October 12, 2023 | Casey Fletcher

Ikea Employees Share The Family Meltdowns They've Seen At Work

There's something about IKEA that stresses people out. Sure, the furniture is bright and beautiful—and the meatballs are to die for—but there's just something about the store that makes couples and families want to rip their hair out. Maybe it's the crowds, the maze-like showrooms or the looming thought of having to build that flat-pack bookshelf you just put in your cart. Whatever the reason is behind the madness, if you're heading to IKEA, you can bet you'll see a meltdown. These IKEA employees and customers share the worst freak-outs they've ever seen.

Don't forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!

#1 Not a Real Toilet

I saw a mother let her child use the display toilet as a real toilet in one of the display washrooms.

Camera footage and shocked woman split image

#2 Bratty Teenager

I'm a cashier! There was a bratty teenager and her mom about to pay for their over $1000 transaction and the mom suddenly said "You know what? This girl here doesn't deserve any of this. Put it all back." I've never seen a teenager completely lose it until that shift. I feel bad for my co-worker who had to do my go-backs.

#3 This Table Screams...

Overheard two young women trying to agree on a dining table. One of them said, "This table screams, "I just got out of correctional facility and I need a table."


#4 Cheating Husband

I was once shopping at IKEA and noticed a couple. The guy just had a complete look of apathy and distraction while being berated by his wife. The volume was fairly low until they got to the bedroom department and she specifically said, "I'm thinking of buying new sheets but I might as well not because I don't want to buy sheets just so you can have that HR girl in them. I hope you realize I'm just putting up with your cheating until the kids are grown up." I was so distraught I went for Köttbullar to calm myself.

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#5 I'd Like to Return This Entire Kitchen

I've been working at IKEA for the past two years. It made me lose hope for humanity. I have so many things. I've had someone try to return an entire used kitchen that was for his mom's house and the mother lost her life. The guy was screaming at my manager.


#6 TV Bathroom

I'm currently in IKEA making the most of my complimentary cups of tea. The couple at the next table over just had a brilliant argument about whether or not they could put a TV in their bathroom. He thinks it will fit. The wife/girlfriend thinks it’s the stupidest idea ever, they don’t need it, it won’t fit and if he wants to do that then he can move back in with his mother. And he keeps asking her to give him half of her Daim cake. After about five minutes of whining, she told him if wanted some he should have bought one because apparently he always does this. I might follow them around the rest of the shop to see what else happens.


#7 Screaming Couples

I've worked at IKEA for two years. I had a couple get into an argument about the size of the furniture and whether it would fit into their car. By the end, it escalated into who had the louder voice.

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#8 Caught Red-Handed

I went to IKEA shortly after my first wedding to buy a dining room table. It was me, my then-husband, and a close friend, who, unbeknownst to naïve-young-me, was my then-husband's mistress. I watched them walk around like a couple discussing the options before finally settling on a glass-topped table that I mentioned many times was impractical. While I had my blinders on to all the other signs that they were messing around, it was this moment that made me realize what was going on. I busted him a few days later.


#9 Couple Problems

I once saw a young couple argue. The girl needed a new mattress, but the guy didn't want to carry it or get a cart for her. They left without the mattress. I love my job.


#10 Expensive Couch

This didn't happen to me, but I was there when it happened. A customer went through self-checkout with a $3K couch but put a label for a $600 couch on it. The employee at the self-checkout completely missed this, and he got through... The person then loaded the couch onto their truck and hastily left the area as quickly as they could. IKEA is right along the I15 freeway, as soon as they got on the freeway the couch fell out and onto the road.

It completely destroyed the couch. 15 minutes later the guy came back and tried to do a no receipt exchange. He tried to blame the employee who helped him secure it (footage found that no employee helped him secure it, he did it on his own in 60 seconds flat). The self-checkout employee remembered him coming through 15 minutes earlier so they pulled the receipt to find out what the real deal was with this guy. That's when the pieces were put together. When his refund was refused he was told to leave now and that he's not welcome back at IKEA (got off easy) and my supervisor called him on his scam.


