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One Ikea, Two Ikea, Three Ikea, MORE!
By Gloria Diaz
Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!
Fort Wayne Reader
As much as I bitch about Walmart, Iím afraid I have an addiction to a retailer that is just as bad. Or, seems just as bad. That addiction is Ikea.
Yes, they seem forward-thinking, and theyíve dodged the low price/white trash connection that Walmart hasnít, but Iíve done a bit of reading lately, and Ikea isnít as wonderful as they appear to be. Maybe they donít lock their employees in the store and force them to work unpaid overtime, but the guy who started Ikea lives in Switzerland, apparently to avoid taxes. Years ago, he donated all of his shares to Stichting Ingka, creating a charitable foundation. Three years ago, the foundation was worth $36 billion. This last bit of information is from Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. Itís a great book examining how so much has become cheap, even when it originally wasnít. Like shrimp, for example.
Anyway, I went to the Ikea in Canton, Michigan, recently. Iíve been to Ikea before, but itís rare that I walk into a store and within minutes, Iím nervous, slightly sweaty, and panicky. Itís the tension of sex, only better, because I wonít get pregnant if I shop. And it takes at least two hours to get through the showroom. So itís longer than sex. And smells a lot better.
Part of the excitement is the low prices. I suppose if I made $50,000 a year, I might be able to afford Ethan Allen, but another lure of Ikea is the design. I have a small house, and Ikea seems to design everything so that it has more than one function. I found a bed that serves as a sofa, single bed and bed for two with storage at the bottom. Iíve always wanted a daybed (Iím regressing to my childhood years because Iím not good at being an adult) so I might just make that want come true, with an option to have a double bed.
But getting back to the low prices and cool design: I saw a nice vase for $1.99 that I picked up for a friend and co-worker. She couldnít believe the price when I handed her the vase. I picked up three vases for myself that can be used upside down, and right side up. I couldnít figure this one out until I was actually in the store and saw how the vase was designed. Clever, very clever. I planned to buy a headboard for my bed until I saw a bookcase that would work just as well, and offer additional storage space for the same price. Itís the low prices and realizing you could put together a really cool looking living space for cheap thatís so exciting. My house is a landfill; itís not quite at ďhoarderĒ status, but after seeing two very small apartments in the Ikea showroom (one was 391 square feet, the other 270 square feet) and seeing how adorable they looked, I realized my three bedroom house didnít have to look as bad as it does. A large part of it is getting rid of the crap. Iím doing that little by little right now. The other part is coming up with the money to redo it. Itís something to think about for the future.
And yes, I feel a bit guilty for thinking about Ikea and practically drooling over the catalog like Iím some guy looking at Victoriaís Secret collection of overpriced frivolity and nearly naked women. I guess Ikea is my version of porn; cool design at affordable prices. I do know the stuff is made by slave labor (or almost slave labor). I am well aware of people complaining about the wobbliness of the furniture. Iíve had an Ikea ďMolgerĒ storage tower in my bathroom for five years now, and itís still going strong. So is the ďNotĒ lamp I got for $9.99 (itís now down to $8.99). But whatís a poor girl to do? If you make less than $32,000 a year and have bills to pay, you have one of two choices: save your money and buy just a few items that are made in America, or try not to think about where stuff is made and buy cartloads of it at the local CrapMart. Itís ironic that people who seem to have an awareness about fair trade and sweatshops canít afford to buy American-made (providing you can find such items) or stuff constructed under good conditions that actually helps the people who are making it. Part of the thrill of the hunt is going into the stores and seeing whatís there. If the store doesnít have $40 bowls woven by women in Honduras that helps them become independent, then Iím not going to buy them. If the stores I frequented carried that sort of stuff, Iíd consider buying it, if only to make me feel better about balancing out the bundle I spent at Ikea.
Thatís the point weíve come to in America. We want everything for $5.99 plus tax. And Iíll have to remember that every time I go to some place like Ikea, that Iím just like everyone else. Iím looking for a bargain. And if itís cool looking and serves more than one function, Iím totally there. So my love of Ikea is no different than someone elseís love for Walmart. Except Ikea doesnít smell like poverty.