too much typing—since 2003


my time is wasting

Had a rather frustrating weekend dealing with a well-known Swedish-based household-goods retailer. Here are some ideas on how to run a business (which are collectively available for purchase under the name "Snårki"):

1. If you sell furnishings (such as bookshelves) that are modular, have a website that lists them in various configurations - but make it very difficult to find out any useful information about individual units. By no means should you list the dimensions of the items as packaged. This will prohibit your customer from doing something silly like figuring out what sort of vehicle will accommodate purchases.

2. Structure shipping charges by item, not by weight. Customers sometimes have the unreasonable expectation that, given that most of the cost of shipping an item comes with the first item (someone has to drive a truck), subsequent items might cost less, on the grounds that each item is not, in fact, coming in its own separate truck with individual driver. Frustrate this inane notion: after all, it's simpler just to multiply numbers (even when the resulting shipping charge would be more expensive than the items purchased) than to have complex calculations that might save a customer money and encourage them to reduce profits by ordering lots of stuff at once.

3. Do not allow customers to purchase items in advance for pick-up at any particular store. Customers should demonstrate their loyalty by driving several hours in a rented vehicle on the off-chance that the particular set of items they're looking for might just might happen to be in stock.

4. Maintain only a vague and offhandedly accurate record of inventory. "Three or four" is a number.

5. Have a very loose definition of "in stock." Example: instruct your sales personnel to tell customers, yes, we have 20 of that item "in stock." Even if only 1 of this item is actually available for purchase (and that item, opened and beat-up: see below).

6. If a customer, having been told that there are 20 of a particular item "in stock," then discovers that of that 20 (of which the customer wishes to purchase 2), 20 of them are on warehouse shelves fifteen feet off the floor, wrapped in plastic on a palette, tell the customer that a manager will be with them "shortly." ("Shortly" means: before the store closes, but not necessarily sooner.)

7. Inform the customer that even though the 20 items are "in stock," they cannot be sold - because the store cannot operate a forklift during open hours, even though big-box retailers like Home Depot do so all the time. Refuse any suggestions that the aisle might be closed off temporarily for safety issues. Do not immediately acknowledge that this policy is not "law" but only store policy.

8. If the customer suggests that there's no need for a forklift - that someone on a ladder with a boxcutter could cut the plastic and bring down a package - return to the rules and regulations regarding forklifts and safety, irrelevantly. (At this point, keep a close watch on the customer, who is eyeing the kitchen supplies area looking for a small, sharp knife with a Swedish name and thinking of monkeying up onto the scaffolding and cutting the plastic himself.)

9. Claim that, even though the store's been open only two hours that day and that it's the busiest sales day of the week, the store isn't in the least to blame for lazy failure to stock (note: in this instance, by "stock" we mean "make available for actual sale by not hiding the item in an inaccessible location") an item you've already informed the customer is "very popular." Claim that all ten or twenty or so of the item that would fit in the glaringly empty space set aside for the item must have sold that morning - even though there's also no empty pallet there, as if an unfussy customer decided the pallet would do as well as the item of furniture, at least if given a charmingly Swedish name.

10. Neglect to mention until the customer is apoplectic with rage that, oh, there's another, newly-opened branch of the store only twenty miles away that has the desired item in stock (in this case, actually sellable).

Pavement "A Date with Ikea"
John Vanderslice "My Old Flame"
Jonathan Coulton "Ikea"

* If the Coulton track doesn't download, go here and right-click on the "Download Song" link.