Little Lingonberry Jam

Moving weekend has come and gone. I have succeeded in getting out of the old apartment and leaving it in tidy shape. Getting into the new place is another story. I have no furniture yet, just a cushion on the floor to sleep on, 20 boxes of stuff and a mess in every direction. Time's up on the weekend and looks like it will have to wait until next weekend.

I ordered a table yesterday afternoon and afterwards I managed a trip to Ikea to get a few basics to jump start the apartment. It was the usual madhouse. If you don't know what I mean, I am about to tell you.

The Germans love, love, LOVE Ikea. It is completely packed any hour during which it is open. Combine this with the German inability to sense others around them, add in two hundred lost and screaming children and aisles wide enough only for precisely 1.5 carts (no room for passing) and you get the picture. You spend the hours cart ramming, getting butt rammed, wishing they would ban children from all Ikeas and wondering why people can't pull off the main track for discussions about the avocado green vs. the burnt orange and why the heat is on full blast when it is already 30 degrees in the building.

And the hours? Yes, Ikea is designed as a rat maze and only the most clever stand a chance to get out of there for the reward of the Exploding (as my friend A. calls them) 1 Euro Hot Dogs at the end. Exploding because they are so tightly wrapped in the casing that one bite causes a pressure release sure to land half the hot dog on the wall across the room.

As usual, I digress. I paid my dues. I walked for 2 hours through the maze. Sat on furniture. Opened and closed drawers. Bounced on a bed. Piled up my cart with nothing I came for and everything I didn't. Good girl.

When I came to the checkout lines, all about 10 people with heaping carts of things they didn't come for long, I remembered two small things. One, they don't take credit cards. Only cash and EC cards. Two, I had 40 Euros in cash and my EC card somehow got demagnetized and I am waiting for the replacement.

Scheiss. Scheiss. Scheiss. To put it politely.

What to do? I remembered that last time my card lost its magnetic strip it worked in some stores if they had the kind of reader where you leave the card in and just punch in your pin number. So before going through the whole line, having the cashier zap my two hundred unnecessary items and then finding out my card didn't work, I decided to do a test purchase. I slid my cart out of the way, went over to the food store and looked for something to buy.

At Ikea it could be none other than the Lingonberry Jam. Well, either that or the thin ginger cookies. But I am on a diet so I went with the Lingonberry Jam. Handed over the card, sure enough, it worked. Excellent.

I headed back to my cart which had patiently waited for me and got into the endless line to check out. Three rounds of bumper butt later I pulled up to the register and watched all the items go. Handed over the card. Fail.


Two more times. Fail.

How utterly predictable. Me, two hundred items, 10 German families behind me and the card doesn't work.

But I don't give up that easily. Oh no. I assured the cashier I would be back. She canceled my order and I placed my cart again in hiding. I wasn't going to let 3 precious hours during an extremely busy weekend go to waste. No way.

I got in the car, headed down the road and looked for an ATM to use with my American bank card. Plenty of money there and the card still worked as far as I knew.

I arrived at the bank, stuffed the card in the machine and started punching. Pin code, withdrawal amount. Clickety click, clickety clack. Fail.

What? Now what?

'Your bank has instructed us to keep your card.'

I started seeing red and breaking a sweat. The precise moment when it can only mean one thing. Everything is stupid. Stoopid! Ikea, Germany, bank cards, not taking credit cards at stores, Ikea closing for the weekend in 1 hour, the timing of my card breakdown, moving.. ugh.

I get knocked down, but I get up again.

I decided to call Wachovia. The nice lady on the phone told me that I was trying to take out more than my daily limit. No, she couldn't change it. In the end, I left with significantly less than was needed for my purchases. Somehow I was feeling like a student again, sweating my account balance to the penny.

I got back to Ikea, went for my cart. Fail.

They were cleaning up for the night. All abandoned carts sent for restock.

In my broken German I asked one of the guys on the floor where the cart was that I had left right there. Right there! He explained I may be able to find it near warehouse door 27. So off I went running.

Reunited and it feels so good.

Trying to salvage what I could of my evening in Ikea, I started to make the hard choices. Spatulas or cutting boards. Small frying pan or bathmats. Slowly the inevitable sunk in. I was going to have to come back as there wasn't enough money for all the must haves.

I got back in the 10 person line. This time we played ankle biter with the cart behind me. Not as much cushioning on my ankles as my butt. Ouchie. I bought my reduced inventory and headed out into the cool night air trying to breathe normally again away from the stifling heat.

