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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

  1. Heading to IKEA? Bring a Map and a Compass

    February 5, 2017 by Diane

    man box prefabricated parts designer
    I needed a new set of Pyrex. My old set broke in the kitchen sink because my trigger finger acts up at times, and things slip from my grasp. I had leftovers to freeze, and nothing to freeze them in, so I did the smart thing.

    I headed to IKEA.

    I’d heard they sell Pyrex, or something like Pyrex, cheap.

    I should have stayed home and glued the old set back together.

    In case you’ve never been to IKEA (and trust me, you never want to), let me enlighten you on the IKEA experience.

    First, the parking garage.

    If you enjoy driving around a concrete maze following signs that point to an entrance which never actually materializes, then you’ll love the parking garage at IKEA. The entrance, I concluded after twenty minutes of driving deeper and deeper into the bowels of the garage, is a mirage. Or a rumor. There is no entrance to IKEA. I was ready to follow the exit signs instead, exits leading NOWHERE, I might add, when lo and behold I spied a bank of glass windows, and what looked like an escalator, and people going up.

    At last, I had arrived.


    Miraculously, I found a parking spot nearby, before I lost sight of the entrance altogether. The parking spot may have been a loading zone. Or slotted for emergency vehicles. No matter. I calculated that I’d be in and out of the store in twenty minutes. No harm, no foul.

    Little did I know.

    Little did I know what awaited me inside the hell known as IKEA.

    I took the elevator. It was steps from my car, and seemed like a quick way in and out of the building. So I pushed the button to call it forth.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    Finally, the doors opened.

    A man emerged, pushing a flatbed longer than the New Jersey Turnpike, loaded with boxes and lumber and some kid riding on the back. Next was a woman with a modest-sized cart the size of a city block. A third cart, loaded so high I couldn’t make out whether there was a man or woman pushing it, nearly ran me over. I began to wonder about the size of the elevator, when at last it was empty.

    I got on, with a geeky-looking man. “Which button do I push?” I asked. He pointed to the one labeled “Main Floor/Showroom.” Up we went.

    The doors opened. I followed a line of people and found myself on an escalator, and stepped into what appeared to be a gigantic dollhouse.

    The Showroom.

    The Showroom is a series of model rooms, furnished with IKEA chairs and tables and bookcases and beds and couches and paraphernalia, made to look like real rooms in real homes in real neighborhoods. The Showroom is a fun place to browse.

    For about sixty seconds.

    After ten minutes of living rooms, it’s bedrooms. Then bathrooms. Then kitchens, kids’ rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, guest rooms, closets, cupboards, and IT NEVER ENDS! On and on it goes, a maze of showrooms, and there’s a fat guy in sweatpants lounging on a red couch looking dazed. In one of the fake bedrooms, I saw a man wearing pajama bottoms. I think he had moved in.

    The scary thing is, there’s no way out. You’re forced to follow the arrows which go left, then right, then left again, then right, then left, and left again, and right, and right again, and after thirty minutes of traipsing through The Showroom, everyone is shuffling like zombies, pushing big empty carts.

    And then it’s The Marketplace.

    The Marketplace is where you fill your big empty carts. By this time, you’ve been brainwashed into believing you actually need everything you’ve seen in those model showrooms, so you start grabbing. Wooden hangers, eight to a bundle, $4.99. A bamboo cutting board, $7.99. Aha! Pyrex! I loaded up. Sheets. Pillows. Lamps. A cart would have been handy.

    Staggering around, I looked for the registers. I asked a young fellow wearing a yellow IKEA shirt.

    “Take the shortcut,” he said, pointing the way.


    The shortcut led through a vast warehouse of cardboard boxes containing ready-to-assemble IKEA furniture designed to drive a sane person squirrelly. To find the right box you need to consult a computer screen, follow a map, and climb ten stories to balance something the size of Trump Tower on your shoulders as you make your way down the ladder to your cart.

    I soldiered on, rounded a corner, and saw lines so long I knew I had found the registers. Undeterred, I stood at the end of what appeared to be the shortest line.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    The woman in front of me read Chinese on her smartphone.

    The man behind me napped on a pile of lumber.

