TRAVEL with pat and lew

homeless at IKEA

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 22, 2007

While we still had the rental car, we had driven to a store called Auchan near Perpignan. Auchan is the French equivalent of a Walmart super store, with appliances, computers, furniture, bedding and linens, plus a food supermarket. We bought several small bookcases, sheets, and other stuff.

Next to Auchan is a store called Leroy Merlin, the closest thing to Home Depot in France, where we bought two table lamps to fit on the tiny side tables from Auchan. Now we can read in bed, which is very important to us.

The apartment is beginning to take shape. But major purchases, including a new sofa, are yet to be made.

IKEA has stores in Montpellier and Toulouse in France, and Barcelona in Spain, each about 2-3 hours away from Collioure, by train or car. The previous fall, we had shopped at the IKEA nearest to New York City, and had ordered furniture to be delivered from the Montpellier store in January.

“No problem,” we were told. However, when we called to confirm just before leaving Key West for Collioure, we were told that IKEA, despite their promise to do so, couldn’t guarantee delivery during our three week visit.

So we cancelled the order.

This turns out to be a good thing. After several days in the apartment, we have changed our minds and now want none of the furniture which would have been delivered pursuant to the original IKEA order. Sometimes you get lucky.

On the train from Collioure to Montpellier, we share a compartment with three ladies from Perpignan who are off for a day of shopping and theatre. They speak almost no English, we speak almost no French, but we have a delightful conversation using our little translator and the dictionary on my laptop. When we arrive in Montpellier, the ladies insist on helping us find our hotel.

IKEA’s business model is premised on the idea of customers arriving by car, making their purchases, and taking (almost) everything with them. We definitely do not fit the mode. For one thing, we don’t have a car.

We’re directed by our hotel clerk to take the tram from downtown Montpellier to the IKEA stop. Unexpectedly, we then have to walk about a mile from the tram stop to the store.

After several hours shopping, we have two carts brimming with kitchen stuff, linens, and whatnot, plus vouchers for the sofa and ottoman we have selected. We approach the checkout line where we’re assured IKEA will deliver all of the merchandise to Collioure in June.

We pay for our purchases and trundle over to the delivery booth.

“Deliver all of this to Collioure? C’est impossible!

“But they said …”

C’est impossible.

I negotiate, and eventually it is agreed that some of our goods, plus of course the sofa and ottoman, can be delivered to Collioure in June, but we’ll have to take the rest with us.

IKEA, like all French stores, does not provide shopping bags. They will sell you a flimsy plastic bag that doesn’t close, and they do offer unlimited amounts of heavy wrapping paper and tape. I construct a duffel bag from the plastic bag, and several large packages from the wrapping paper and tape.

But we’re a mile from the tram station! Taxi? Not a chance.

“Keep pushing,” I say.

“We can’t do this!” Pat says.

What we did still has our friends roaring with laughter. We roll our shopping carts down the highway, looking for all the world like two homeless people pushing their earthly belongings to an unknown destination.

We glance repeatedly over our shoulders for the IKEA police.

At the tram station, we lock the two carts together, retrieving one of the two euros that had been inserted to get them, and carry our bags to the train.

Fortunately, our hotel is not far from the tram stop, nor from the train station the next morning, and our apartment in Collioure is but 100 yards from the train station there.

There is more, much more, to the IKEA adventure, but that part doesn’t happen until the summer (see problems).

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