American customer service – fun with Ikea & Home Depot

This entry was posted on 11.02.2011

We live in an apartment building, a high rise with a (partial) view of the Hudson River, a swimming pool and a gym on the 4th floor and a doorman who doesn’t let anybody up to your apartment unless you tell him to. It sounds like luxury but it’s actually not much more than Michele’s dark apartment on the Hell’s Angels block in the East Village. Craziness.

We needed a new bed due to the occasion and a new stove, since the oven of the old one didn’t work anymore. That was when the fun began.

Michele and I went to Ikea with one of her cousins the day before New Year’s Eve. In Berlin I would have rented out a “Robbe”, a small van from Robben & Wientjes which is the cheapest rental place in the city and conveniently located 2 blocks away from my old apartment in Kreuzberg. We didn’t think about it when we went to Paramus – we thought we could fit all the packages into the car and the mattress to. As it turned out the mattress couldn’t be rolled, and five minutes before somebody bought the last one of the bed we wanted. D-oh. Michele returned the next day, had some arguments with the Ikea guys, but was able to schedule the delivery for the Monday after New Year’s. A big mistake as we found out on Sunday.

Since we live in the high rise we cannot just bring large deliveries up the elevator – not even a mattress, and not even if it’s one ride. You have to schedule it with the management company 24 hours prior to the delivery. And since they aren’t open Sundays, getting a delivery from Ikea on Monday was out of the question. Okay, then next Thursday.

Thursday morning. I call the delivery company to find out when they are coming. They don’t know about us at all, the woman on the phone says. And: “Call Ikea”. Ikea doesn’t know anything either, the Ikea employee tells me. “We have to call you back.” My mobile phone rings at the same time. Ikea, it turns out – they want to tell us they are coming between 5 and 9 PM. At least somebody knows about our order…

The problem is: There’s another rule in our apartment building. No deliveries before 9 AM, no deliveries between 5 and 7 PM, because of ‘rush hour’ in the elevator. Another phone call to the delivery company. “Please don’t come between 5 and 7 PM.” The response: You have to call Ikea about that. The Ikea employee: Well, we have reschedule the delivery then. I refuse – maybe we are lucky and they show up after 7 PM. As it tuns out the truck is there at 4.15 PM. The driver laughs when I tell him the story: “No way we would have been here that late.”

The delivery from Home Depot is even more challenging: Since our realtor ordered the stove, they somehow aren’t able to call us about the delivery time. They always call the realtor. The delivery guys still make it up to the 33rd floor at the promised time (after only one rescheduling due to the weekly winter storm). Only to find out that we have no gas valve (which still sounds scary to me) – they just can’t put it in. I understand it, but I have to beg and raise my voice so they at least stay a few more minutes to wait for our realtor. How am I supposed to know the situation with the valve.

They call their super: How long are we allowed to stay? He calls me (the first time ever!) believing I am the landlord. No I am not – “and I am standing six feet away from your guys. Tell them to wait five minutes.” They do, but in the end they take their stove and go. We have to get a valve first, then we get the stove. Putting that valve in took only 5 minutes, by the way. And the maintenance guys were there 10 minutes later.

The delivery gets rescheduled twice due to the weather (I was home anyway, but does Home Depot seriously think their customers can take 4 days of for a delivery that takes 5 minutes?). They finally show up early last Wednesday, a few minutes after the end of the morning rush hour (the elevators are another fun story, which I’ll tell another day). We still haven’t used the oven though. But the bed at least is very comfortable.

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