If you aren’t the kind of person who likes to walk through a never-ending maze of cleverly designed furniture with unpronounceable names, the idea of setting foot in one of the giant blue-and-yellow buildings is probably making you squirm.
Indeed, spending four or more hours wandering the showroom and warehouse can feel like a torturous slog through hell—albeit with a nifty cafeteria in the middle. Emotional meltdowns have been known to put relationships to the test, or straight up end them.
I am convinced that the myriad of tongue-twisting product names and never-ending path of tears (employees call it the “Long Natural Path”) through the store is intentionally designed to create a sense of unease that eventually breaks you down on a psychological level. As your mental faculties begin to deteriorate, you are more and more likely to just buy a bunch of crap you don’t need just to get out of there.
That said, I love IKEA and most of my furnishings and kitchen gear is from there. After many, many, many trips I’ve mastered the art of efficiently getting in and out in a short amount of time.
The key to getting out of IKEA quickly is to ignore the design of the store and forge your own path. If you are going to IKEA the very first time, then I recommend the full experience. Enter through the main entrance and follow the yellow-lined path all the way to the register.
But if you’ve been before, and you want to get in and out lickety-split, here are my IKEA tips for success:
1. Plan Ahead
If you don’t want to spend a lot of time in IKEA you better do your research before hand. Use their website to generate a shopping list and print it out before you come. Whatever you are buying at IKEA will be in one of two places: the warehouse or the marketplace. Knowing the location ahead of time will save you lots of time wandering the store.
Also, check stock levels online to make sure the store isn’t running low on KNUTSTORP chairs before you make the trek.
2. Don’t Go On a Weekend
This is common sense but it needs to be said. If you go on a Saturday or Sunday, expect long lines at the register and getting stuck behind meandering families as you attempt in vain to zip from section to section.
3. Go Alone
Avoid an IKEA meltdown with your significant other and fly solo. This will allow you to make executive decisions and stick to your shopping list with ease.
4. Fuel Up
Seriously, IKEA is big. Even if you are popping in to get one thing, it could seem like you have to walk a half a mile to get to it. Eat lunch, drink a smoothie or scarf down a snack bar before you head inside. Otherwise you might not be able to resist the allure of Swedish meatballs and end up lingering longer than you planned.
5. Enter Through the Exit
Don’t enter through the main entrance. Instead enter through the exit door, marked on the outside as “Returns & Exchanges” This will put you right at the row of registers when you walk in. Feel free to cut through the register area directly into the warehouse. It might seem like you aren’t supposed to do this, but no one will stop you. If you are just getting flat pack furniture, grab what you need from the warehouse and turn right back around. Otherwise, walk through the warehouse and enter the marketplace that way.
6. Check Out As-Is
I always like to make a habit of cruising through the As-Is area first, which is right next to the registers. If you are lucky, they might have what you came to buy on display. If you don’t mind a couple of dings and scratches you can snag it for a discount, and also fully assembled. If you don’t see what you came for head out of the As-Is before you get tempted to buy something you don’t really need just because it’s dirt cheap.
You are more likely to find more goodies in the As-Is section if you go on a Monday, as people (who are clearly masochists) come on the weekends to make returns.
7. Skip the Showroom
If you know exactly what you want already, you don’t need to go to the showroom. If you do need to grab one last look at that BILLY bookcase before you buy it, there is always a shortcut from the warehouse back to the showroom. If you don’t see it, ask an employee where it is—although you might have better luck finding the shortcut first.
8. Take a Shortcut
Shortcuts abound through IKEA. Some are clearly marked on maps and they are very useful for making a beeline to the fancy cutting board set you’ve wanted forever. Others are unmarked and will take you through empty hallways straight to your destination. Unless a door says Employees Only, don’t be bashful about going in and exploring. Mastering your local store’s shortcuts might take a bit of trial and error, but it’s worth it in the long run.
9. Stay Focused
Don’t get distracted by the overflowing product bins and the array of colored candles. Remember IKEA is carefully designed to break you down and extract money from you. Stay strong. Get what you came for and get out!