How To Speak Ikea

Ikea’s culture has a vocabulary all its own. Here’s a primer.

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At Ikea, “Lingo” isn’t just a retired collection of desk accessories. There’s an entire language surrounding the store’s culture, and it’s not Swedish. Mastering these terms will make you Ikea-savvy from day one.

Shortcuts: doorways amid the serpentine floor layout that offer a quick way to reach a certain section—like the corner rooms on the Clue board. Overhead maps show their locations. The shortcuts are swinging double doors that you might confuse for an entrance to a backroom. Alt: pass-throughs.

Showroom: the section of the store dedicated to furniture, mostly arranged in room settings. If you see an accessory here that you want, don’t put it in your cart—check the tag for its location elsewhere in the store. The showroom is the first section shoppers encounter.

Flat pack: furniture that has yet to be assembled, which is the only kind Ikea sells.

Marketplace: the section of the store dedicated to housewares, decor, art, plants—anything that isn’t furniture or food. It’s located just past the restaurant.

Self-service area: a warehouse-like space where you find the flat-packed furniture you want to take home. It’s located beyond the furniture showroom and Marketplace sections of the store. On the showroom floor, each item is marked with a corresponding location in the self-service area. You can also find this info on the app if you want to go straight to the shelves and find a piece you saw online, without walking through the gargantuan store. Despite the name, Ikea employees are on hand to help.

As Is: the magical land of clearance merchandise, some of it damaged and some not, plus single cabinet doors and other castoffs in the “handy person corner.” It’s located by the cash registers.

Bistro: a concessions counter, between the cash registers and the exit, where you can buy two hot dogs and a soda for $2; not to be confused with the full-service restaurant or the small grocery area, called the Food Market.

Småland: not just a clever name for the family play area, which offers babysitting, it’s the Swedish province where Ikea originated.

Article number: each piece’s ID, printed next to the bar code. It will come in handy if parts are missing from your flat-packed purchase and you need to request replacements.

Part number: how to identify the specific peg or screw missing from the box.

Duty manager: the person in charge, whom you could speak with if the customer service rep on the floor doesn’t know the answer to a question—like, “Is this item from the catalog in stock even though the display model isn’t on the showroom floor?”

“Open the Wallet” area: staff or corporate term for a section of small, cheap impulse buys, according to this story billed as insider tips from a former Ikea employee.

Allen wrench: common L-shaped tool needed to assemble a lot of Ikea furniture.

Bikea: a nickname that emerged when the retailer started selling a cargo bike in 2016. They are displayed at the entrance to the restaurant.

Nikeas: your favorite shoes for a marathon shopping session. We just made this up.

Have you picked up lingo we didn’t mention? Please share!

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