#11 Spoiled by Quality Furniture

An older gentleman in our baths department ranted about how "cheap" the furniture was while banging on things. He tried to slam a drawer but it soft closed on him. Oops, your tantrum was foiled by quality furniture.


#12 Get That One

I once went through the couch section and overheard a couple arguing about what colour couch they should choose. Being the idiot that I am, I pointed at a pink couch saying, "Hey that pink couch looks great." The couple proceeds to look at me and said. "F%$k off!" and walked past the section while arguing. Never have I ever stood in a daze for so long.


#13 Bad Tantrum

I once saw a kid tantrum because his family moved past the kid room with the slide-equipped bunk bed. He followed up by breaking a display television. It was too much of a scene for me so I continued on to the end to buy some cinnamon rolls.


#14 Fear of Decision Making

This was my IKEA family meltdown. My then-boyfriend and I were getting our own place just after college. Until then, we had both been using twin beds thanks to student living spaces and sharing a single twin was proving uncomfortable for two adult humans subjected to California summer temperatures. To fix this issue, off to IKEA we went.

Things start off okay. We start with lunch, admire the living room couches, move into kitchen wares. All so far enjoyable. And then we reach our destination, bedrooms. A sea of beds in a variety of price points greet us with brightly-colored duvets. An experienced furniture purchaser I start scanning the price tags to narrow the options. I bring him to an attractive affordable model I think matches some of our bookcases. And this is where the trouble starts.

See up until now, I didn't realize exactly how bad this man's fear of decision making was. He stares at the bed incomprehensibly for literal minutes, refusing to talk about it. Eventually, it is discovered that buying a bed means committing to delaying graduate school, never moving to the east coast, and having children with me. I don't understand that logic and request explanation, which is slowly and tearfully given. We spent three hours in that IKEA and left with nothing. About a month later we went back and again after several hours bought that exact bed. He never went to grad school or moved to the east coast. We also did not have children and broke up a few years later. He took the bed.


#15 Where Relationships Go to Die

Each time I visit IKEA, I come across a wife incessantly scolding her husband, and he just gazes into the void with a vacant expression in his eyes. Bonus points if they have screaming kids they're actively ignoring. I'm convinced IKEA is where relationships go to die.


#16 Commitment

IKEA broke up a couple my parents knew. I believe it was around the time IKEA first came to the U.S., my parents went to one with their friend and her boyfriend. The boyfriend did not realize what he was in for, and my parents basically watched all the life drain out of him as his girlfriend dragged him through furniture. There may as well have been giant flashing signs saying COMMITMENT everywhere, this dude was not ready for it. They were bickering hard by the end and broke up shortly afterwards.


#17 Bookshelf Advice

A random lady grabbed my hand, pulled me over to the bookshelf section, and told me all about the number of books she hoped to fit on one, color scheme of her bedroom, etc. It was pretty weird but I gave her my best advice on bookshelves and left.


#18 You Won't Fit

I saw a dude in the car park of the Newcastle IKEA cram a load of furniture into his Ford Focus. His wife stood next to him SCREAMING at how much of an idiot he is for buying so much, how they aren't going to fit in the car now and how he is putting all this furniture together alone because it's his "stupid stuff we don't need. The husband replies, "No, you won't fit in the car now," and drives off.


#19 There Is No We

My boyfriend and I overheard this while browsing in IKEA. A couple was having some sort of miscommunication in their “relationship." I guess they were deciding on things to buy. The girl said, “We should get that rug,” in which the guy replied to her super loud, “There is NO we, you don’t live with me!” I didn’t catch the rest of it as we had to walk away so they wouldn’t hear us laughing so hard.


#20 One Forklift, Please

A guy came in and wanted something that we only had “in the air” so it would require a forklift to get the product down, which we don’t do with people in the store for fairly obvious safety reasons. I told him we could get it down right after the store closed for him but that was not an acceptable answer. He proceeded to lose it, demanding I bring out a forklift and take it down now.

