|Violet Grace, age 2|
I'm writing this public letter to you today because, frankly, I feel you owe my Violet an apology. A rather overdue apology.
On the evening of January 15, 2014, my family visited your Centennial store for well over an hour. We had dinner at your IKEA restaurant before checking out the kitchen cabinet section because we are about to buy our first home and excited at the possibilities your cabinets have to offer. Our three children accompanied us and watched as my husband and I explored cabinet after cabinet, opening doors and closets to see what awaited inside.
|The night of the incident, Paxton rides safely in an IKEA cart, buckled in of course.|
We watched in horror, in slow motion, as right before our eyes, a Godmorgon cabinet began to fall forward--our two precious daughters standing right in front of it.
My older daughter, who is five years old, backed out of the way as she watched it come down. Our two-year-old (Violet), however, began to back away, but tripped. In hindsight, I think the trip saved her from devastating injuries or worse. The trip propelled her backward just in the nick of time, possibly saving her from head and spinal injuries, or possibly even death. I'd like to think an angel tripped her. Still, the 75" tall 85 lb. Godmorgon cabinet came down on her two-year-old legs.
You can imagine our horror. But can you imagine my two-year-old's horror? She was, of course, beside herself. An employee of yours stood by while another customer (who I regret not thanking and acknowledging, but I hope she forgives me as I was in shock) lifted the cabinet off of my child.
I pulled Violet, who was screaming in pain, into my arms and gently tugged off her loose cowgirl boots. The boots slipped off and I braced myself for what I'd see.
Immediately, at the top of my daughter's tiny right foot, a rather large goose-egg (contusion) was swelling up. It looked awful. I was worried it was broken. I turned to my husband and said, "How did this even happen?"
Your store employee, who was present for the incident itself, looked at us bewilderedly and said, "That was supposed to be attached to the wall." He sounded as confused and shocked as my husband and I were.
At that point, he turned to the other employees who were just arriving on the scene, and told them to attach the attacking cabinet to the wall. It was quickly chained. I have a photo of the cabinet; note the chain:
|Cabinet on the far right, a Godmorgon, fell on my two-year-old|
From that point on, despite the half-dozen employees who were with us, no one would say anything to us except, "Our insurance people will be in touch within 72 hours."
They said that phrase several times, but that was all they said, "Our insurance people will be in touch within 72 hours." Considering what had just happened, it felt rather cold and insensitive to have several of your employees simply stare at us while uttering a rehearsed phrase. It's disappointing that none of your employees showed any signs of concern or compassion toward my injured two-year-old.
My husband and I, along with our three kids, ventured over to Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree. It was now past my children's bedtime. Fortunately, we did not have to wait too long before being taken back for X-rays on Violet's foot.
It was late, she was traumatized, and she was terrified. She screamed through the entire x-ray process; she was understandably very upset. The goose-egg started to show bruising, but much to our relief, and probably thanks to the cowgirl boots, Violet's X-ray appeared normal.
|Violet's first trip to the ER, waiting to see the doctor after X-rays|
My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief. In the car, my husband turned to me and apologized for the way things had gone that night. I told him, "Don't apologize! I'm just so thankful it wasn't worse!" Imagine what could have happened...
I have heard of children dying after being crushed my furniture. If my Violet had not seen the cabinet falling and had not started to back away, it would have most certainly come down--all 85 lbs. of it--on her head. Her two-year-old head. It is likely that would have caused severe injuries, possibly even death, and I shudder to think of that. I believe angels were by her side that evening.
Violet was carried inside our home, well after 11 p.m. that night, given some children's pain killers, and carried to bed.
|Violet the night of January 15, 2014, showing off her "bracelet" from the hospital|
As of today, over three weeks later, Violet shows no signs of serious injury. We are so thankful, so relieved, so happy that God protected her that night. Many families are not so lucky. I met a nurse at a party once who was having a particularly bad day, and when she explained why, it broke my heart in pieces: she had lost a three-year-old patient. A bookcase had fallen on him.
