IKEA And The Florida Keys, An Unfortunate Juxtaposition

Manatee with calf via

This weekend we took a mini road trip and headed to the Keys to put Mr PoP’s recent SCUBA certification to good use. It had been a few years since we last made it down to there, but it didn’t disappoint. Mr PoP went diving with a group of folks he met through his certification course, where they saw some jellies, a whole bunch of stingrays, and even a loggerhead turtle.  (Color me jealous, as they are one of my happy animals!)

I had planned on tagging along to snorkel while they SCUBA-d, but as conditions weren’t great for snorkeling a couple miles out, I had to be content with sticking close to shore and renting a paddle board and doing some exploring via paddle board (and parking next to the mangroves for some SUP yoga) on my own. But I still got to see a manatee (or was it a chubby mermaid?), a small shark, some adorable mushroom-like jellyfish, and an adorable little fish with a long nose that danced across the surface of the water on his tail fins for a good 30 feet or so.

Side Note: We should really learn more of the names of these lovely sea creatures, as otherwise I am reduced to calling them 1-Ups or Jesus fish.

All in all, it was a wonderful time. The weather was just gorgeous – the water warm enough that Mr PoP didn’t feel the need for a wet suit, but the air cool enough that I wasn’t sweating off my sunscreen on the paddle board. I don’t mean to rub the gorgeousness of the weather in (especially for those currently reading from the frigid tundra* – here’s looking at you, Frugal Hound!), but it was just such a wonderfully perfect and relaxing time that reflected so well what we are “planting our pennies” to achieve.

But Then We Went To IKEA

We had never been to IKEA before, but there it was – visible (big as anything) from the Florida Turnpike. We were already planning on getting some butcher block countertops from IKEA for our kitchen remodel having seen them online, and since we were so close to an IKEA (something that rarely happens), we decided to take the opportunity to stop and check out the countertops in person since it wasn’t too far out of our way.

What a bad idea that was.

For as calm and gorgeous as our time earlier in the day had been in and on the water, IKEA was almost the exact opposite.

When we walked from the parking garage into the atrium we were blasted with air conditioning that put a chill right through.  Then as we followed the crowds up multiple escalators to find the actual entrance, we kept getting this weird feeling of being at a theme park.  That feeling was kicked into high gear when we stopped and picked up a store map once we finally got to the entrance.

As we wound our way through the “Showroom” level, making our way to the Kitchen area that was not-so-conveniently just about exactly halfway through the maze, we dodged so many people.  Kids running all over the place, occasional parents running after kids, old people stopped in the middle of the walkway gawking blocking the entire walking path.  In the moment it felt like we had veered into a tornado of people of all shapes and ages and sizes making SO MUCH NOISE!

We managed to make it to the kitchen and saw the countertops… they look fine, so that’s good.

We tried to salvage the IKEA experience by getting Mr PoP a meal at the cafe before heading out (he was starving by this point from the SCUBA and we still had a good drive ahead of us).  How wrong can you go when you’re that hungry, right?  So Mr PoP pointed at a picture of the “salmon special” and said, “I want that.”  When he looked at what appeared on his plate, he said, “Like the furniture, it looked a lot better in the picture than in real life.”  The taste wasn’t great, either.  =/

Why Was It So Bad?

As we drove the rest of the way home, decompressing from IKEA and trying to get back the utter relaxation that we had just hours before, I started to wonder why visiting IKEA felt like such an assault on our senses.  We’re not big shoppers to start with, and CostCo gives me the same heebie jeebies that IKEA did.  But we can tolerate them in doses, like when we visited Nebraska Furniture Mart (which Wikipedia tells me is the largest home furnishing store in North America) with The 1500’s last year for the BBQ as a part of the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting.  So why did IKEA feel so terrible?  Best guess …

The Juxtaposition

Having such a peaceful and relaxing experience of the water jut right up the relative chaos and bedlam of IKEA just did us in.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that our visit to IKEA ruined the day, but it definitely detracted quite a bit and I think we need to remember that lesson going forward.  When we go out of our way to find peace and relaxation (a definite happy spot for us), we don’t want to give it away too quickly by adding an unpleasantly jarring experience immediately thereafter, even if it is terribly convenient to do so.


I’ll just let Mr PoP wrap it up here:

“So what are we missing from the IKEA experience?  Is it really a consumer hellhole or is there something we’re missing?”


* My definition of the frigid tundra is pretty expansive, usually anything north of say, Atlanta.  And last winter even Atlanta pushed my definition of the tundra!

32 comments to IKEA And The Florida Keys, An Unfortunate Juxtaposition

  • Frugal Hound says thank you for the shout out! We just went out for her morning walk and, in addition to being cold, it’s now pitch black at this time of the morning. Brrrrrr.

