Funky lamp leads him to a billionaire

[This is written by Monty Snow, a guest columnist for]

I had a very unusual experience that ran counter to the norm, and I thought you might like to hear it.

My wife Rochelle and I had found this little lamp at IKEA that we just loved and couldn’t find anywhere else. Trouble was, they were out of stock. So, we tracked it on their website until, according to the website, it was in stock.

So, I drove to Frisco and guess what?  It was still out of stock.  I asked about it and they apologized for a computer glitch.  So, I drove home and waited a couple of weeks and checked it again.  Now it was in stock.  So, I drove to Frisco.

IKEA logo

When I drove back to Frisco and found it STILL out of stock, I asked if I could buy the display model, but the woman who was stocking the lighting section told me that was against company policy.  I noted that they had two display models and what difference was it going to make if they had one or two, especially since a customer had been inconvenienced twice by their error.  She couldn’t violate company policy.

So, I sought out a supervisor.  I couldn’t find any offices.  It seems that all the supervisors at IKEA are working on the floor.  So, I asked a worker where I could find one, and he pointed to a guy across the floor who was standing in front of a computer while another guy was talking in one ear while he was answering his phone with the other.  I didn’t think there was any way this guy was going to help me, but I waited patiently, and when I got a chance, I told him my story.

He was a young man, quiet and polite, and as soon as I finished, he asked me to wait by the checkout, and he headed toward lighting, answering his phone as he went.  He was gone 10 or 15 minutes, and didn’t come back until he had found the lamp I had been looking for.  I was very impressed by his willingness to go out of his way to help a customer when all he really had to do was repeat company policy, so I asked him for his name and wrote it down.

When I got home I wrote a letter to his boss telling him how this supervisor had gone out of his way to provide service in what is pretty much a self-service operation.

Well, you know how I tend to overdo things, so on a whim, I wrote the founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad – in Sweden.  This guy is the richest man in Europe and the fifth richest man in the world.  Never in a million years did I expect a reply.  So I was shocked when an envelope with Swedish postage arrived.  Here is the letter.


Dear Mr. Snow!

How very kind of you to take time and write about your experience in our IKEA store in Frisco, Texas.  You certainly make me feel very proud of our staff there, particularly Mr. Ruigu!

I apologize for taking so long to reply to your letter which had taken some time to reach me.

You point to the risk of impersonality in a business like ours, and I could not agree more.  We try to maintain the spirit of the small Swedish company we once were, and itis not always easy.  I often use the Swedish word “Tillsammans” – meaning “together” – to underline how very important each one of us are for the total result.  That is a lesson I learnt very early on the farm where I grew up in Sweden.  It has followed me ever since.

Again, my heartfelt thanks for you letter.  I wish you and your family a joyful Christmas and look forward to see you again in one of our stores.

Ingvar Kamprad

(The signature indented the back of the paper and appears to be genuine, rather than machine-generated).

The guest columnist and his lamp

The guest columnist and his lamp

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