So, IKEA, you may breathe a sigh of relief...we won't be seeking crazy amounts of money to cover medical bills for more serious injuries, nor will we be suing you for my daughter's pain and suffering.
I am, however, feeling the need to write this post up, because it's my final attempt to get ahold of you! I'm hurt, and I'm hurt for my daughter. Here's the thing...
If we had found hair in our IKEA family dinner that night, I would have expected the staff to say, "So sorry! Let us fix that."
If we had bought an expensive piece of furniture, only to have gotten it home and realized it was broken or missing parts, I would have expected your staff to say, "So sorry! Let us fix that."
If a 85-lb. piece of furniture had fallen over on my two-year-old, and your staff admitted their mistake by saying, "That was supposed to be attached to the wall..."
...I would have expected your staff to say, "SO SORRY ABOUT THAT."
Do you understand what I'm saying here? A simple acknowledgement and maybe a sign of compassion would have gone a LONG WAY. It would have soothed the anger I still feel when I remember how close my daughter came to being seriously injured, or worse. It would have comforted me to know that you really do take furniture falling on children seriously. What happened to Violet was preventable, it should have never happened. It should never happen again to any child.
Your staff shut down that night. Of the half-dozen or so employees who were present, no one apologized. In fact, no one said anything to us except a clipped, "Our insurance people will be in touch within 72 hours."
We asked for names; none of your employees would provide us with full names. The only one my husband got was, "Julie" and she refused to give her last name, so it was officially, "Julie the Security Guard".
My husband and I are not the sue-happy types of people your insurance company is apparently afraid of. My daughter, however, suffered an injured foot for days, all due to your negligence. A simple "I'm sorry" would have been really just good customer service.
You know what would have even been above and beyond customer service to me? Here's my daughter holding a mouse my kids are in love with at the moment; we bought two of them at your store for 99 cents each.
|My girls love their IKEA mice. Notice how we're staying close to our children and no furniture climbing is going on.|
That, seriously IKEA, would have been just above and beyond customer service to me. I would have told my friends about how nice you'd been about it. Humans are human! We all make mistakes, but at least they owned it and tried to make Violet feel a bit better. I really admire companies that take care of their customers like that.
Sadly, your store has done NOTHING to show even a shred of compassion toward my little girl. My little girl Violet, by the way--as well documented on this 6 1/2 year old blog--walked at 8 months of age! She's so spirited and sweet. It broke my heart to see her crawl around on the floor for five days refusing to walk. Despite being minor injuries, they were injuries at your hands nonetheless.
IKEA: you hurt my daughter. Please, an apology and acknowledgement that this happened would be nice. It would make me feel better, because I watched my daughter suffer and because she is the most precious thing in the world to me--and you very nearly seriously injured her. I was scared, so scared, in that moment...watching your Godmorgon coming down on my toddler.
But at this point, we can't even get your company to acknowledge that we exist. We have been effectively "swept under the rug" as they say.
Your "insurance people" called me the next day, I'm a busy mom of three and missed the call from a Ms. Lynn J. at Liberty Mutual. I called back and left a message, she returned my call once and missed again...since then I've called and left three voicemails and they have all gone unreturned.
I was told that as far as we're concerned now, Liberty Mutual IS IKEA. Yet, your "insurance people" won't even talk to me. It's been three weeks and one day since Lynn last tried to call me.
Post Edit 2/14/14: As proof, I took this screenshot today, February 14, to show exactly how many times Ms. J--who "is IKEA" as I was told--has called me. Once on January 16, again on January 20, then--as I said--not again for three weeks. (The number I return her calls on is different, per her request in her first voicemail.)
