The following letter was written in 1988 following a trip to the newly opened IKEA store near Warrington. Since that time, things have changed but read on to find out how it was then. At that time our boys were still very young.
910 Europa Boulevard,
Warrington. WA5 5TY
We were most impressed by your 1988 catalogue and decided to visit your store after our usual Saturday shopping trip to Crewe. We drove up the motorway from Sandbach and it didn't take us long to reach the A49 junction on the M62. My wife opened the catalogue and directed from the roundabout. The map "on page 195" was on page 197 and looked really simple to follow.
"First right", she said, "and it should be straight ahead".
It wasn't, but we followed another family through the industrial estate because they seemed to know where they were going. Presently, we reached a dead end and the other car performed a graceful "U" turn and headed back the way we'd come. Obviously we'd missed the turn but he knew the way and we followed. The other car stopped, but this wasn't the place! We carried on and noticed that the other car followed. We passed a parked car full of people who seemed to be staring at a familiar looking catalogue.
"Try turning right and going further along the A49" suggested my wife.
We did so and the first car followed. So did the second.
"The map definitely indicates right" said my wife and the boys screamed gleefully in the back. We passed a parked car full of people who were peering intently at a map. The car in front went twice round the roundabout then joined the back of our convoy. We went straight on, passing a car full of people who were peering at a catalogue.
"Slow down" suggested my wife who was apparently unaware of the six cars nose to tail behind us, the drivers all reading maps. "It must be here somewhere" she said, helpfully. We continued on at a fair pace then slowed suddenly to a crawl as everyone saw the sign at the same time. We led the line of ten cars round the traffic island and into an enormous car park, which appeared to be full.
"Head for the overflow car park" ordered my wife, shouting above the screams of the baby. There was no signpost so we drove straight on. Finally, we saw the space. So did the fifteen other drivers, but we won.
Having strapped the baby into his buggy and ensured that the other two monsters were at heel we set off towards the building. It was a squeeze to get the buggy between the steel posts but we managed it with not a millimetre to spare. Lucky we no longer have the double buggy! The wheels rattled on the metal grid in front of the entrance. We knew it was the entrance, although it bore no sign, because everyone in front was hopping across the grid on the steel "footprints" which were fastened there. A bit like hopscotch.
On the right a lot of screaming little monsters were drowning in a glass room full of coloured plastic balls. We joined the queue to immerse our two boys in there, then consulted the map in reception. Upstairs for bedroom furniture it appeared we would have to go. The automatic gate didn't open and the baby received the full benefit on his forehead. Someone must have pushed a button because, as the baby's cries reached a crescendo, the gate swung open.
We dragged the buggy upstairs, since the lift was obviously not working and my wife doesn't like lifts in any case. It took us an age to walk around looking for the "Robin" desk which we wanted to buy. We knew what we wanted but the lady had said we needed to find the ticket number which, for some unknown reason, was not listed in the catalogue. The girl at the enquiry desk was very helpful and directed us straight to the desk. Exactly what we wanted and there was the label. "5D" it said but we had no pen - hope we can remember it. Now, where do we find the kit of parts?
The warehouse, so we were assured, was downstairs. We hoisted the baby in his buggy and stumbled down the steps. It wasn't called "warehouse", however, but "self service bargains" and we looked around for five minutes in case we had the wrong place but no, there was rack 5 and THERE, was a pack marked "5D". Unfortunately, we couldn't lift it.
Other people had nice big trolleys and, after a little wandering, we found one, too. The damn wheels didn't lock, however. Consequently, each attempt to drag a "5D" package onto it resulted in the trolley going on a little journey of its own. Eventually we succeeded in loading the package and pushed it towards the exit. It was at that moment my wife realised that the 20 minutes allowed in the "ball room" had expired and she had to collect the boys immediately. The desk was to be a Christmas present and, since they mustn't see it, she would park the boys in the video room then return to pay the bill. I couldn't pay because the cheque card was in her name. Nor could I collect the boys because THEY were registered in her name. I waited at the check-out and watched the queues grow longer. Eventually my wife returned, quite breathless.
"I couldn't go through the check-out queues and into reception from the outside so I went back the way we came" she gasped. "That meant running up those stairs, through the hall then down the other stairs. I had to climb a barrier to get past the turnstiles on the entrance and finally reached the boys just ten minutes late. John has bruised his ankle on the sharp edge of a ball and Paul has wet his trousers because he couldn't leave the room to use the toilet!
We pushed the buggy and the trolley towards the payment counter. The gap wasn't large enough to allow the trolley past and it seemed that we were expected to lift this enormous "5D" package onto the conveyer, hold it vertical as the belt dragged it along, then write a cheque with a free hand whilst dragging the baby buggy and trolley through as well. We managed but I pulled a muscle while heaving the package back onto the trolley at the other end of the conveyer, which was several feet higher than the front end!
Outside, at last, my wife took the baby and went back to collect the boys while I pushed the trolley towards the car. The trolley wouldn't go between the steel posts. I abandoned my expensive purchase and ran to the car which was as far away as it could possibly be.
Having driven back in the car and reversed it into a free space I discovered that there was no way I could get that package over the steel posts and into the car boot by myself. In a state of final anger and frustration I ripped open the box and threw the pieces of wood the last four feet into the boot, drove the car to its far away parking place then walked back to join wife and kids in the reception hall to have a rather belated lunch.
The one-way barrier was reluctant to let the buggy through but this time we were prepared for it and stared pointedly at the girl behind the desk until she pressed the hidden button. The lift was still out of order, as witnessed by the row of elderly people stacked in wheelchairs just beyond the barrier. I wondered to myself just how they had squeezed the wheelchairs past the steel posts, outside. Also, if there was a fire, how quickly they could wheel themselves to the exit and over the conveyor belts at the check-out.
To call the restaurant "full" would be an understatement. The room was a seething mass of people and a queue of starving families snaked in, out and in again. Maybe they had been trapped here for days!
"We'll eat at the motorway services" I announced above the noise and it took us only another ten minutes to make our way back to the exit and force our way past the check-out counters with baby in buggy and two hungry boys in tow. Twelve miles further on, in the relative stillness of the motorway cafe, John said "I didn't see you buy anything, daddy, does that mean we'll be going back again next week?"
"Not likely", I growled through wonderful, expensive mushy peas and chips. (The exit was marked clearly "EXIT" and there were no stairs, barriers or conveyers to climb but, just for the hell of it, we went out through the entrance!)