    That sounds like a glorious time on the water and a horrific time in consumer-ville. Mr. FW and I hate shopping too and gird ourselves every time we absolutely must go. We’ve discovered that shopping at Costco on Friday nights is actually not too bad. There are very few people, we’re relaxed because it’s evening and we don’t have to be anywhere, and there are free food samples! All in all, not a terrible experience for our once-monthly trek.
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted..11 Frugal Hacks to Stay Warm and Save Money This WinterMy Profile

  • That sounds like an amazing trip down to the Florida Keys! What a fabulous way to spend a weekend. I want to try SUP next time we go, looks like great fun and a great workout. IKEA can be a lot to take in, especially if you’ve never been AND you go on a weekend. There are some good deals to be had at IKEA, but the key is to go either right when they open in the morning or just before they close to avoid the crowds. Also, make a plan for what you want to get and go straight there (usually in the basement) and avoid the showrooms if you can. For food, I would recommend either their pizza or cinnamon rolls, I’m not a big fan of anything else.

    • SUP is a ton of fun! Try it in pretty calm waters your first time as it’ll be a lot easier to get the hang of it if waves aren’t tossing you around too much.

      If we have to go to IKEA again (ie can’t order online), we’ll definitely try and take your advice and time the trip better! And maybe try the cinnamon rolls. =)

  • That’s hilarious! I’m so sorry you dropped out of nirvana into shopping he**!

    Really, you have to steel yourself psychologically before going into an Ikea. It’s such a zoo! Sometimes I enjoy it, but…it’s not something I’d like to do often. The only food to eat in their cafeteria, BTW, is the Swedish meatballs — those actually are pretty good.

    Ditto Mrs. Frugalwoods about Costco late in the day on Friday — except DON’T go there on a Friday (any hour) before a three-day weekend or a major televised sporting event. Just about any evening an hour or so before closing is a good time — most people have done their shopping by then or are at dinner somewhere.
    Funny about Money recently posted..Surprise Surgery!My Profile

    • haha, Mr PoP did have the meatballs once and was unimpressed! Then the next month the horsemeat scandal came out and we had a good laugh over it. =)

  • I visited IKEA once for a work-related trip a few years ago. Once was enough. That place just has TOO MUCH STUFF. Furniture. Home goods. Dishes. Storage Containers. Storage Containers meant to organize your other storage containers. It was overwhelming to me. I don’t like to see that much stuff in one place. It just bothers me.

    I can see why it bothered you too.
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    • It was completely overwhelming, and we only barely passed the level with all the STUFF that you’re talking about while we were on the escalator. It was an OMG moment to see how high they had piled plastic containers…

  • That sounds like a wonderful weekend … well, until you got to IKEA! It is a zoo and an unpleasant experience! It is possible to order things online, but if you are ordering them online then I am sure there are better alternatives for a similar price.

    • I’ll look around, but I *think* these are the best value real wood butcher block countertops around… unless you’ve got another suggestion?

  • We LOVE going to IKEA.

    The big draw for me is the $1 breakfast, free coffee, entertainment for the kid and meeting with friends and their little ones.

    Before our daughter it was the $0.50 hot dogs and the as-is section.

    Also, those veggie disk things that come with the salmon dinner are not very good, but I can’t stop eating them when I start. There’s something very special about them.

    I am sorry that it ruined your vacation though.
    Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom recently posted..How We’re Casually Selling Our Car (Don’t Try At Home)My Profile

    • Mr PoP missed out on the veggie disks somehow even though that’s what he was aiming for. Instead he ended up with mixed veggies which were mostly carrots (his least favorite cooked vegetable!). Maybe the veggie disks would have made the meal… =(

  • I love IKEA, but I always make sure I spend a good deal of time beforehand working up my shopping list and we try to never go on a weekend if we can avoid it (honestly, we hardly ever get to one, because they’re all so far away). I feel much better when I have a plan. I’ve also never had any of their food, and I’ve never had trouble with kids running around like crazy people. But I’ve never been to one in Florida, either…. 😉
    Ms. Mintly recently posted..In Which I Gripe About the Elusive “Normal Month”My Profile

  • If you approach IKEA as a day of entertainment looking out in the world of “How other people live” it can be fun. But that’s a different adventure than a peaceful day in the keys. I’ve never seen a manatee. That would be awesome.
    Jenna recently posted..Do I Want To Be A Digital Nomad?My Profile

  • This cracks me up! My spouse hates IKEA and I love it. If we need to go there for anything, my spouse drops me off at the front door and threatens to leave me in the city (3 hours from home) if I am not back in one hour exactly. Then runs away to a different store.
    What can I say, I’m a fan.
    If you hate crowds and shopping, I can absolutely understand why it would not be a good place for you to be!
    Anne @ Money Propeller recently posted..What It’s Like to Own Firearms in CanadaMy Profile

  • IKEA IS an amusement park. I think it’s fun, but I enjoyed it better once I got a handle on how it was laid out. There are tons of shortcuts throughout the store. Funny thing…I can’t stand Costco or Sam’s Club but enjoy an IKEA trip.

    I relied heavily on IKEA when we were looking for furniture/decorating ideas. Cheryl & I aren’t great at all with design, and seeing the mock-up ideas of the rooms was pretty cool. Sure, we could look online, but it’s hard to get the spacial aspects….

