The much-beloved iconic IKEA home furnishings chain is developing a bit of tarnish on its sterling reputation in Israel; caveat emptor to residents of towns located on Israel's periphery who try to shop in one of the chain's stores via the Internet.
IKEA really does have a terrific selection of affordable goods, and a flair for creative solutions in the home that makes entrepreneurs happy.
Anglos who are trying to put together a home office in a space that is typically much smaller than those they once had are often especially relieved to find an IKEA available in Israel.
The offerings in Israel, even though the site is posted in Hebrew and Arabic (thank God for Google Translate!), are not much different from those in other IKEAs that made life easier before aliyah.
When one tries to purchase anything from IKEA by remote – that is, from the website or on the phone – one quickly discovers just how different life can be here in the Holy Land.
On Thursday evening after 8 pm it is impossible to reach a customer service representative even though IKEA in Rishon Lezion is open until midnight. Good luck to you if you want any information on a product you're considering for your house or home business, and are on a deadline.
Ditto if you want the merchandise delivered within a reasonable time, let alone quickly.
That's when it becomes obvious IKEA is not really that much more economical an option as one might believe, when considering where to shop.
This week a friend returned to her American roots and decided to try her luck with IKEA after hearing rave reviews from friends, especially since she still had her membership card. Sure enough, she was unable to reach anyone to ask her questions in the evening after hours of contemplating what she would place where in her home, but didn't mind waiting until the next day.
That was when she got her biggest shock.
Living in Arad, a Negev development town “on the periphery,” means the store doesn't bother to fill its delivery orders as they come in, she was told by a service rep. Instead, it collects the orders and tells customers they must wait “up to 21 business days” for delivery if they live anywhere in the south, starting with the line at Be'er Sheva going east to Arad, all the way south to Eilat. It does the same with periphery towns in the north, starting with a specific line somewhere south of the Golan Heights.
And orders must be made over the Internet; they cannot be taken over the phone, she added.
It's not as if they are delivering for free, mind you. The delivery charge alone is the shekel equivalent of approximately $75 to $100. That's not including assembly, if you've requested that service, which costs an additional $100 - $125 or so. After a certain maximum sum, the store will cap the fee at 10 percent of the order.
Regardless of how much you pay, however, residents living anywhere south of Be'er Sheva and Arad – inclusive – still are forced to wait more than three weeks to receive their orders, even for something as simple as a bookcase.
So not only are you charged for delivery and assembly, which is reasonable after all, but you are also fined with a 21 business-day wait -- an extra surcharge, if you will, due to your choice of residence. It almost seems as if the company is saying it doesn't want business from customers who live in the periphery.
(One could believe it is a pro-BDS move, except that neither of these areas has ever been designated as the Palestinian Authority.)
We're not talking about a distance of thousands of miles away, incidentally: the entire trip one way is about a two-hour ride. But many small business owners or a stressed individuals either have no car or cannot take the time to spend more than half a day to travel all the way to Rishon to shop at the store, pick out the furnishings, shlep them through a cashier and then arrange and pay delivery. It can eat up nearly an entire day; for single parents or those who are not well, it is flat-out impossible.
For a truck driver, though, it's not even a hop to his morning snack -- and most Israelis would consider it a disgrace not to offer a delivery person a hot or cold drink, and a snack along with it.
Personally, I consider it a disgrace that a corporation as large as IKEA chooses not to properly service a client base outside its "local" area in a country as small as the State of Israel. That's just sad.
But at least it promotes local business on the periphery and prompts Israelis to shop 'blue and white.'