After arriving home, a message from A. on my Facebook. 'I need new pillows. If you fancy a trip back to Ikea soon, let's ride together.' I immediately broke out in hives.

I'm going downstairs to make a Lingonberry sandwich and contemplate the beauty of amazon.de.

Posted from Munich


Michelle said...

Oh Michelle - I laughed but felt so bad for you. I have SO been there - standing in line only to see that im in the "credit card" cue and not the cash cue, card not working, everything. I'm glad someone was able to put their German Ikea experience into words, because I'm usually too speechless and spent when I get home.

Now we cross over to France and go to the Ikea there. Funny enough, it's always empty on Saturday mornings.

cliff1976 said...

Ugh. Hate that.

That said, IKEA is unavailable for some things, once you've started. It's on the far side of town from us, and we don't have a car, so we end up renting a car when it comes to big pieces or schlepping on the bus for smaller pieces, or, for those in-between trips, sometimes we manage to mooch rides.

I've got some forced time-off today and guess what? We need some curtain rods to fit some existing curtain rod brackets. So we're making the schlep. At least it's a Monday and not a Saturday.

I think the big secret is to have a list before you go and to have the cash in your pocket. Too often that SNAFU with the EC cards has bitten us too. I hate the stress when slow checkout lines mean you might miss the bus home.

Anonymous said...

ah, the joys and sorrows of ikea. there are two in the dc "area"...both around 30 miles away which in dc means it takes about an hour and a half to get there and two to get back home. plus, i find that store very overwhelming.

overwhelmed + crazy commute = no go

that said, i LOVE the super cheap breakfast. but not enough to go more than once every few years.

heather in europe said...

I went to the Cologne area Ikea once and said 'never again'. Every other Ikea trip after that, I drove extra and went to Belgium.

It was a little difficult in the cafeteria but the overall shopping experience was so much more pleasant (no one running into me, whee!) that it was completely worth the extra effort.

Expat Traveler said...

I think this is one reason why I never attempt to even walk in that door! Good luck and congrats on the move!

G in Berlin said...

I have been reading your posts with a lot of relief lately: only last week did we finally decide not to move to Munich and throughout your apartment search, and then our own proactive looking, I was getting pretty depressed at the thought of finding housing anywhere as nice (with all its flaws) as my own for less than a mint.housing in Munich. As for Ikea, we were there, this weekend, but rather than making this comment so long, I'll talk about it on my blog. Sorry yours was so stressful- for us, it's a bit of a family holiday:).

lobstah said...

One of the good things about the US--credit cards taken everywhere! (or is that a bad thing? ;)

jen said...

Dude, that sucked ass. I can only imagine

I think Ikea should have a singles only night where families were not allowed. Seriously. I now have a screaming kid, a stroller and a cart and I HATE myself every time i go in there. I try to get out of the way, but you are right about the 1.5 cart wide aisle.

i foolishly thought Sparky and i could hit it up on a friday night because everyone does other stuff on friday nights... except families with small children.

I left there vowing never to have another child.

Buy the westin bed.

Anonymous said...

just wanted to second jen's comment about the westin bed. the heavenly bed really is heavenly...

Mandi said...

Oh, Ikea. It's a love-hate kinda relationship, isn't it? We had a relatively successful trip on a Tuesday night last year (empty = efficient shopping), and have been avoiding going back ever since. But, your post reminds me that we should head back again soon...

C said...

Funny, I hate Ikea too. And yet, in Cologne, there's a brand new one that is soooo beyond fabulous. Since there are 2 in the city, no one goes to the new one and it's like having a warehouse all to yourself... replete with happy (smiling!) workers. It felt like a dream buying our kitchen there.

Linus said...

Lingonsylt, Gott!

Betsy said...

I had to laugh-- this was all so familiar! And your comment about it always being so hot in there was spot on! What's up with that???!!!

Every time we move we say "No more Ikea!" but always end up going back because there doesn't seem to be any middle ground between cheap Swedish furniture and hand carved heirloom oak...

At least the quality of their furniture has improved over the years. It used to be that you'd survive Ikea hell and get everything home only to find out that it was missing screws or broken. One time we put together a wardrobe and just as we finished we noticed that it had some HUGE scratches on it that someone had covered over with a similarly colored tape to hide them!

I assume that since you had to pare down your purchases this means you're going to have to go back sometime soon. Good luck!