    A kid jumped up and down on a mattress.

    We moved forward an inch.

    I thought about the book in my car, the one I read at stoplights. It would have been handy to have reading material to pass the time. But alas, the only reading material I had was the Chinese text on the smartphone, and the signs that displayed the food one could purchase beyond the registers. A cinnamon bun for a dollar. A hot dog for seventy-five cents. A Coca-Cola for fifty cents.

    We moved forward half an inch.

    I eyed other lines. Thought of switching. And then I counted heads. There were more heads in the other lines than in my line, and in my line there were FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY HEADS. And they were all imagining that cinnamon bun, hot from the oven, sticky on the fingers. They were imagining that hot dog for seventy-five cents, and that ice cold Coca-Cola, because nobody had seen food for thirty days, and I came to the awful realization that WE WERE NEVER GOING TO EMERGE FROM IKEA ALIVE!

    “That’s it. I’m out of here,” I announced, and stashed all my goodies—the bamboo cutting board, the eight-pack of wooden hangers, the Pyrex, the sheets, the pillows, the lamps, the make-it-yourself fifteen-foot bookcase, the entire bathroom display—on top of all the other IKEA goodies that had been discarded, and rushed for an exit.

    I found the elevator.

    I located my car.

    I headed for an exit.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    I’m still waiting. Writing this missive behind a long line of cars.

    I have one piece of advice to leave you with:

    Never go to IKEA.


    Unless you have eight weeks to kill. And a sherpa guide.

    Send food. Please.

  2. The Art of Decision-Making

    February 1, 2015 by Diane


    Retro woman thinking

    I need a new laptop. The Dell that I inherited from a friend is old; and like humans that age,  it’s slowing down, freezing up, and a bit cracked.

    So I went computer shopping.

    For a purchase of such financial magnitude, I needed to gird my loins and make a decision: something that Librans are not particularly adept at doing. There’s an art to deciding. So, for your edification, allow me to demonstrate the decision-making process.

    1. Do the research, endlessly

    I powered up the cracked Dell and reviewed the top ten laptops of 2014 according to CNET. I reviewed their picks for the best budget computers, the most lightweight, the most compact and the most highly-rated versions, and then I compared brands and specifications on Consumer Reports. I browsed e-zines for more reviews. I visited three stores and received three different opinions from three different salesmen. And then I drove home and researched those opinions online.

    This took a good two weeks. Maybe more.

    2. Value a stranger’s opinion over your own

    After stuffing my brain with every conceivable bit of information, I drove to Best Buy. I wanted to check out the MacBook Air 13. The manager of the computer department guided me away from the Mac, straight to the Lenovo Yoga 2 13. An imposing fellow who might have been a linebacker in a previous lifetime, he said the Lenovo was just what I needed. It’s fast. It has 8 gigs of ram. It has a long battery life. It’s lightweight. It converts into a tablet and has a nifty touchscreen. Not that I needed a nifty touchscreen; but hey, it was there, and I quickly became enamored. And then he said the three magic words:

    “It’s on sale.”

    I handed over my credit card.

    I had fourteen days to test drive the Lenovo. And I drove that puppy. My fingers flew across the touchscreen opening apps, swiping though pages, enlarging text, tapping text boxes. They flew over the keyboard. And I soon discovered that when typing, the cursor jumped around. The fan periodically made a loud noise. The Wi-Fi connection dropped several times.

    I was not so enamored anymore.

    I wanted to trade it in.

    I wanted a MacBook Air.

    3. Agonize over the “buts”

    I knew people who owned the MacBook Air, and they raved about the little darling. I had read the reviews online. Apple is number one in support. Few viruses can penetrate the operating system. It’s super lightweight. It’s a nice, bright silver color.

    I wanted a Mac.

    Until my poverty mentality reared up: It’s too expensive!

    But so was the Lenovo. Even on sale, it’s more than I wanted to pay.

    But the Mac is even pricier.

    Like a bumper car, I bounced from but to but until my brain was whirring like the loud fan in the Lenovo.

    4. Ponder the possibilities, incessantly

    And then the Macbook Air 13 went on sale at Best Buy. A hundred and fifty dollar savings! Did I rush down and trade in the Lenovo?


