IKEA’s flawed exchange policy

Brenden Schaaf / September 26, 2009

Dear IKEA –

I would like to suggest that you examine the exchange policy that is enforced for items with manufacturing defects.  In my opinion, it is unreasonable to require a receipt for an even exchange that is being requested only because IKEA failed to properly manufacture an item.

400px-Ikea_logo.svgEarlier this summer, I purchased, among other things, 3 birch Effectiv wall cabinets (supplier code 13662, item number 30050140) paying $45 each.  Today, I finally had a chance to assemble and hang the cabinets but the 2nd cabinet assembled had a gap on one corner of the face of the cabinet where the laminate from the adjoining side did not properly meet.  Unfortunately, I did not notice this manufacturing defect until I had already assembled the unit.  I hung the two cabinets that didn’t exhibit this defect and decided that I had room to hang two more cabinets above the two that were already on the wall.

It is a 20-mile trip each way from my home in Brooklyn Park to your store in Bloomington, but I decided I had time this evening to make the trip before you closed.  I brought with me the assembled cabinet to exchange and I also planned to purchase a second cabinet and four sets of cabinet doors and handles to finish this project.  I also planned to look at several other items including some lighting, organizational products, bedding, and furniture for my daughter’s bedroom.

I arrived at your store shortly before 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 26, 2009.  I waited only a couple minutes at the returns/exchange area before I was helped by young lady.  I didn’t note her name, unfortunately, but I told her my story and showed her the defect on the front face of the cabinet and explained that I would like to exchange it a new cabinet.  She said that she could not process and exchange without a receipt, which surprised me since it wasn’t like I was requesting an exchange for a different item – I merely wanted what I had paid for when I purchased this particular cabinet, which was a cabinet free from material defects.

She did go into the back room for a few minutes to see if she could find a replacement for the defective part, but she returned after a fruitless search.  She offered me the following options:

  1. Go home and get my receipt and come back to the store with it to process the exchange.
  2. If I couldn’t find the receipt (a near certainty) I could bring back a credit card statement showing the date of purchase and she could look up the receipt.
  3. She would give me a phone number that I could periodically call to see if a replacement part happened to show up that I could then pick up at the store.  In the meantime, I guess I would either have to not hang this cabinet on the wall or I would have to remove it from the wall when/if a replacement part arrived.

None of these options struck me as being particularly good ones for someone in my situation.  I told the refund/exchange clerk that I had the credit card that had been used for the original purchase but she explained that she couldn’t look it up without the date of purchase as well.  Feeling out of options, I told her to throw the cabinet in the trash as it was no use to me given the manufacturing defect.  She tried, briefly, to get me to take the cabinet with me but I left it there on the cart and set off to do my shopping.

I purchased two more Effective birch wall cabinets and four sets of doors and hardware for a total purchase (before tax) of $239.95.  The barcode at the bottom of my receipt (dated 9/26/09 at 19:50) has this number: 212001110320092609 if you care to look it up.

There are several reasons that I believe your exchange policy is flawed and that there is an opportunity to change it to bring it more into line with what honest people expect of IKEA:

  1. The item I was exchanging had a clear manufacturing defect.  Because your items are sold unassembled, I had no way to know of the defect until I had assembled the item at home.
  2. I was seeking to exchange the defective item for an exact replacement item.  I was not seeking a different color/size/model nor was I seeking a cash refund.  I only wanted what I had paid for in the first place.  I don’t know what IKEA is trying to protect itself from in this case.  Are there really scammers out there that would go to the trouble to return an item for an exact replacement just to stick it to the retailer?
  3. It is quite clear that I purchased the item at IKEA – there isn’t anyone else that sells IKEA products so unlike some retailers you can’t fear people returning items they purchased elsewhere.
  4. I could have defeated your exchange policy by not telling the truth, which was that I had purchased the item earlier this summer.  Instead, I could have purchased a new cabinet and then used the receipt I received from that purchase to process the exchange for the defective cabinet.  I would have still left your store with two new cabinets, but would have saved $45 plus tax.

I do acknowledge that your return/exchange policy is clearly spelled out on the back of your receipts and through signage in your store and that it does clearly state that a “receipt is required for all returns and exchanges.”  So you are well within your rights to follow and strictly enforce such a policy.  Still, I feel that it is unreasonable for you to require a receipt in a case such as the one that brought be to your store tonight and that I have detailed above.  If I were not forced to purchase two more cabinets from IKEA to finish the product I am currently working on, I would have left your store without purchasing a thing.  As it was, in my anger I decided not to purchase several other items that I had planned on buying tonight and I will seriously consider whether or not I will visit IKEA in the future when the need arises.

You have an opportunity to make this situation right by refunding me the $45 I paid to buy another cabinet to replace the one that I had to have your employee throw in the trash.  A better solution, though, would be to inject some common sense into your exchange policy to prevent others from having this experience in the future.

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