As this is happening, his wife and two small children walk up. I say, “Well sir, just imagine that your children are in the aisle when the forklift comes out and an accident occurs, your children could be crushed by a falling pallet, the arms of the lift or any other number of possibly fatal incidents.” His response, “I don’t give a hoot about that, I just want you to get my table.” I didn’t have to continue the conversation. His wife took care of it.

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#21 Where's Snoopy?

My friend used to work at the IKEA across the street from the Mall of America. Some background, the MoA has an amusement park in the center, it's currently called Nickelodeon Universe, but for the first 15 years or so it was called Camp Snoopy. In 2006 the MoA lost the Snoopy franchise and re-branded to the generic "The Park at MoA."

A few days after the change from Camp Snoopy happened, my friend was working at the daycare at the IKEA. She heard a child ask their mother, "What happened to Snoopy?" The mother responded without missing a beat, "Snoopy lost his life." Cue the child bawling her eyes out inconsolably, to the point where they wouldn't let the mother leave the child at the daycare.

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#22 You're a Cow

I used to work at IKEA and have so many stories from there. I think a memorable one wasn't a family fighting, but it was two women fighting over my service. I was helping one customer and it was a super busy weekend, so I'm sure all the employees were pretty busy. As I was helping her, another woman came up and interrupted us. They started arguing and one of them called the other woman a cow.

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#23 You Want What?

One time, a Russian family was asking for queen-sized sheets, but with the accent, it sounded like "Gaveene." I just stood there dumbfounded as they repeated gaveene over and over.

#24 Black Friday

Two words. Black Friday. It was 9:55, we open at 10. We were almost done, all that we had left to do was put out some children's kitchen set. What we didn't realize was that it was 50% off. I only had two pallets left to put out when the store opens and the horde came. They were crazy. Sprinting, pushing and shoving.

They fought to get to these kitchens and when they noticed my pallets, they tore them open and took it. Ultimately, a woman began to yell and lunged at the man who picked the last item from the pallet, oblivious to the two additional full pallets. I had to pull her off him and security came. After about 10 minutes the chaos ended, and I cleaned up. At that point, an elderly couple came and asked if there were any kitchens left and I put one in their cart as my coworkers laughed at what had just occurred.


#25 No Water Cups

I used to work as a cashier for IKEA's food department when I was in college. I primarily worked in the bistro near the exit (where you can buy the hot dogs). We had this policy that we could not give out free cups, no matter what, in the bistro. So if a customer asked us for a water cup, we had to tell them we don't have those and offer to sell them a soda cup ($1).

I didn't expect how incredibly furious people would get over this. I've had people called me all sorts of names just because they can't get a free cup of soda fountain water. One lady told me to look her child in the eyes and tell him he's not allowed to get water here because we are greedy monsters.


#26 Poor Jim

I worked at IKEA for five years selling sofas. One of my coworkers, let's call him Jim, worked evenings and weekends in returns while his day job was teaching math at a local high school. One day a woman comes to the counter trying to return some pillows. Generally speaking, they didn't take returns on pillows for sanitary reasons.

She also didn't have a receipt and the pillows were clearly used and absolutely disgusting. Jim tells the customer that he's sorry, but our return policy states we only accept products within 30 days of purchase, with the receipt, and unused in the original packaging. This did not sit well with her and she began to scream at Jim.

She was spiteful and cruel. Jim had come to the U.S. from another country years ago and while he spoke perfect English, he still had an accent. She mocked his accent and told him to speak English. She repeatedly shouted that he was stupid and would never amount to anything. He was too dumb to get a real job, etc.

Meanwhile, her teenage son is in the background. He's pleading with his mother to stop shouting at Jim. He's begging her to give it up so they can go home. Eventually, she turns around to shout at her son and asks him why he cares so much. "That's my calculus teacher..." There had already been a parent-teacher night scheduled for a few weeks later, his father went alone.


