Mission Improbable: checking product availability at IKEA

I really need a new desk. My old one is literally falling apart and the couch in CloudTags’ Atlanta HQ, while quite comfortable as a temporary substitute, is really not suitable for spending 10-14 hours at a time sitting, so today we decided to take the plunge and invest in some office furniture.

As our company grows we want to remain thrifty, so our first stop was not the Herman Miller store or Design Within Reach. It was the mecca of swedish engineering and innovative packaging: IKEA.


I love IKEA. I love their accessible designs, their prices and I, believe it or not, actually like assembling their furniture.

What I have always had a bit of an issue with is the daunting task of acquiring their products in a physical store. The layout is a maze and the selection is completely overwhelming. My wife can’t visit this store on Saturdays when its crowded, she gets completely overwhelmed with anxiety. Shopping here is really a quest, a mission for which preparation is the key to success.

I get lost in this store staring at every little cleverly designed widget I stumble across, which is very entertaining, until I actually want to buy something. Then, I have to remember the product name and style, bin and aisle number, and hope that they actually have what I want in stock. The aisle contain endless home furnishing stimulation, so if you dont focus your shopping on a few items, you’re going to be in real trouble.

You can use the readily available pencil and notepad, which we were outfitted with by friendly greeters, along with a tape measure, before beginning our epic quest through the store.

Theres also an IKEA app for keeping track of your shopping list, which some of the store employees didn’t know about.

We found a desk to purchase, which came with a choice of leg styles. The legs we wanted were not in stock according to the plastic tag hanging from the display item. But a quick check on the app and there were 2 in the warehouse! This sounds fishy, so we ask a very friendly store associate for some help understanding what it means for things to be in-stock at IKEA.


When you’ve defeated the IKEA shopping maze, its time to face the final boss: the pickup warehouse. You then have to recollect all the aisle and bin numbers you wrote down and actually to see if they’re in stock. This warehouse is tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of square feet of storage space and the game is to find the aisle, then bin number and hope and pray that your item is in stock.

The desk legs we wanted were not in stock, despite the app’s claims. Now I know why they quote stock status as “most likely”.

I love IKEA. I want to buy their products. I wish it was just a little easier.