie, which is basically a bathrobe (dressing gown) worn backwards, onto the buying public has a lot to answer for.

I am going to digress a bit. While I was researching this blog, I found an interesting advert in the UK for a model kit for a Lamborghini.

So, there is no price for the kit. You get some of the parts every month (24 packs). And when do you get the build guide? Five years later? I appreciate the time and patience it would take to build a model, but in the space of two years, wouldn’t it be better to build an actual car? What am I not getting?

Anyway, bringing it back to the subject at hand, both countries have various outlets of relief when we are buried alive in our crap. We have charity shops, giveaways to friends and relatives, eBay, Freecycle, and jumble sales to name a few avenues. But I want to compare and contrast two institutions.

First we have the British car boot sale. For those not privvy to British terminology, the boot is the car’s trunk. People would put their stuff in their cars, gather someplace like a car park (parking lot) of a school, church, or downtown area. A lot of times they set up their stuff on tables and tarpaulins by their cars. Sunday is usually the day for it. Summertime, when the weather is nicer, is usually high car boot sale season, but more places are offering indoor “car boot” sales throughout the year in community halls. And I used a very important word. Community. People gather in one spot, so it is a one-stop shop for the bargain hunter.

One drawback to the the seller has to watch out for are the rise of professional dealers who will try to strip you of your good inventory before you even open and resell it for a profit. However, car boot sales, if done right, can be an art form, and you can make a fair bit of money while making space in your home.

I also want to share a little ditty called “Car Boot Sale” by the great artist called, simply, Bill. Nobody seems to remember this song, but this was a staple on Steve Wright’s afternoon show in the 90’s on BBC Radio One and has become one of my most dreaded earworms. It was a good thing that I did not qualify for the EOD flight (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) because of my lack of depth perception. I can imagine what would have happened if I had to deactivate a bomb, and this was at the forefront of my mind. Go to 1:30 to find out some of the glorious things you can find at a car boot sale.

Now let’s compare this to the yard sale or garage sale. Here, you have to go to other people’s houses to look at their stuff. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because, if you are in the market for something large, like frat house quality furniture or a 6-foot wide mirrored Budweiser sign, you may find something to suit your needs.

I don’t do garage sales because I don’t want to deal with the general public when it comes to selling my stuff. Truthfully, I don’t want to deal with the general public. Case in point, I am not a haggler. That is the Boffin’s territory. He’s the one who can get a manager at a car dealership to beg for mercy. The Boffin, armed with spreadsheets and car prices from the inventories of other dealers, can make anyone in auto sales weep and curl in the fetal position. Negotiations are important for big ticket items like cars and houses, but I have no interest in arguing whether a blouse is worth 50 cents or a quarter.

Anyway, to compound the haggling, garage sale shoppers are an interesting breed with the motto, “It doesn’t hurt to ask.” They look around, see what you have, and think, “Well, they don’t have any fishing gear on the tables, but that does not mean there is no fishing gear. I know, I will ask if they have any.” To someone like me, that would be annoying because, if I wanted to sell my fishing gear, I would have put out my fishing gear. Even better is when they SEE something that is not obviously part of the sale and want to put an offer on it.

“That guy. Gray hair, glasses, blue pants. How much you want?”

“That’s my grandfather.”

“OK, $250.”

However, there are people who would sell anything they own, if the price is right. I am just not part of the Art of the Deal crowd who enjoys that sort of thing.  And I am certainly not putting anyone down who enjoys shopping and getting a good deal at these respective venues.  I just don’t want to be the one who sells them the stuff because I am not cut out for it.

To me, the whole point of these sorts of endeavors is to just get rid of your stuff. I just want to make a list of the items, box it up, take it Goodwill, and claim the deduction on our taxes. And I try not to bring home too much else to add to the donation pile, especially anything labelled As Seen on TV.