#27 Pet Pig

At the store that I work at, somebody brought a pet pig into the store and it used the bathroom in several places. That brought on a whole host of meltdowns.

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#28 Flipping Tables

Last time I was in IKEA I watched a family have an argument in the couch section. The family walked away to go sit in one of the demo living rooms. One dude proceeded to pick up a futon-like couch, walk over, and chuck it at them. He proceeded to scream all while literally flipping every table he saw. I quickly fast-walked to the nearest "shortcut" possible.


#29 We Know What This is About

I was organizing some products as I noticed an elderly couple (in their 60s) walking past me. The man stops and comments on a rug, saying it’s nice. The wife replies, “That won’t fit in our home.” The guy immediately growls back, “Oh come on, we both know what this is about. You think I’m stupid! I’ll show you stupid.” He then grabs the rug and angrily stomps off. The lady just kept walking as if nothing had happened.

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#30 Forgot the Kids

I did a stint doing early-morning (5 a.m. start) replenishment at IKEA one summer. I was stocking a bin in the warehouse at opening time, so I had a view of the guy going over to open the gate at the front of the store to release the hordes right at 9:00. The time comes, he flips the switch, the gate starts rising and as soon as it's high enough, this woman ducks under it and begins all but running across the store. That's when I realize her kids, who looked like they were about three and five, frantically chasing her flat out just to try and keep up. Made me kind of sad.

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#31 Ouch

I'm a cashier. I've never seen a family meltdown but one time I was helping at the self-serve station and I watched a gentleman let his five-year-old son run around loose in the self-serve area. Another customer was trying to scan a big curtain rod, so he had to take it out of his cart to tilt it and get to the barcode. Well, the kid ran over and got hit in the face with the curtain rod. The dad got so angry with the guy who just kept apologizing. I was over here like, "Bruh, keep an eye on your kid if you don't want them to get hurt."


#32 You-Know-What

I was looking at sheets once in IKEA. A young couple was checking them out as well and the guy motions towards the black sheets and says "Honey, what about those ones?" She replies at normal conversational volume, "Not those ones, you-know-what stains will really stand out," and everyone around does a double-take and develops very bad coughs. I've never seen somebody become so red in public before.


#33 Relationship Worries

I once heard this young lady say "This lamp would match my wardrobe." And without skipping a beat the boyfriend said, "What is your wardrobe doing in my house?!"

#34 Getting Physical Over Curtain Rods

I was at IKEA one day getting a dresser. I was walking through the small item section (between the showrooms and the warehouse, for stuff like plates and such) when I saw this guy looking in this bin for shower curtain rods. The bin was empty, but there was a nearby shopping cart with one in it. It was clearly someone's shopping cart that they had left sitting while they went to get something else.

The guy took the curtain rod from the cart and was leaving when the guy came back and caught him. The guy refused to give the curtain rod back to the original person and a physical altercation ensued. Yes, two grown men fought over a cheap IKEA curtain rod until security/employees came and broke it up.

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#35 Meltdowns Everywhere

IKEA FSHO worker here. Basically anyone who gets told they have to wait more than 20 minutes at the store to get their full-serve items has a meltdown. Ninety percent of my job is dealing with these people.


#36 Riley! Get Back Here!

My now-husband and I were driving to IKEA (about three hours away), and this was at a point in dating when we were starting to get serious. On the trip, I found out his middle name was Riley, and I mentioned how it could make a very cute girl name. He was completely aghast and was very firm in stating that Riley is a BOY'S name, and had been handed down in his family for over five generations.

I tried telling him that it was starting to change over to be a girl's name now, much like "Ashley" or "Quinn". He thought I was crazy and was adamant that people do not name little girls Riley. We lightheartedly argued the point for a good 15 minutes. We finally get to IKEA, park and walk in the front door. Five feet in front of us a little girl of about two goes running by and her mother is chasing after her, saying "Riley! Get back here!!" My husband just looked at me defeated and said, "...shut up."