I also tried to get ahold of your Centennial location store manager, however, that was made extremely difficult. Actually, seemingly impossible. I tried to reach him on January 16th to make sure, once it occurred to me that I hadn't seen them remove the offending cabinet from the scene, that your manager was aware of the incident and to make sure that the cabinet would not be sold to another family with young children. I was worried the item was defective, possibly overly-wobbly. Your call line told me that I couldn't talk to him, that I would have to go into the store. In the store, I was told he was unavailable.
Is this what you call good customer service? Nearly seriously injuring my child, sending us to the emergency room, ignoring us completely, and not even just being able to say the simple words, "I'm sorry".
Because that's all I care about! Decent, human compassion toward a child you hurt through your negligence. A two-year-old should not have a 75-inch tall cabinet fall over on her. We have several IKEA cabinets and bookcases in our home, they are all secured to walls and have never fallen on my children.
Ironically, IKEA's attempt to protect itself from a lawsuit made things worse.
I just hope you realize: there are decent people in this world who can see when a situation could have been much worse, and are thankful for it. There are people in this world who won't sue you at the drop of a hat, and that includes us. There are times when--whether you risk being sued or not--the right thing to do is to simply say:
Violet, we're sorry that happened. We'll make sure it never happens to another child in our store ever again.
Finally, I write this letter to you in a last-ditch effort--as I've felt my family has been completely ignored by you at this point--to raise awareness about the dangers of children and furniture!
Children can be killed by falling furniture! Click here for statistics, they are terrifying. People need to be made aware of this, and unfortunately your Centennial employees are among those people. In that way, an apology would have further alleviated my concern that this could happen again. For an apology generally also means, "We won't let that happen again."
Your refusal to acknowledge or apologize to my daughter just hurts my feelings on her behalf. Okay, it also just hurts my feelings as a mother, because she is SO precious to me and you nearly injured her very seriously--or worse. But also, your refusal to apologize has me worried for all the other children who visit your stores daily. Your refusal to acknowledge what happened makes me worry that you're not taking it seriously.
So there you have it, this is my final effort to get your attention. We'll see if it works...
Heather, Violet's mommy
After writing this letter last night (February 12, 2014) I also took the time to attempt, once again, to reach IKEA via their Twitter account. Apparently this worked as the insurance person, Ms. J, finally called me again this morning. I was nursing my son to sleep at the time and called back two hours later, but she did not answer the phone so I left yet another voicemail. This was the first time in three weeks that she attempted to call me.
My Twitter posts really did seem to finally grab IKEA's attention though, as Julie from IKEA called me later in the day also. I expressed to her my hurt and feeling offended that we had been all but ignored during the past three weeks. She was unwilling to really discuss any details with me except to say that our claim had to be handled with Liberty Mutual. I told her that I was aware of that, but that also wanted to talk with their manager about their customer service performance on January 15. It took a couple minutes to get her to agree to have a customer service manager call me (not the actual Store Manager, just one of a few "customer service managers" would call me).
(Apparently, IKEA stores have a lot of different managers. At this point, I'm fairly certain it'd be easier to reach President Obama than it is to reach IKEA Centennial's actual Store Manager.)
A few minutes later, I got another call from IKEA. A customer service manager, Roseanna, was on the line and wanted to know how she could "assist me". I told her how we felt ignored by IKEA and hurt that their negligence sent my daughter to the ER. I told her that it felt like the least they could have done was show an ounce of compassion and assure us this would never happen again to any child. I wanted to get across how cold-hearted and ugly their treatment had felt, even since the first moments after the incident. My message at this point: IKEA could have handled this better.
Unfortunately, my call with Roseanna was devastating to me. Here's what I have to say at this point: I'm disgusted. In so many words, Roseanna called us liars and accused my two-year-old.
When I told her my concern that the cabinet was wobbly and a danger to customers, I was told, "The cabinet was inspected and it was not wobbly. Your daughter yanked on it, that's why it fell over. And it was attached to the wall, but she yanked on it so hard that it broke away."
I could not believe my ears. If IKEA wished to add insult to injury, well done.