    So….I don’t love IKEA. I don’t hate it. If I want cheap furniture it’s my first stop (also I buy kitchen supplies there….). But for those I know exactly what part of the store to go to and then I know how to get out :-)
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  • I’m with you I’m not much of an IKEA person, if you play your cards right you can snag most IKEA items after 2 years on craigslist for pennies on the dollar.
    Even Steven recently posted..Early Retirement Extreme Book ReviewMy Profile

    • Well, used countertops aren’t going to be a whole lot of good to us I don’t think as they tend to get cut to fit specific spaces. But good for other inexpensive furnishings, I bet!

  • EL

    Ha I had to laugh over the parents chasing the kids, as I am one of those. When you have toddlers it is necessary to chase them or they might jump off a ledge. The little angels have no risk meter, so you have to keep them safe. That is what makes life interesting, understanding and learning as you go. The lesson is don’t visit IKEA, unless you have a toddler, if you just finished scuba diving, if you’re starving, or you just ended a yoga session.
    EL recently posted..Why Percentages MatterMy Profile

  • I haven’t been in an IKEA in years. Helped my sister pick out a very nice table for my mom that opens in a clever way and shoving it in a Honda Civic loaded with two adults and two children was memorable. Will probably go back when kids are old enough for the ball pit.

    I gotta say, I love me some Costco. First of all, they have carts adequate for the restraint of TWO toddlers, not just one like Walmart. And they have snacks (free samples, or “treats” as the boys call them) with which to bribe said toddlers to sit in the cart, also meaning I don’t have to feed them snacks at home. I don’t think we save all that much money over buying the same things at Walmart, but I’d rather support a store that has excellent customer service and pays a living wage.
    Frugal Paragon recently posted..The Catch-22 of Credit ScoresMy Profile

  • I like IKEA – but not on a weekend! I stay as far away from IKEA as I can on a weekend (unless it’s first thing in the morning). It can be a real zoo. But I do like looking through their mockups because I have zero design skills, and I love their use of space. I haven’t stopped to eat at their cafeteria yet, but I can say the cinnamon rolls smell better than they taste!
    Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted..2015 IRS contribution limitsMy Profile

  • I never compared Ikea to a theme park, but you pretty much nailed it! I do think the entrance is odd, and that you pretty much have to go “one way” like a museum with all the showrooms until you get released to the ‘gift shop’ (i.e., all the knick knacks, frames, cookware, etc.). I think it’s just a lot of stimuli and it always seems crowded, but yes, in contrast with a mellow start, that would have been even more of a drastic, nerve-wracking change!
    anna recently posted..Rambly Update – Let the Nesting Commence!My Profile

  • IKEA is a different animal. It’s been years since I’ve been. We used to live in Houston where it looms menacingly over the freeway. In our just out of college days, Mr. Maroon and I did make a couple purchases. What gets me though is the quality of the products. Everything I’ve seen seems to fit into the ‘you get what you paid for’ camp. In my opinion, you can find better quality with a little bit of effort through garage sales and the like.
    Mrs. Maroon recently posted..AccountabililtyMy Profile

  • We hadn’t done IKEA for AGES til recently and I tend to enjoy a good poke around until we actually have to check out.

    Last week, PiC refused to let me come along to keep him company because I would have had to be on my feet for hours. He was right, of course, I couldn’t have done it but I felt so bad for him going alone. We had even preordered our purchases and all he had to do was pick it up – it took more than an hour for them to haul it out of the warehouse, with receipt in hand! SMH.

    Costco is kind of a necessary evil for us, we got through staples (cheese, bread, etc) like you wouldn’t believe and that’s pretty much a zoo too. I think we have to be in particularly Zen moods to make it through either Costco or IKEA without having a fit over other people’s bad driving, bad parking, and terrible in-store navigation :)
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  • You got the wrong food. Their meatballs are pretty good. My husband and I sometimes head there for dinner. We also like their more-durable furniture. We have a butcher block kitchen island from them, and it’s been wonderful. So has our solid media center. The more particle-board stuff is fine but not wonderful.

    With IKEA, you’ve just got to tune out the busy-ness. I’ve been often enough to our local one that I can get through pretty quickly. You either need to know where you’re going and just go OR be willing to wander, look at the rooms, explore, etc.

    But, yes, that’s a jarring juxtaposition. I can imagine why it’s stressful.
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  • Karen

    I only go to Ikea about an hour before it closes. Too many people! The first time I went to one here, it had opened recently. They had people directing traffic. The one you went just opened so you had extra craziness.
    Also, I hate the maze. What happens if the building needs to be evacuated? Where is the direct path to an exit?!

    • It’s new? That makes so much sense. It had been years since we were down that way on the turnpike so I hadn’t realized. Clearly we need to go to the Keys more often. =)

      Totally agree on the evacuation plan. How would they get people out of there if the mattresses started spontaneously combusting?