#37 Expired Cookie

One time a lady came up to me freaking out that IKEA had discontinued her favorite cookie. I had to call the manager and she just yelled at him that her therapy dog had just lost his life and she NEEDED that cookie.

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#38 This is IKEA?

I used to work in IKEA in my student days in the Glasgow, Scotland store. When it was newly opened, an elderly Irish guy and his wife stopped me and asked where IKEA was. I explained that they were in IKEA and they couldn’t understand. They had arrived at the ferry port in Ireland that morning and decided that they’d go on a day trip to somewhere they hadn’t been before. When they arrived at the port in Scotland there was a dedicated ‘IKEA’ bus. They thought IKEA was an actual place in Scotland and didn’t realize it was a shop. I walked away, struggling to contain my laughter, as I could hear them blaming each other for the mistake!

Ikea busEric Fischer, CC BY 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

#39 Like Mother Like Daughter

There was a mother and daughter. The mother was probably about 80 and the daughter about 50. They were bickering with each other the entire time and in the worst possible place (the section with the stacks of stemware in the aisle), the mother said something and walked off... and the daughter grabbed her by the hair and dragged her backwards. They both fell into the big display of stemware and smashed it to the ground.

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#40 Not Enough Food

I work in IKEA food. I had one guy claim that he was a "big guy" and wanted me to put extra food on his plate after I made the plate. I explained that I couldn't as we had to stick to a portion size and that he could add a side plate for $1.99. He then yelled that we are were cheapskates, stormed off to his family, brought all the plates of food that we made for them and told us that he was going to bring his family somewhere "good."


#41 Beijing IKEA

In Beijing, IKEA is a magnet for anyone over 55 retired and single. They sit in the cafeteria all day sipping on coffee, or just sitting there drinking nothing. There are no tables for anyone to sit down. Finally, management set up a one-hour rule. This rule lasted two days. The locals brought in all their friends and relatives to sit in all the chairs. Then, they proceeded to chant and yell their rights were being violated. The authorities didn't do anything.

Restaurant at IKEA BeijingN509FZ, CC BY-SA 4.0 , Wikimedia Commons

#42 Awful Customer

The most memorable breakdown I dealt with was when I was working in Home Organisation. This man marched up to me, phone in hand and family in tow. He wants to buy a certain clothes rack but he can't find it ANYWHERE in this STUPID STORE. Alright mate, I'm happy to help you out (although I'm not liking the attitude). He shows me a picture on his phone. A screenshot from a website with no context. I haven't seen that clothes rack before. Either it's very new, very old, or not something that we stock.

I ask if he knows the name of it: "No that's YOUR job." He's getting even more worked up now. But I can't search with just an image. I check our store's website and I can't find the darn clothes rack anywhere. I ask if he was sure he looked at our store location's website specifically (not all IKEA's stock the same stuff. Shocking I know.)

Immediately I can tell he feels insulted. OF COURSE HE LOOKED AT THE RIGHT WEBSITE. I activate dumb salesgirl mode and ask him to show me. He pulls up the website, and there is the clothes rack. Quite clearly on Target.com.au. He notices and storms off wordlessly. I got immense pleasure watching him get lost and do a couple of loops through the store before finding the exit.


#43 Give Me Ingvar Kamprad

I work in customer service in a UK store. We get so many meltdowns... it's really hard to choose. I've had so many things thrown at me I've lost count. My best one might be the gentleman who demanded to speak to Ingvar Kamprad about his waiting time at the collection point. When I stupidly offered the department manager, he said he'd settle for someone Swedish. Unfortunately, we couldn't help him. He took his things and left screaming that he'd write to Sweden. I've not heard anything back yet.

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#44 Not Hot Enough

Some woman threw a full drink on my co-worker because her 50 cent hot dog wasn't hot enough.


#45 Divorced Shopping

My weirdest experience was selling a kitchen to a couple who kept arguing... louder and longer than usual. After the man walked away, the woman said, "This is why we are divorced."

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