Six minutes at Ikea – a shopping speedrun

The other night I came to a dual realisation – my wife was in need of a comfortable chair for breastfeeding, and speciality nursery furniture is ridiculously expensive. The solution to both problems was a trip to Ikea – better known as a store that will leave you dazed, confused and wondering where your Saturday afternoon went – but I went in with a plan, and emerged just six minutes later with my sanity intact!

Rows of furniture boxes in the Ikea warehouse

Don’t believe that getting in and out of Ikea in six minutes is possible – here was my timeline:

  • 7:47 pm: parked car in the loading bay at Ikea Richmond
  • 7:48 pm: make my way into the store via the cash registers
  • 7:49 pm: power walked against pedestrian traffic into the warehouse
  • 7:50 pm: loaded a POÄNG chair frame and cushion into my trolley
  • 7:52 pm: [scan], [scan], [wait], [ok], [swipe] at the self checkout
  • 7:53 pm: loaded the two boxes into the back seat of my car, and drove away

Easy, isn’t it?

Light fittings and bulbs in the Ikea market hall

So what are my tips?

Plan ahead

If you know what you want to buy, the Ikea website tells you exactly where in the warehouse to pick up the boxes from, and the current stock level. No dicking around in the showroom with those stupid little gold pencils to find out which aisle and bay to visit!

Ignore Ikea’s directions

Ikea wants you to walk through the store in the order that they want, sending you in circles before you eventually get to the items that you are actually there to buy.

Even the token ‘shortcuts’ don’t save much time – if you know what you are looking for, walking in the back door will probably save you time.

Visit during the quiet periods

This goes without saying – weekends are primetime for Ikea shopping. However, they also open late at night on weekdays – I went there on a Thursday night an hour before closing time, and the loading dock was almost empty, with only a handful of customers inside the store.

Avoid the car park

The Ikea Richmond store at Victoria Gardens has a horribly complicated car park – if you pick the wrong section you’ll spend 15 minute driving up ramps between your parking spot and the loading dock!

Yes, parking your car in the loading dock is against the spirit of a ‘loading dock’ – but when there are dozens of spare spaces and you are in and out in six minutes, you’re occupying a parking space for less time than the idiot who is there for 20 minutes trying to cram two couches into their hatchback.

Getting in and out of Ikea in six minutes is fast, but believe it or not, I could have been even faster!

Firstly, Ikea doesn’t make it easy to collect a trolley – you can only find them at the entrance to the warehouse, or abandoned on the loading dock. I wasted a precious minute (shock horror!) walking through the warehouse in order to collect one.

Next – self-service checkouts. When I jammed my credit card into the machine when I went to pay, I discovered that the EFTPOS readers aren’t bolted down, causing the thing to fall on the floor and display a ‘please contact a staff member’ message. I wasted another minute repeating the process at the checkout next door – by the time I had paid on the second register, someone had come over to assist at my original register. I won’t be making this mistake again!

More Ikea speedruns

Two hours spent driving across San Francisco and buying four sets of Ikea bookshelves was a speedrun for this LiveJournal poster.

The creator of this meme thinks getting in and out of Ikea in 20 minutes is a speedrun – pffff!

However my toughest competition is this German couple – their YouTube video shows them getting in and out in just five minutes, including a trip through the market hall to pick up a plant. Their only flaw – they edited out the bit where they wait in line at the cash register.

Melbourne’s paused port rail project

Increasing the market share of freight moved by rail to the Port of Melbourne – a worthy aim, but in September 2015 it was revealed that a project to achieve this had been shelved by the State Government, pending privatisation of the port. So what is really going on, and what have the government decided not to build?

Container ships berthed at Swanson Dock

The article that piqued my attention appeared in The Age on September 17:

Labor puts brakes on port rail project that would take 3500 trucks off road
September 17, 2015
Adam Carey

A project that would replace 3500 container trucks a day with just 28 freight trains, potentially halving port-based truck traffic and slashing pollution levels from heavy vehicles, has been shelved by the Andrews government until it leases Melbourne’s port.

The port-rail shuttle project has been suspended despite having $58 million of state and federal money committed to it last year, dismaying businesses eager to see the huge transfer of container freight from trucks to trains.

Commercial property developer Salta is poised to invest $3 million on a one-kilometre rail spur to link its Altona freight terminal to the port, plus $30 million on freight facilities on its site, but said it was pointless spending the money while the port-rail shuttle is on ice.

“Salta has an obligation to build that [rail spur] once certain things have happened, but there is no point until trains can be received at the port,” the company’s managing director Sam Tarascio said.

