Why do we love IKEA?

After making a MALM dresser this afternoon, I got to thinking: Why do we love IKEA?

I remember my first trip to IKEA in Pittsburgh growing up. I was between senior year in high school and SLU. I bought a POANG chair for $80, thinking it’d be ideal for the dorm room. As we got to SLU, my Griesedieck abode wasn’t equipped for the chair and the box went back to Cleveland. I built the chair that summer and brought it to SLU in the fall. It’s been with me ever since. We still have it out in the living room here in Virginia, and it’s Betsy’s favorite chair.

When we got our condo in Huntington, Betsy and I went on a trip with the parents to IKEA and we furnished our place nearly 100% IKEA. Our living room is furnished by Value City Furniture. People compliment both sets of furniture (when they can see mine because my room is such a mess) and ask where we got it. They’re surprised to find out where.

I asked Betsy: “Why do Americans love IKEA?” She responded: “Because their stuff is cheap.” Betsy hit the nail on the head: IKEA offers low prices and massive selection. Once you go there the first time and get a tiny box that supposedly contains a dresser, you understand how they do it. Ingenious packing methods and do-it-yourself construction.

Many people have complained to me over the years that “IKEA’s stuff is cheap” meaning shoddy quality, not cheap prices, like Betsy meant. I disagree. I’ve never had a problem with anything I’ve bought from IKEA, lamps, desks, beds, dressers, chairs, woks, and home goods. Not one problem ever. I tend to think that people who hate IKEA are just masking the fact that they didn’t follow the directions properly or didn’t build the item correctly. I am sure there are issues where IKEA is at fault, but if you take it back, they’ll accept it and apologize profusely (that’s what I am told.)

Even CUPS, the sole private food seller at work, uses IKEA woks, which are now $4.99 (mine was still a deal at $7.99). My IKEA wok is great.

But there’s more to just low prices. Wal-Mart and Target sell make it yourself furniture, but their selection is small and they’re not known for being purveyors of such great furniture, which is the ethos of IKEA.

Mary and I went to IKEA recently to purchase this dresser, which I sorely needed. We got dinner at their cafeteria. Apparently, they sell breakfast there for $1. If I lived in Woodbridge, you can bet your bottom dollar that would be my breakfast place of choice. Our dinner was delicious, but I took this picture as we were eating.

IKEA’s very up front and says: we can offer you cheap food if you clean up after yourself so we won’t have to employ as many people to clean up after you. Translation: if IKEA didn’t do this, your food costs would be higher. This is a quandary for some people, though they may be unaware of it. People often lament at the decline of employment in manufacturing, just as they did for agriculture about a century ago. Falsely blaming outsourcing, people naively use the measure of employment, not output, to determine the health of an industry.

If it were up to them, technological advances would be banned so more people could be employed! Similarly, they might think IKEA is “competing unfairly” because they don’t employ bus boys like other restaurants. It kind of reminds me of the current UPS and FedEx debate.

In the end, though, I am sure we can all agree that we’d be willing to pay significantly higher prices for food at IKEA if we didn’t have to clean up after ourselves, right?

The same concept applies to their furniture. I am sure that national carpenter’s unions or other trade unions don’t like IKEA because having customers make their own furniture cuts significantly into potential union membership and possible dues. It’s been made clear lately why unions don’t like IKEA.

But what does IKEA offer? Price advantages, and convenience. You don’t need to hire movers (union or non-union) to take your stuff home. For the most part, you can do it yourself.

Which is why I came to conclude that many Americans love IKEA because it’s consistent with that “can do” spirit. Unfortunately, I’ve been led to conclude that people who dislike IKEA fall into one of a few categories:

  • Labor Union supporters
  • Ultra-Liberal Democrats who support unions
  • People who aren’t good with tools
  • People who only “Buy American”
  • Uber Rich people who are “above bourgeois¬†furniture.”
  • People who hate globalization and free trade (much of the wood is from Canada)

This is not to say that Democrats do not like IKEA. Only crazy people, snobs, and people with backwards economic thinking do not like IKEA.

What about you? What are your thoughts on IKEA? Come discuss on Bomble.net.

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