    I waited until the last three hours of the last day of the sale, and then I drove to Best Buy. I spent an hour futzing around on the display model. I discussed the pros and cons of the Mac with three different salespeople. I called a friend and my sister to discuss it even more. And then I needed to get away from the salespeople and the bright lights and the pumped up music and my cell phone, and ponder the whole thing. So I drove home and flicked on the Lenovo and searched reviews online, because we all know that those reviews are written by people with absolutely no agenda, and all of the reviews, as I already knew, leaned heavily toward the Mac, so…

    Did I trade in the Lenovo and get the Mac?


    I waited to hear a clear message from my wise self: GET THE MAC. What I heard instead was my squirrelly voice:

    But I’m a PC user.

    But there’s a learning curve with the Mac.

    But it doesn’t have a nifty touchscreen.

    On and on with the buts. I was trying to cram logic into a decision that needed to be made by intuition. I had the facts. I needed to trust my gut.

    5. Above all, don’t trust your instincts

    There was a story on NPR about a man who had a stroke that destroyed the emotional center of his brain. He became Spock-like, entirely logical. He would stand in the cereal aisle in the grocery store and try to make a decision, but without his intuition to guide him, he couldn’t decide. It took him hours. This cereal has that, and that cereal has this, and so on. Madness in the making.

    And what does it teach us? That it’s our emotions, our intuition, which guides us. And our intuition is nothing more than the average of all of our experiences with the object(s) in question.

    I was trying to make a decision based on logic. But my logic was screwy.

    What was my intuition telling me?


    By the time I realized this, it was nine o’clock. Best Buy was closed. The sale was over. ARRGH!

    6. Mentally flog yourself for whatever decision you make, or don’t make

    This I did. Endlessly. And then I returned the Lenovo.

    Today, I called Apple.

    I got the Mac.


  3. At Sixes and Sevens Over Sneakers

    November 29, 2013 by Diane

    Woman walking in mountains in sport shoes

    I went sneaker shopping.

    I frequented the cheap stores and the notch-above-cheap stores and the definitely not-so-cheap stores and then I girded my loins and headed into the runner’s store where every sneaker is well over one hundred dollars. Where the salesman eyeballed my stride and my stance and ran a hand under my arch and checked to see if I could bend my index finger back easily, which is either a salesman’s form of torture or a legitimate way to fit a sneaker to my foot.  And then he advised me on the best shoe, and by Jove he got it right because the thing fit like a glove.

    So I forked over my charge card.

    While the smiley man bagged the box of sneakers, as an aside I asked, “how long do they last?”

    “Oh, six or seven…

    I expected to hear years.

    “…months,” he concluded.


    Six or seven months?

    For a pair of sneakers? “What happened to the kind you could kick around in for…oh…say…six or seven years?”

    “Well, it’s all trending to lighter shoes. Doctors recommend buying a new pair every year.” He handed me the receipt to sign.

    Hey, I’m all for runners wanting to run light. So run barefoot. Maybe a pair of socks. Just don’t mess it up for the rest of us who want sneakers to last longer than six or seven months.

    But that glove-like fit.

    Okay, I understand why runners want light. They don’t want to be clomping around the track on several inches of hard rubber.

    But six or seven months?

    What if we applied that same time-frame to other things. Say…marriage:

    “Do you take this man…”

    “I do. For six or seven months.”

    Or mattresses:

    “That thousand dollar set you’ll be sleeping on every night, the one you’ll be doing a  lot of healthy activity on: it’ll last you six or seven months. Doctors recommend…”

    Who are these doctors? Are they being paid by the sneaker association?

    Maybe it’s a conspiracy to get us to buy more. Shoes, computers, cell phones…our stuff is designed to break down sooner so we’ll buy more. We live in a throw-away society. Good for the economy, lousy for the landfill.

    But that glove-like fit.


    I took the sneakers home. I wore them on my daily brisk walks around town. For six or seven months, those sneakers fit like a velvet glove.

    And then my toes got longer, or the shoes got smaller, and the cushion disappeared…phht!…on the eight month, and I was clomping around on hard rubber.

    Very expensive hard rubber.