The port-rail shuttle involves reviving a disused rail line to the Port of Melbourne docks that runs parallel to Footscray Road, and building three short rail spurs to freight terminals in Altona, Somerton and Dandenong South. It would enable trains to shift goods between the port and freight hubs in the suburbs.

Currently, 100 per cent of Melbourne’s imports and exports are transported by truck.

The port-rail shuttle could transfer more than half of this – some 3500 truck movements a day – onto freight rail, an analysis by consulting firm GHD has found.

The analysis found those truck movements could be replaced by 56 daily train trips between the port and the three suburban freight hubs. The $58 million rail shuttle would shift 1.4 million containers a year to and from the port, GHD predicts, and reduce heavy vehicle emissions by 23,000 tonnes.

Unfortunately for me, the article raised more questions than answers.

Disused tracks

The mention of a disused rail line running parallel to Footscray Road confused me – the track has been there since the 1960s, and while it did fall into disuse, it was reconnected in 2002-03 and later upgrades as part of the construction of the Footscray Road overbridge.

G515, RL310 and AN8 depart Swanson Dock with the POTA shuttle

The siding heads all the way across to the Swanson Dock West, where a loading pad exists in the DP World container terminal.

Loading from AM2 placed into the P&O Swanson Dock West siding for unloading

In addition, a separate set of sidings lead to Appleton Dock and Swanson Dock East, serving the Patrick container terminal.

G527, X41, P22, P20 and A79 stabled at Appleton Dock, along with broad gauge trains

New rail sidings

Rail sidings at Altona, Somerton and Dandenong South are mentioned in the article – the first two already exist, and were even used by port shuttle trains a decade ago, until the services failed.

No metropolitan containers on rail

The article states that “100 per cent of Melbourne’s imports and exports are transported by truck” – a little hard to believe given that freight trains already service the Port of Melbourne, but it is true – at present these services only run to container terminals in country Victoria.

So what do they actually want to build?

Once you know the actual name of a project the details are easy to find, and in this case I had to find the Port-Rail Shuttle page on the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (what a name!) website.

I was then able to find Salta’s submission to the Port of Melbourne inquiry, as mentioned in the article, which details the proposed works:

The proposition outlined in this document, namely the creation of infrastructure including the Metropolitan Intermodal Rail Terminal (the ‘MIRT’) at the Port, and the establishment of a network of Metropolitan Inland Ports connected to the Port by rail is collectively referred to as the Metropolitan Intermodal System (the ‘MIS’)

They also attached a presentation detailing what form the Metropolitan Intermodal Rail Terminal will take:

Straddle carriers or inter terminal vehicles (ITVs) will transfer containers between the wharves and the MIRT ‘off road’.

  • Loading on/off trains using reach stackers until volume justifies gantries
  • Highly disciplined container transfer operation to match
  • Highly disciplined train departure/arrivals

And how the trains will operate:

Shuttle Train Reliability

  • Will operate in between other trains outside peak periods
  • Good acceleration & braking characteristics
  • Two locomotives (one each end) to clear a line section if a single loco fails

Shuttle Train Specification

  • The trains will be a fixed length not exceeding 600m
  • They will have a locomotive at each (push – pull)
  • Trains will have a nominal container capacity will be 84 TEU
  • Will be broad or standard gauge as required by choice of route on the Somerton & Altona corridors
  • The locomotives will need to be around 3000hp

And finally, detail of the proposed MIRT location – the ‘disused’ track mentioned in the original article:

The MIRT is defined by a rail terminal parallel to Footscray Road that has direct access to both Swanson Dock container terminals to minimise handling costs. Ultimately the MIRT needs to be capable of servicing four metropolitan port rail shuttles (600m long) at once.

However it required government input:

Government has the ability to inexpensively and quickly enable the MIS by committing to the following.

Government Actions:

  1. Proceeding with the mandated closure of Coode Road;
  2. Completing the rail connections into the Metropolitan Inland Ports;
  3. Make available the currently budgeted $58 million for construction of the Government defined ‘MIRT’ and the remaining rail connections at the Inland Ports.
  4. Ensure the New Port Leaseholder is delivered the land and given the necessary powers to establish the MIRT and appointment of an operating entity.

So all that needs to be done is expansion of an existing rail terminal at the Port of Melbourne so it can serve more trains, the closure of a public road so that containers can be moved between ships and trains without delay, and a few minor track changes in the suburbs so that the existing terminals can be served by trains.

Jobactive or Neighbourhood Watch – spot the difference?

A few months ago some new Federal Government propaganda started appearing on my television screen, featuring a new brand called ‘Jobactive’. But for me, déjà vu was my reaction to their new logo.

