Yesterday, we visited Ikea in North Co Dublin. From the outside the store looks like an enormous blue and yellow container on stilts sitting in an otherwise empty meadow in the middle of nowhere.

It took us a while to find the entrance and an escalator took us up to the “showrooms” where we wandered about admiring the furniture and soft furnishings on display. The primary colours were very much in evidence. Most of the other shoppers were young mothers or families with small children. I suppose Ikea must be a great place to shop for furniture for a first home.

After about an hour of following the arrows on the floor, we were starting to flag and found a shortcut to the cafe. We stopped here for refreshment. My wife chose a cinnamon bun and a cup of tea. I decided on a coffee without the bun. The guy on the cash desk asked if I’d like to add a cinnamon bun to my coffee as they had a special offer on that day, 50c for a bun and a beverage. Beverages cost Euro1.25, buns 75c, so a bun and beverage special at 50c represents a saving of Euro1.50. I declined, and was charged Euro1.25 for a coffee sans bun. Something was definitely lost in translation there.

Suitably refreshed, we got up to leave. The direct route, down the staircase alongside the original escalator, was not an option: there were barriers to prevent escape by this route. We walked in a large circle before finding another staircase and descended into something called “Market Hall”. Not finding any Exit signs, and no way out, apart from alarmed emergency exits, I asked a man in a blue (probably non-Ikea) uniform where the exit was. He advised us to go back upstairs, as there was no exit on the lower level. We took the lift back to the cafe and hunted around for another few minutes before asking a young lady in an Ikea uniform. She informed us that the only exit was, indeed, on the lower floor. We completed another large circular trek before rediscovering the staircase, and down we went again.

We then followed a crowd of similarly confused shoppers through a predefined route that took us for what felt like miles through a seemingly endless series of twists and turns, exposing us to a mind-boggling variety of household goods of every imaginable kind and hue. This was a true labyrinth of the Thesean variety (but with no Minotaurs, thankfully). At the end of this epic journey we arrived in a huge warehouse. From there we found and slithered past a row of checkouts and out into the car park.

All I can say is, if this is the future of shopping I’ll stick to the online variety.

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