I’ve been debating whether or not to write this post for a while because I have a feeling it’s going to be a touchy subject. All over the interwebz there seems to be a love affair with all things IKEA. I understand the allure… it’s cheap, the store’s cool, and frankly, everybody’s doing it.
But despite the craze, I refuse to buy IKEA.
Now, in all fairness, I’m not an IKEA virgin. I have owned an IKEA bed (simple pine one) and I own a 10-foot linen flower banner/runner thing with flowers on it. But that’s it. I will never buy anything else at IKEA.
So why? Several reasons.
1. It’s poorly made. The bed we bought was rickety from the beginning and only got worse. When we were in Minneapolis this past summer for kicks we went to the IKEA near Mall of America. We wandered through looking at this and that. There is some nice looking furniture there. But it’s not nicely made. In fact, I sat down on one bed (I am not overweight) and it broke when I sat down on it. We pulled dresser drawers out of a dresser and the drawer runners jammed. On the floor model. Isn’t the floor model supposed to entice you? Everything felt very cheap and cheaply made. That’s not the kind of product I want to spend my money on. When I spend my hard earned money, I want the assurance I’ve spent my money well.
I’m very lucky to have a lot of hand-me-down furniture that’s in great shape. The vast majority of it comes from my maternal grandparents and was all made in the U.S. prior to 1960. I realize this is not the case for many people. Perhaps some people out there have had better luck with their IKEA furniture than I have. But what I can’t wrap my head around is: why purchase furniture that will break within a few years of buying it? Why not save up for a little while longer and buy furniture that is built to last? You can buy nice, high quality antique furniture for probably double or triple the cost IKEA furniture, and it will last you twice or thrice as long (and probably much longer than that, actually). I cringe when I read a blog post about someone using IKEA bookshelves to create built-ins. Why on earth would you spend all that time creating built-ins with particle board? It’s going to fall apart! (Remember that show Trading Spaces? Did you ever see the episode where they interviewed past participants and quite a few of them talked about how crappy the improvements were and how they actually had to rip them out? Particle board! Plywood! There’s your answer!) Particle board and laminate do not a quality dresser make. Is part of IKEA’s allure the instant gratification factor? That it’s, for most people, immediately affordable?
IKEA’s products are part of this culture’s planned obsolescence scheme, which I completely despise. The furniture is made to fall apart, so you’ll go back and spend more money to buy new, shoddily made furniture. As this op-ed states, it’s designed, not crafted. The company has a voracious appetite for wood (see also, number 3 on this list). How much gasoline is used for the average 50-mile roundtrips IKEA consumers make?
2. Shipping costs. I live 500 miles from an IKEA. When we bought that bed four years ago, the shipping cost more then the bed. Ridiculous. I am still asking myself why I thought that was a good idea at the time. (Again with the gasoline!)
3. IKEA uses old growth wood. And not the sustainable variety. IKEA has been logging old growth forests in Russia and China that need to be protected, not logged. And while the company says it’s changing its practices, and that it’s conforming to logging standards that protect forests, it needs to change its practices as the standards need to be reformed. What about using a sustainable resource like bamboo? Leave the ancient trees intact. Or even better, buy used, high-quality older furniture. No new trees necessary!
4. IKEA needs to grow a spine: If it’s OK to put an interview with a lesbian couple in the catalogue in one country, then put the interview in the Russian catalogue. It’s one thing for a company to refuse to take a stand on an issue or to support a group at all. It’s hypocritical to remove an interview to simply pander to one nation’s homophobic government. The treatment of the LGBT community in Russia is shameful. Treating anyone like a second-class citizen, no matter their color, religion, sexual orientation, dislike of pickles or whatever, is wrong. Treat others as you would be treated, plain and simple. There is absolutely no reason to treat another person badly because you happen to disagree with their religion/race/preference-for-polka-dots. Treat others as you would be treated.
When a company values sales over the treatment of human beings (IKEA is not alone in this!), what does that say about that store’s corporate management?
What do you think? Is IKEA the greatest thing ever? Or do you agree that’s high time for the IKEA craze to end?