investigations

I Timed How Long Office Furniture Stores Would Let Me Work at Their Desks

Some places kicked me out fast. Others, like IKEA, didn't care at all.

by Joel Burrows
30 November 2019, 8:49pm

All photos by Disapol Savetsila

Sometimes you lose your keys, need to finish an assignment, can’t get to a library, and seriously consider using a furniture store as your office. And this example is not hypothetical. This has happened to me more times than you'd expect.

So, if like me, you’re a walking car crash who needs an occasional emergency office, then this is the story for you. I went to a bunch of different furniture stores and reviewed their desks, chairs, hospitality, and total workspace packages. Just in case you ever need a free and comfortable place to work, you'll know where to go.

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Officeworks

The first thing you notice in Officeworks is their shiny expanse of new desks. And the table I’d chosen was brilliant. It was CEO spacious with a spaceship-esque design. It even had room for my houseplant! I leaned back in my pillowy chair, listened to their Christmas jazz, and then got ready for work.

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However, this table wasn’t getting any wifi reception. Furthermore, I had some serious emails to write. After 11 minutes of procrastination, I decided to switch to another desk. I also picked up a picture of New York City to inspire me as I typed.

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The second desk luckily had the reception I craved. Thus, I tethered my phone, banged up some emails, while some patrons occupationally clocked me.

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After working at the Officeworks for an hour, it had become crystal clear that I could work there all day. And I had meetings with some other furniture stores that I had to attend. So I moved desks one last time and called over a staff member. I leaned on the $279 table and asked him how long I could try out the desk. He replied that there was a thirty-day return policy.

Time: 1 hour, 4 minutes, 47 seconds
Rating: 4 stars

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Domayne

Domayne was an old-timey ghost town. The staff gave me eagle-eyed glances. The large store sprawled like a desert. If I’d seen a tumbleweed roll past the deckchairs, I wouldn’t have been all that surprised.

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But the table I’d chosen was pretty spiffy. This time I went for an open office, Marttini on Fridays, kind of vibe.

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As I started to type, an employee walked past me and said “nice pineapple shirt.” Now, this really threw me. Between Officeworks’ ambivalence and this human’s compliment, I was suddenly in a universe where working inside a furniture store was normal. I legitimately wondered: “What else in my life’s been a lie?”

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But as I continued to spiral, another staff member came up to me. She asked me what I was doing there. I said I was using the desk. This was apparently the wrong answer, as she launched into an epic monologue about how this was a retail store. I responded with that surprised sound that Scooby-Doo makes. We shared a quiet stare, and soon afterwards, I was asked to leave.

Time: 6 minutes, 27 seconds
Rating: 2 stars

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Fantastic Furniture

Fantastic Furniture had a display desk, right near the front, that was almost perfect. The table was cozy yet professional. The chair was fairy floss, and the background music was pillowy. The only bad thing was the uneven concrete, and I wished they were more considerate when placing my chair.

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It was at this desk I learned that 99 percent of all bystanders will tune out a person that’s typing.

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And while I did receive the odd glance, nobody snapped a pic for the gram.

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After half-an-hour of tip-tapping up emails, I was starting to become hungry and sweaty. So I moved further into my air-conditioned workplace to eat a Danish croissant. My lunch was a B-plus, and the cool room transcended my scale.

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As soon as I finished my pastry, a Fantastic Furniture rep walked to my desk. “What are you doing?” they laughed. “It looks like you just set up work.” I immediately apologised. “You’re not planning on being here all day, are you.” I asked if I could stay a bit longer. “You can’t be here for six hours or something like that, but for an extra five you’re fine.”

Time: 41 minutes
Rating: 4.5 stars

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IKEA

You’d think that IKEA would be the perfect place you could write in. I mean, just look at that old money table and that dark ocean chair. There’s even stock art on the walls and a coat rack.

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However, IKEA is an office worker's nightmare. Multiple songs were playing from different areas. A Swedish alarm went off. And there was this overwhelming coldness that radiated from this store. It felt like the sort of store you’d buy a DIY coffin from.

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The staff and the general public did gawk at me, but it was if I was a part of the furniture. Nobody seemed to care if I was allowed to do this or not.

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I tried to make the best of this hellhole and rang my girlfriend. “When will you be home?” she asked. I gave her the reply that all businessmen give: “I don’t know, probably a while. I’ll text when I’m done.”

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Almost immediately after my call ended, my photographer got caught by IKEA. And they were not happy Jans about us photographing this experiment. A security guard was called. The man demanded that we delete every photo, told us never to come back, and escorted us out of the store. Which is kind of a shame, because I really like their passionfruit cheesecake.

Time: 20 minutes
Rating: 0.5 stars

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So, what was the moral of this tale? Whelp, it’s that you could probably write in an Officeworks, or a Fantastic Furniture entrance, without getting caught. We also learned that the general public literally doesn’t care if you do this. I could have worn a Kermit the Frog costume and only got a couple more looks. Just don’t bring your camera to IKEA. You don’t want to be banned from their cafe.

Joel is on Instagram

All photos by Disapol Savetsila