The flat packs are easy to transport and reduce transport costs while costs are also reduced by having customers do most of the leg work in giant warehouse stores to get the flat packs and then spend their own time assembling them. As well, much of the furniture is now produced in low cost jurisdictions and the company pursues “tax efficiency” by having the company owned by a Dutch registered tax-exempt non-profit foundation.
This all sounds like a recipe for continued success but any consumer must balance the marginal benefits of an IKEA purchase (nice, cheap furniture) with the marginal cost (time to purchase and assemble as well as the hassles of dealing with flat packs that are defective). My point is this. Out of 27 flat packs and items that I was involved with last week, four of them had damage or missing hardware. This represents a defect rate of 15 percent and getting everything resolved will apparently take several weeks. To me, this seems like a pretty high defect rate. Moreover, unless you are able to transport the items back to a store yourself, you will be waiting several weeks for resolution. We opted for both the delivery and assembly services provided given we were coming to southern Ontario from Thunder Bay.
One may argue that this is a sample of one. I agree and one should not generalize from individual experience. However, a friend of mine was also involved in setting up his child’s university habitat last week and had a similar IKEA experience. A quick check on the web suggests these types of problems are not as isolated as one might think. So, my question is this. Has IKEA gotten too big and is having problems with quality control in its products? If a 15 percent defect rate is an isolated experience then all is probably well and fine. If not, then the marginal cost of buying an IKEA product also includes participation in a lottery, which involves a lot of time and hassle if the product is defective. During the time required to resolve the issue, IKEA has your money while you do not have a bed to sleep on or a table to eat on which is not an optimal consumer experience. Moreover, in the long run rectifying defects will actually add to the company’s expenses since they now have to ship out replacements and cover the assembly. If this is a trend, then one has to wonder if IKEA has reached its limits to growth.
**September 15th Update: Still No Bed!**
Well, I just got a call from my daughter and the replacement IKEA bed she ordered arrived yesterday. However, the assemblers went this morning and discovered that the bed inside the packages was again damaged. In recognition of the urgency of the situation, IKEA will now ship out another bed mid-week directly from the Burlington store and then send out another crew of assemblers. Will keep you posted. Apparently, the assemblers remarked that in at least one case, it took seven tries.
**September 23rd Update! No Bed Yet!**
Well the boxes for the replacement bed arrived on the 18th and the assemblers arrived on the 21st and could not complete the bed - this time because there was a missing locking screw in the bed hardware making it unsafe for assembly. So, it looks like we are just going to call it quits and send it all back. Three tries is sufficient for us. Turns out a similar bed is available at a store in the city my daughter lives and they will deliver and assemble for less than the cost of the IKEA bed. Moreover, delivery and assembly will occur at the same time rather than distinct operations spread out with separate appointments with four hour wait windows each time. I guess if I had to order from IKEA again, I would only do it if I lived within a half-hour drive of the store and for items that I could easily assemble myself. Their delivery and assembly service is not well coordinated. Now the next task will be getting reimbursed. Will let you know how that goes too.
**FINAL UPDATE: October 8th, 2013**
Well, its all finally over. The bed was picked up last week and IKEA credited the account yesterday. All in all, it took about a month and a half to get all this resolved.