It’s all Ingvar’s fault

amish comp desk

A real desk

It’s Monday morning.

I’m suffering from what feels like a psychological hangover from yesterday’s nightmarish experience of watching my tech team attempting to assemble a flat-pack desk from Office Depot. I probably should have read these reviews prior to purchasing this item.

Here are some things I learned about this particular experiment:

1.  The diagram did not always exactly match the many pieces that came out of the box.  You had to infer in certain cases what was what. It was confusing, and very time-consuming to figure out.  Time is money, as the saying goes. Office Depot can recommend installers, but these charge 60 an hour (or more) to put these things together for you , which can add hundreds to the total ownership cost of prefab self assembly items.

2. The actual bookcase segments were very poorly made: one cabinet stand lined up more or less square up, the other did not, no matter how much the tech team tried to jig the thing.  Some holes were in the right place; others were not.

3. The material the bookcase was made of was almost entirely synthetic. The sides were particle board with veneer. The desktop was some unknown oil-derived substance that had some distant resemblance to wood.  Not only was it far uglier than I remember it looking at the sore,  but the screws and other little thingamajigs did not tighten properly in the fake wood — not to mention that  I have some real ecological concerns about the messy process of manufacturing particle board in general.

4. In the end, this excuse of a desk turned out to be flimsily constructed, with no architectural support at the top part of the cabinets (it was all held together by a sheet of veneer), which cracked and caused the desk to partially collapse when the tech team and I tried to move it a few inches to lay flush against a wall.

In the end, I would say that — very generally speaking — flat pack self assembly is a massively bad idea.  In the case of this desk, it additionally poses the danger of possible physical injury:  what if I had been sitting at it when it collapsed?

So why did I buy it?  Well, the truth is I wanted a desk, fast, and at a good price.  Who spends good money on a desk that is just going to sit in a back room?  The $149 sticker seemed too good to be true; and, of course, it was.

The lure of places like IKEA and Office Depot and their ilk is that you see an already assembled item in their show rooms, and the lights are just so, and you say, hey this is nice enough.  So when the salesman tells you that all you need is patience to assemble it, you believe him.

You don’t think about the wasted hours trying to figure out how to put the thing together.

You don’t anticipate the really bad energy (I am a big fan of the feng shui school of thinking of design spaces) that comes from trying to put together these inelegant, poorly-made contraptions.

As a store owner, you never want any negativity in your store, and this low-quality piece of dreck, after about 6 hours of labor, became an object of such derision and ill feeling that I am going to have to use incense or crystals or magical incantations to get rid of its bad karma!

More seriously, today, when I return to the store, I’ll carefully evaluate the current state of this desk.  It may be that the thing can be fixed; perhaps George the installer can help in this regard. (Note that custom carpenter / installation is not free, ditto needing to buy power drills if you go the DIY route.)

Or it may be that it simply needs to be thrown in the dumpster in the back, and forgotten.

I don’t know if I want the hassle of being on the phone for hours with Office Depot people trying to return this — let’s have some fun and go a bit over the top here — insult to the craft of tongue-and-groove carpentry.

My takeaway is this.

Buying a second-hand, pre-assembled, well-made, real wood piece from a consignment shop may be the way to go. Or perhaps a solid pine Amish computer desk from Dutch Crafters is a reasonable option, if I’m willing to wait 8 weeks for something truly well made and beautiful.

Either way, pre-fab self assembly is for the birds.

Ingvar Kamprad, the son of a Swedish farmer, and the founder of IKEA (his initials formed the company name) is widely credited with being the inventor of the self assembly concept for furniture. With clever marketing, he has spawned millions of stories like mine, of customers who were falsely lured into the IKEA prefab way of doing things, only to end up in tears trying to recreate in their offices or homes what they saw looking so good at the store.

Ingvar is still alive, and has lived in Switzerland for over forty years, and is one of the world’s richest men.

He is also a recluse who apparently needs to dry out 3 times a year.

Perhaps this explains, at some level,  why this prefab self assembly desk experiment has felt like one long bender.

Never again!



This blog has gotten some very positive feedback, both public and private, about providing a realistic look — albeit with a dash of humor — at what is really involved in setting up a needlepoint store.  Traffic is at an all-time high. Right now, in addition to distracting nonsense such as this desk business, I am in the process of securing a credit card terminal.  In that regard, stay tuned for a long piece relating my thoughts and experiences with attempting to preserve the so-called LLC corporate veil. I  hope it will make for some eye-opening reading.

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016


About Erin

Owner of Needlepoint Land, LLC. Professional in the field for more than 15 years, during which I have managed and/or worked with various high-end needlepoint shops. I enjoy teaching both beginners and advanced stitchers, and have created numerous stitch guides, with speciality thread selections, for in-store customers and private clients. I maintain contact with an extensive network of needlepoint vendors, custom artists, and, most importantly, reliable, high-quality finishers. I look forward to hearing your comments on my blog!

2 responses »

  1. They would take it back, but not at the store. You have to pay for it to be transported to their warehouse — which is far away, of course, and the desk is quite heavy. In the modern era, stores like Office Depot don’t actually carry much of the merchandise they sell, and expect you (apparently) to pay for shipping things back to them. This is of course to deter you from returning anything. Part of the learning process on seeing up close and personal the disintegration of quality in the retail experience.

  2. Take it back! Pitch a fit if they will not take it back. Start nice but make them it back. Get your money back! I have two children who have bought things from IKEA and have been pleased, so even if the founder is a drunk, that company has quality items.

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