The Secret Behind IKEA’s Suspicious Catalog Photos

What would homeowners and college freshmen around the world do without IKEA? The Swedish retailer was the first to bring the world cheap but durable home furnishings. We all have a BILLY bookcase in our dorm rooms, or a KALAX shelf in the home office.

Even though most of us would sell our soul to have an IKEA in our hometowns, there’s so much we don’t know about it. Like why employees say you should never get the meatballs, or the truth behind how those catalog photos are so perfect. Read on for secrets and tips for making the most out of your next trip to IKEA.

The Stuff In The Bins Are Meant To Distract You

Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, all those super-cheap items in bins along the walkways, stairs, and throughout the marketplace are meant as a distraction. Does anyone really need a 50-cent shoehorn, or a $1 flower pot? No, of course not, but it’s so hard to resist!

Those are the items that change your $60 bill into a $100 bill.

You Can Have Missing Parts Mailed For Free


Building IKEA furniture can put so much strain on a relationship, so the last thing you need is to find out the item arrived without all the parts. If that happens, don’t worry.

Just call or e-mail IKEA’s customer service, give them the 8-digit number for the product, and they’ll ship you the missing parts in no time.

The As-Is Section Is Even Cheaper On Wednesdays


Most of us know the “As-Is” section is the place to get the best deals, but it gets even cheaper. All shoppers get an additional 10% off the section on Wednesdays.

You should also be sure to check with your local store to find out when they restock the section to guarantee you get the best items.

An IKEA trip wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the restaurant, but employees say you shouldn’t take one food item home.

There’s A Reason Why The Items Have Weird Names Instead Of Numbers

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

The “Billy” bookcase isn’t just named that for fun. Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, was actually dyslexic. He had trouble keeping track of items using the traditional number system most retailers use.

To make it easier, he named the items in each department after easy-to-remember things like Swedish islands, animals, and people’s names.

Ask For Help, Or You Won’t Get It

NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We’re used to having retail employees come up to us and offer help, but that’s not the Scandinavian way. IKEA employees are told to let the customers come to them if they need assistance.

The same rule applies to the furniture warehouse. You have to find and load your own items unless you ask for help.

Don’t Buy The Frozen Meatballs


We don’t have anything against the IKEA meatballs. There’s nothing wrong with those savory, delicious, and cheap meatballs you can get in the restaurant, but the frozen ones in the marketplace are way overpriced.

Even IKEA employees say they prefer to stock up on a plate of the fresh ones because the frozen ones aren’t worth it.

Parents might be intimidated to shop with their kids in tow, but keep reading to see how IKEA makes it easy.

There Is A Best Time To Shop

Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images

IKEA might be one of the most efficient stores you’ve been in, but the crowds and lines can still turn a 15-minute trip into an hour-long trip. Employees say the best time to go is any weekday morning, but Monday morning is even better.

Whatever you do, avoid the weekend at all cost.

Free Daycare. I Repeat: Free Daycare


Staying true to their Swedish roots, IKEA provides their shoppers with free daycare. Anyone can get one free hour of daycare at the IKEA Småland, and you get an extra 30 minutes of free care if you have an IKEA Family card.

That means you can shop in peace without having to look after your little one.

Kids Eat Free On Tuesday!

Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/Getty Images

Again, you need that IKEA Family card to take advantage of this perk, but it’s totally worth it. Many parents stress about going to IKEA because they have to bring along the kids.

But dropping them off at free daycare and then taking them upstairs to the restaurant for a free meal seems like a pretty good shopping trip to me.

Those suspiciously perfect catalog photos are hiding something. Continue on to find out how they build their catalog.

If You’re Moving, You Can Get A $25 Credit


Moving is already costly enough. IKEA likes to incentivize you to buy new furniture and items for the move. They’ll give you a $25 cash card when you spend $250 or buy two pieces of furniture.

IKEA also has moving checklists and moving advice online to help make the moving process go as smooth as possible.

If You See A Yellow Tag, Purchase It ASAP

Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images

If you see that “last chance” yellow tag, know that IKEA isn’t being over-dramatic. Purchase the item as soon as possible if you’re interested in it.

That’s because the yellow tag means not only will the store no longer carry the item, but it’s being discontinued to make room for new inventory.

Your Home Will Never Look Like The Catalog


I hate to break the news, but your house will never look like the inside of an IKEA catalog. That’s because the photos inside are 75% CGI.

Any parent knows that homes with kids never look that perfect of pristine, but thanks IKEA for making us think they can be.

Coming up, there’s a way to get around those insane shipping fees.

Test In Your Home Before You Buy


Well, not your actual home. The IKEA Place app will let you upload a photo of a room in your house, then you can drag and drop different furniture and decor items into the picture.

That means you can get a virtual image of your dream house, and then go into IKEA and actually make it happen.

Don’t Worry If You Miss A Sale


IKEA has one or two big sales events each year, but they also have smaller sales ongoing that constantly change. Unless you have the strength to go to IKEA once a week, you’ll likely miss out on some of those deals.

Luckily, if you have one of those IKEA Family loyalty cards, you can get a 90-day price adjustment.

IKEA Shipping Sucks, So Check Amazon

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

We love IKEA for a lot of things, but not their shipping costs. They charge a flat rate that’s anywhere between $20 and $130. To avoid this, try typing in “IKEA” on Amazon.

The items that come up are from third party sellers and have much cheaper shipping options. Beware, the items are sometimes marked up, so buy at your own risk.

Free Breakfast On Mondays? Yes, Please

James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

On Mondays, before 11 a.m., you can stop in and get a free plat of breakfast at IKEA. Since Monday mornings are supposed to be the best time to shop, this seems like a no-brainer.

Once again, you’ll need that IKEA Family card to take advantage of free giveaways, but it’s practically selling itself at this point.

The Names And Numbers Have Meaning Too


Even though they started as random names to help the founder remember, they now have more meaning.

Items like the curtains are given names from mathematics, bathroom products are named after lakes or rivers, and the IKEA bookcases are named after different occupations. Shopping at IKEA will basically give you a crash course in the Swedish language!

Enter Through The Exit To Save Time

Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images

If you know exactly what you’re looking for at IKEA, don’t go through the entrance. Plan ahead, find the product number, check the availability online, and enter through the exit.

It will take you directly to the furniture warehouse, and it will stop you from making too many impulse buys.

If You Know A Handyman, Create Your Own Cheap Furniture


If you’re someone who loves all things DIY, then the leftover cabinets and shelf area of the “As-Is” section is your new best friend.

IKEA employees refer to it as the “Handyman Corner.” There, you’ll find a ton of super-cheap extra pieces that can be easily turned into something beautiful with a little love and care.

Find The Shortcuts

Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images

IKEA employees have admitted that the Marketplace is meant to feel like a labyrinth. They even switch the walls and displays weekly.

If you want to avoid the maze, pick up a map at the start of the store. It will show you the shortcuts between rooms so you can make it through even faster.