Throughout our call I could hear a male voice in the background, feeding Roseanna lines to say to me. I wonder if this was the elusive Store Manager? Either way, I felt ganged up on. Here I'd hoped to finally just find a shred of compassion from IKEA, perhaps a half-assed apology, instead I found my toddler being accused and it felt so very ugly.
She told me that they reviewed video surveillance and that my two-year-old pulled (she was sure to use the term "yanked") an 85-lb., 75" tall Godmorgon over on herself and that it WAS attached to the wall (despite the bewildered employee at the time saying, "That was supposed to be attached to the wall!"), and that my husband and I were "in another department" when the incident occurred.
This is strange, of course, because we had no prior knowledge of Violet having superhuman strength which enables her to pull supposedly-chained-to-the-wall-furniture down on herself. My husband witnessed the entire horror scene, and I witnessed it from the moment the cabinet began to tip because Justin shouted my name immediately and I turned to watch, right before our eyes...and we did all this from another department?
Again, I repeat what Roseanna claimed: My 25-lb. two-year-old "yanked" a cabinet so hard that, despite it being chained (NOT!) to the wall, she was able to pull it down on herself while my husband and I were "in another department"...watching it happen.
Roseanna effectively insulted me. She may as well have told me that the sky is red and expected me to believe it. I asked her how one should open an IKEA cabinet without pulling on the handle so that it would not tip over on them. She had no answer for that.
In addition to having superhuman strength, Violet must also have climbing abilities like Spiderman. According to Roseanna, she was "climbing on it". So please, take a look at the Godmorgon and tell me how my two-year-old--in her slippery cowgirl boots, no less--might have possibly been climbing on it. Again, I asked Roseanna to tell me where my daughter could have possibly gotten a foothold on this item in order to climb it. She had no answer for that either.
In disbelief at the lines she was trying to sell me, I asked how any customer should open a cabinet if they can merely be "yanked" on and tip over? Roseanna replied in what I felt was a condescending tone that IKEA cabinets were meant to be opened, "by adults". Oh, please! IKEA invites, lures, children into their stores with "Kids Eat Free Tuesdays" and play areas and toys...I don't care what they accuse my toddler of, it's their job to make their store safe for the children they invite in.
Another thing, I'm glad my husband and I weren't standing right next to our children when the cabinet fell. Because I can't say for certain that an adult would have been able to catch an 85-lb. cabinet in movement, and we would have had our 6-month-old baby right there with us--the only one who couldn't have backed away by himself. That might have been worse. So call us bad parents all you want, IKEA and Roseanna, for being a mere 15 feet or so from our children in a store of 415,000 square feet. We call ourselves blessed.
All this to say, I really hate that IKEA is seemingly so scared of lawsuits (and we're not the suing type and you don't want your child to be so injured that a lawsuit is in order, we're thankful this isn't the case here) that instead of just saying, "we're sorry", and acknowledging that they need to do a better job, they have tried to completely sweep this under the rug and are telling lies which insult my intelligence. I don't want to sue them, Violet has since recovered. Trying to shut me down, however, only makes me cry louder.
I hope you're all hearing the most important point I'm trying to make here: That unsecured furniture and appliances are real dangers to children! We need more awareness of this! IKEA has so perfectly demonstrated just how much we need more awareness of this danger.
But I'm not sure how IKEA intends to take this situation and learn from it if they're still insisting that Violet, a toddler, was at fault for breaking chains and moving furniture. Which, of course, is simply preposterous.
Early on, I was advised that they would attempt to portray Justin and me as irresponsible parents who allowed this to happen. I was not prepared for just how insulting their lies would be. They say my daughter, a 25-lb. two-year-old, pulled a cabinet that was supposedly (NOT) chained to the wall over on herself--how does that even happen if it is chained to the wall? The "yank" of a two-year-old can break chains? IKEA and Roseanna expect me, or anyone, to believe this? I did not expect them to lie about the chain, but they did. They attempt to cover their tracks by saying first that the cabinet was chained to the wall when it clearly wasn't.
