20 March 2008

Bogan Furniture Stores

Never did I think I would be wasting brain space, petrol or key strokes on mass-produced ugly furniture. But I needed a bed for my spare room/office/study/place to hide crap.

The mattress on the floor was getting a bit much for visitors and a bed would give me some useful storage space (and another hiding spot for the cat). And I had no intention of spending a serious amount of money. (I’m still proud of my $6 Target jeans after all – and jealous that Amy got a pair for $4.)

IKEA didn’t have what I wanted. Their beds were a bit too expensive and a bit too good for the needs of my spare room. In order to get free parking, I did buy some tea light candles, a pair of kitchen scissors, two green storage boxes, a CD holder and a large blue reusable bag to put them all in.

Plan A having failed, it was time to consult the junk mail.

Option 1: Fantastic Furniture. Those ads, that jingle and catalogues so bright it hurts to look at them. This chain seems to specialise in cheap furniture packages to fill houses in the outer suburbs. Even student share houses find classier stuff on hard rubbish days. This is mock IKEA – but cheaper and ugly. I couldn’t do it.

Option 2: Furniture Galore. Just as cheap, but less gauche. I still don’t want a lounge suite from there, but they looked like they had what I was after.

They did. In fact, I spent about 40 minutes in Furniture Galore. I chose what I wanted – a bed called Kobe. Just like IKEA, they name their furniture. Kobe was black metal, simple and under $100. I was sure he would get along fine with Billy bookcase.

Credit card in hand, all I needed to know was a) will Kobe fit in a 1985 Mazda 323 and b) is he packed in a way that one person can carry him up a narrow staircase. The young sales assistant couldn’t really help me. She was very sweet and polite, but it turns out that she had only been working there two days and she had “no idea” if it would fit in a car because she still “lives at home” and, anyway, her manager was the only person who could actually sell me anything and he was off on a delivery.

I liked Kobe, so I sat on a grey, eight seater, curved, fake-suede lounge suite (which was only slightly more comfortable than it was ugly) and waited. The manager returned and took a phone call. As I was now standing at the sales desk - credit card still in hand – he did finally ask the new kid if “she” was all right. “She” just wanted to give him some money and leave with Kobe. Sadly, managing a furniture store has yet to give this professional any knowledge of the products he sells He couldn’t answer a or b, but I could get it delivered for $55 - next week.

Crappy service will always make me walk and I hope that somehow the Kobes find homes. I did feel that maybe I was na├»ve about household furniture. Perhaps IKEA had spoiled me over the years with their simple flat packs, detailed tags and staff that put them on the trolley for me. Maybe the mattress on the floor isn’t so bad. Maybe I’ll let guests sleep on my bed and I’ll huddle down on the floor. It seemed easier than trying to get a cheap bed frame.

Being thus distracted - a wrong turn and bad Easter traffic found me heading a different way home. I knew I was going to go perilously close to Fantastic Furniture. My inner martyr couldn’t resist.

Sunglasses on, head down and embarrassingly humming the Fantastic Furniture jingle – in I went.

The store is as bright as their catalogues and you just know the staff have been trained to smile. I suspect their pay is docked if the angle of their mouth ever drops below 180. There was a bed similar to the Kobe, but it was white and about $80 more. Disappointed, I even considered going to Freedom. Then I saw her - Rachel.

She wasn’t as slick as her Swedish counterparts, but she was nicer than Kobe AND she was marked down to from $249 to $99. Nonetheless, my innocent belief that buying cheap furniture was easy had already got me into trouble once today - so I wasn’t confident as I approached one of the smiling people.

Dammit…….Fantastic Furniture is pretty darn good.

This friendly young sales assistant instantly answered a and b for me with a simple Yes – we put them hatchbacks every day and it comes in three separate boxes which are light and easy to carry. So he got my credit card as two men put Rachel in the car for me.

I was in and out of Fantastic Furniture within 10 minutes. I had exactly what I wanted, I wasn’t made to feel a fool, I had a nice chat with a friendly person, I didn’t have to carry anything or pay for delivery and I didn’t buy a blue plastic bag full of things I didn’t really need.

Does this mean I have to stop judging shops by the quality of their advertising jingle?


Postscript

A couple hours later and Rachel is in her new home. There was an allen key, a plastic bag full of screws and a page of instructions written by a dyslexic monkey – just like IKEA. There wasn’t too much blood and only a bit of swearing as I put her together. And now friends can stay here in comfort – unless they want to sleep comfortably together. Rachel is single.

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