'Jobactive' logo

Note the resemblance to the Neighbourhood Watch logo?

'Neighbourhood Watch 'logo


The Department of Employment webpage on jobactive had this to say on the new brand:

jobactive is the Australian Government’s way to get more Australians into work. It connects job seekers with employers and is delivered by a network of jobactive providers in over 1700 locations across Australia. jobactive replaced Job Services Australia on 1 July 2015.

Given the Liberal Party’s current attitudes to the unemployed are similar to their attitudes towards actual criminals, perhaps the resemblance between the two logos was intentional?

Baby products and conspicuous consumption

Conspicuous consumption is spending money on items that indicate to others that you have shitloads of money to blow on ‘stuff’ – and the baby products catalog I flicked through the other week was the perfect example of this.

In Victoria child restraints are a legally mandated item for children up to 7 years of age, and have to conform to Australian and New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1754.

Baby car seat catalog

You can find conforming child restraints from around the $150 mark, with the top of the range seat in the above catalog costing $549.

Now compare this to strollers and prams. Again any product sold in Australia must conform to minimum standards – in this case Australian Standard AS/NZS 2088.

Baby strollers and pram catalog

But you look at the price tags, the variance is massive – the bottom end starts at $100 or so, and goes up very quickly, until you find strollers that cost $1500 and upwards!

So why the difference in cost? While expensive child restraints feature additional safety features that basic models leave out, they are a product that hides away in your car and you can’t show off. Contrast this with prams and strollers – from a technical perspective weight and ease of use are the only features that distinguish models, but they are an accessory that you can show off to all and sundry at your local cafe. A fool and their money are soon parted!


It’s a boy! Last week my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world.

Marcus and Baby Wong

As for our choices in baby goods, we forked out $549 for the top of the range car seat, but only spent $250 on a mid-range pram. In the words of Bart Simpson: Safety sells, especially to lame-o’s.

Prahran station and a pitiful political promise

Leading up to every election, politicians from all parties pull out their wallets and start flinging money around on promises to the electorate – new roads, railway lines, hospitals and schools are are common theme. However during the knife edge fight for the seat of Prahran at the 2014 State Election, the promise was a lot lower budget – an additional exit at the local railway station.

Alstom Comeng 597M departs Prahran station with an up Sandringham service

Labor candidate for Prahran Neil Pharaoh fired the first salvo in April 2014:

Labor candidate for Prahran petitions for second entrance at Prahran train station
Holly McKay
Stonnington Leader
April 16, 2014

A petition for a second pedestrian entrance at Prahran station has been set up by the Labor candidate for Prahran.

Neil Pharaoh is campaigning for a second gate at High St, which he believes will make catching the train “easier and safer”.

Mr Pharaoh said if he can get more than 300 signatures he will put the suggestion forward as an election commitment for Labor.

But that would still not guarantee Labor committing to it as an election promise.

According to 2011-12 patronage figures — the most recent available — Prahran records about 24,000 passenger entries each weekday, making it the 34th busiest station on the metro network.

Nearly 95 per cent of train passengers walk to the station.

Mr Pharaoh said an extra entrance to platform 1 would reduce crowding and make it quicker and safer for residents to catch the train to the city.

“I get to the station from High St and it’s really frustrating to have to travel all the way to the Greville St end to get my train,” Mr Pharaoh said.

“Plus at peak hour, the entrance gets jammed, so people regularly miss their trains.

“It’s frustrating and it’s so easily fixed by building a second entrance from High St. This simple change will make it much easier and more comfortable to catch the train from Prahran station.”

Prahran resident Steve Lopez said a gate at the High St end would make his trip to work much easier.

“There is nothing worse than having to get to the Greville St end to get on the platform — especially when this means sprinting all the way from High St so I don’t miss the train when I’m running late,” he said.

Prahran state Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown said the Coalition government had recently installed a second gate on Platform 2.

“As far as future improvements go I’m happy to consider other ideas,” he said.

The petition is available online at Neil Pharaoh’s campaign website or will be made available to commuters ad-hoc on weekdays.

It looks like the petition for a second entrance went somewhere at Labor HQ, because by the time September rolled around, it was now an election promise.

Prahran train station to receive a second entrance and two extra ticket readers in Labor is elected
Holly McKay
Stonnington Leader
September 13, 2014

Prahran train station will receive a second entrance and two extra ticket readers if Labor wins the November state election.

Opposition public transport spokeswoman Jill Hennessy and ALP candidate for Prahran Neil Pharaoh made the announcement this week.