Furniture that is properly attached to walls WILL NOT COME DOWN. PERIOD.
Also, they implied that it is Violet's (and her parents') own fault she got injured in the first place, because she yanked on it. In so many words: we/she had it coming. If she wouldn't have pulled on the cabinet door handle then it wouldn't have happened, they said, despite being chained to the wall, they said.
That was the last straw. The most insulting part, a slap in my face: the implication that Violet, 2 years old, was being unruly enough to break a chain, to move furniture, and thus got what she deserved.
Oh...wow...the depths to which we sink in order to avoid any blame. Oh IKEA...oh Roseanna...for shame. I am shaking my head and pursing my lips and wondering how some people sleep at night, after having told a mother that her two-year-old was responsible for her own injury while it is in fact due to the obvious negligence of IKEA Centennial's employees.
I'm terrified to think what could have happened at IKEA that night, had Violet not backed away. I want assurance that no parent will ever watch a furniture item fall down on their child in an IKEA store ever again. In 2010 alone, about 23,600 people were sent to emergency rooms after being injured by furniture. Most of those people were under 10 years old. Between 2000 and 2010, about 300 people died after having furniture fall on them.
If we had lost Violet that night, I can't help but wonder if IKEA would have treated us any differently? I wonder if, as emergency responders loaded her body into an ambulance, their employees would have still just stood there? Would they have just stood there staring at us and muttering their rehearsed phrase, "Our insurance people will be in touch." Would it have taken weeks of unreturned phone calls and Tweets to finally get their attention? I'm offended now, that they behaved this way when she was just temporarily injured. But if their customer care is this abhorrent, I pale to think of how we would have been treated if she'd actually been seriously injured or killed due to their negligence. Oh my stars, I hope this never happens to another family while visiting an IKEA store.
If at any point during the last month someone from IKEA had reached out to us and said, even nonchalantly, "Sorry 'bout that." I would have said, "Thank you for that!" and dropped it. Completely. Instead, IKEA has refused to accept any blame and now they lower themselves to blaming a two-year-old, telling me she is strong enough to break chains and move furniture. Is this real life? Is this really happening? I didn't start out this angry. It took four weeks of being swept under the rug for my mother bear side to finally rear it's head and say, ENOUGH!
"We're just going around in circles," said Roseanna. Yes, I thought, because you're trying to convince me that my two-year-old has superhuman, chain-breaking strength and you know how ridiculous this sounds yet you say it anyway. We both know why you blame the child too, because you'll throw my family under the bus to save your image and avoid responsibility. To me, this is disgusting, abhorrent behavior, IKEA.
When I got off the phone with Roseanna I was so angry and insulted and hurt, I called my mom in tears. It is so frustrating and untrue and wrong. And I worry now for the other children who visit IKEA, since they refuse to acknowledge that this could be their fault. How dare they put other children and families at risk by avoiding taking responsibility for their mistake?
By the way, this was the first time ANY of my three children has ever required medical attention for an injury. Not to say accidents don't happen under the watch of "good parents" either. Accidents can happen to anyone! But my husband and I are not particularly easy-going when we're with our kids in public. We NEVER take our eyes off our kids in public. We were not in a different department. Justin saw the entire incident. I was with Violet, holding her, a mere second after the cabinet fell. I was there before the other customer even had a chance to lift it off of her.
Additionally, here are just two of the several IKEA items we have in our own home.
These shelving units both sit in my kitchen, and as you can see they are loaded with glass items that could really damage someone if the unit tipped over. Yet--despite my Violet having the strength, you say, to "yank" them over, and despite my husband and I being bad parents who don't watch our kids, as you implied--these shelving units have never fallen over or hurt my children. Probably because, "bad parents" that we are, we were responsible enough to attach them to the wall the moment we installed them.
This begs the question, IKEA: If we can get your furniture to not tip over on our toddler, can you?