Mr Pharaoh has been campaigning for a second pedestrian entrance at the station since April, saying he believes a second gate at High St will make catching the train “easier and safer”.

“As a regular user of Prahran station, I know first- hand the frustration of not having a second entrance,” Mr Pharaoh said.

“Commuters just want to get to their destination quickly and safely, whether that be work, school, or home.”

According to 2011-12 data – the most recent available – Prahran Station has about 24,000 passenger entries between Monday and Friday, making it the 34th-busiest on the metro network.

Labor did not confirm how much the project would cost or a timeline, instead saying in a statement that “station improvements will be funded by existing departmental resources and delivered as soon as possible if Labor is elected”.

Not to be outgunned, incumbent Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown must have tapped the shoulder of Denis Napthine, and so the Liberal Party matched the promise:

Liberal Party come out in support of Prahran station improvements
Holly McKay
Stonnington Leader
October 03, 2014

Election promises are coming in thick and fast for the seat of Prahran, with the local train station set to receive a $160,000 upgrade if the Liberals hold power.

Premier Denis Napthine and Prahran state Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown matched an earlier pledge by Labor candidate Neil Pharaoh and announced the funding to construct a second entrance at the Prahran Station if the Coalition Government is re-elected in November.

The Liberal project will also include enhanced lighting and extra CCTV surveillance.

Dr Napthine said the upgrade would cater for Prahran’s growing population, and was part of a bigger transport infrastructure program.

Mr Newton-Brown said the project would make travelling by public transport more convenient for the Prahran community.

“Commuters exiting the station and walking towards High St will have their journeys shortened by approximately 200 metres as a result of this upgrade,” Mr Newton-Brown said.

“It will also reduce passenger queues at the station, which is used by approximately 24,000 people per week.”

Prahran Labor candidate Neil Pharaoh had previously announced a commitment to install a second gate at Prahran Station, as well as two new ticketing machines.

However those promises came to nothing – local residents decided to give the two big parties the boot, and elected Greens candidate Sam Hibbins to represent them.

Siemens train arrives at Prahran station with an up Sandringham service

Mr Hibbins asked the new Minister for Public Transport about progress on the station entrance in March 2015, with a response being given a month later:

Question on Notice: Second entrance for Prahran station

Mr Hibbins to ask the Minister for Public Transport —

With reference to the Government’s election commitment of a second entrance and two extra Myki readers at Prahran Station:

  1. What are the details of the proposed works.
  2. When will the works be completed.
  3. What is the total budget for the works.


I am informed that, as at the date the question was raised:

(1) The Victorian Government remains committed to providing an additional entry/exit point with two additional myki readers toward the High Street end of Platform 1 (City bound platform) at Prahran station.

This initiative will improve connectivity and ease of access for commuters accessing High Street including access for tram Route 6 which operates between Melbourne University and Glen Iris. At the conclusion of the project both Platform 1 and 2 will have two entry/exit locations.

Public Transport Victoria (PTV) has completed scoping of the proposal including engagement with the City of Stonnington. Works are expected to be completed by end of the 2014–15 financial year, utilising existing internal PTV funds.

And just to prove that pitiful promises can be fulfilled, June 2015 saw the official opening of the second station entrance. Having lost the lower house seat of Prahran, Member for Southern Metropolitan, Philip Dalidakis, was instead given the honour of cutting the ribbon.

Promised and Delivered: Making Your Commute Easier in Prahran
June 24, 2015

Member for Southern Metropolitan, Philip Dalidakis, today opened a second entrance at Prahran Station, making it quicker and easier for locals to get to the train.

The new entrance and extra myki readers was a key election commitment of the Andrews Labor Government and will reduce congestion at the busy station, which is used by 25,000 passengers every week.

The new entrance is particularly helpful for those wanting to get to and from High St, addressing a long-standing problem for commuters.

Previously, passengers getting off the train at the end of Platform 1 who wanted to get to High St had to walk the length of the platform to get out of the Station, before doubling-back and walking the same distance again along the footpath.

By allowing passengers to enter and exit the station half-way along Platform 1, the new entrance shortens the walk by approximately 200 meters for commuters.

Mr Dalidakis also thanked the City of Stonnington, which worked closely with the Labor Government on this project.

A new shelter has also recently been installed on Platform 1, which compliments the new entrance.

it just goes to show how politicised the provision of public transport in Melbourne has become – even adding an extra gate to a railway station involves three political parties and an election campaign!

Additional station access opened at the down end of Prahran platform 1


Did you notice how the cost of the works was estimated at $160,000 – when the works involved the removal of a single piece of fence, followed by the installation of two ticket validators and some asphalt.