My letter to IKEA as posted above was to be my last-ditch effort to get them to own this and recognize the problem in order to take measures to ensure it never happens again. Unfortunately, through their ridiculous lies, they've added insult to injury. I'm disgusted, and I'm not holding back my feelings any more.
I don't wish to make a mountain out of a molehill, but in my opinion, furniture-related injuries and deaths are no molehill. Abhorrent customer service, after being sent to the ER on their watch, is no molehill. Being ignored, and finally called liars, is no molehill to me. The emotions I felt as a piece of furniture that "was supposed to be attached to the wall" came down on my child before my eyes, is NOT a molehill!
To think all this could have been avoided with a simple human display of compassion, one to reassure me that this mistake was being taken seriously. One of those several employees had the ability to change ALL of this with a few words: I'm sorry. We'll fix that.
Some of you might be wondering, why post this? Why not try to contact corporate first? I considered that, but here's the thing: I can't even get a hold of your local store manager, a person who lives in my own city. He's untouchable. Why would I think I'd be taken seriously by people even higher up the ladder than him? Maybe it's time to re-think the way you're handling your customers, IKEA? I've felt pushed to reach out to you publicly. Because, so far, the only way I've gotten a response from you was after tweeting at you. That's sort of pathetic.
Finally, I would also like other families who might, heaven forbid, have a similar experience to ours, to be able to find us. I want this out there for people to find via Google, because for all I know another incident could happen at IKEA Centennial next week. Perhaps one where a child is devastatingly injured? I'd want my story to back up theirs, in the case that IKEA continues to allow such incidents to occur in their store.
Let this be a lesson to those reading this--especially large businesses who wish to also be respectable businesses--above all else, just be kind. That means, put people first, not your company image or decreasing the risk of lawsuits.
I suppose I should not have been so naive as to think there were still companies out there who would do the right thing in such a situation instead of the selfish thing: working only to cover their own butts so as not to get sued. In a way, because of this society, I get why IKEA is trying to cover their butt. I just wish it wasn't at the cost of customer service and my two-year-old's pain and suffering going completely ignored. I was naive; I feel disillusioned. I had once thought much better of IKEA.
If nothing else, take this with you: furniture and appliances falling on children is a serious problem.
Thanks for reading. Above all else, we praise God that Violet is safe and sound. My hope is that no more children will die because of dangerous furniture or appliances. I do wish IKEA and I could agree on that, instead of blaming toddlers for such situations.
Watching that cabinet tip over on Violet was among the worst moments of my life.
Learning she was going to be okay, after having a piece of furniture taller than her daddy fall on her, was one of the best moments.
I just hope it never happens again. Sadly, IKEA apparently doesn't think it's their problem.
Final Update - February 14, 2:26 p.m. - I just got off the phone with Ms. J at Liberty Mutual. She took a recorded statement from me and asked me to collect all the medical bills as they come in and present them to her when we have them. I also feel like I finally got a chance to vent to someone at IKEA about how this has been handled.
Interestingly, Ms. J told me that she could only handle the claim/medical side of this issue and that the customer service concerns had to go to IKEA. That's the exact opposite of what Roseanna said to me yesterday, that "as far as you're concerned, Liberty Mutual IS IKEA. All complaints now go to them." So, in that way, I still feel like I'm being run around in circles. I still feel like IKEA doesn't give a darn how offended we are.
Still, I have to say I was really pleased at how Ms. J. handled the call. She was respectful, understanding, she let me get my feelings out, and she apologized for not getting a hold of me for three weeks. (Apparently she had been on vacation during that time.)
I had been fearful that Liberty Mutual would approach me the same way Roseanna did, and was unsure I'd be able to hold my emotions in check if they did, but that was not the case. I still think it's no coincidence that, after being ignored for three weeks, my phone finally started ringing at the same time I started tweeting.
As for IKEA...still waiting for that apology...