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On September 10, 2014, the Kansas City Metropolitan area was forever altered: we now have an Ikea.
Yes, Ikea, just some pine, and some oak, and some Norsemen, selling furniture for college kids and divorced men. I have returned, wallet intact, to tell my tale.
On the up side, the prices are as great as I’ve heard tell. I will be returning for the LED lightbulbs, the comforters and duvets, and children’s furniture and toys (should I ever manage to need some).
But oh, the downside…
Let’s start with the layout. There is a sociology dissertation in the differences between Kansas City’s local furniture superstores: Nebraska Furniture Mart and Ikea. NFM is similar to Ikea in that it’s intended to be a one-stop-shop for one’s home at extremely low prices. It is laid out in an open floorplan, allowing shoppers to quickly find the section they wish to shop in, peruse it without impeding the traffic flow of other customers, and even purchase the item (if it’s too large to fit in a shopping basket) in the department.
Suffice it to say, that is not the case at Ikea. It is perhaps the most statist shopping experience I have ever had. “You will follow the arrows! You will look at products in this order! You will buy all the items here!” Even the cafe is run that way. Want to impulse buy those cinnamon rolls you’ve been smelling? Well, prepare to wait ten minutes in line because everyone must go through the entire buffet to check out their food. It’s a store for people who enjoy the powerlessness of riding the attractions at Disneyworld (and the attendant waiting in line).
Dotted throughout the furniture section are sample apartments. These truly are amazing demonstrations of how tightly a person can live. But this is America, and flyover country at that! Married couples in Kansas City can afford more than 500 square foot apartments, even at minimum wage. Heck, the college students can afford more than 330 square foot apartments! This isn’t Europe with its lovely walkable cities and sky-high rents. People can afford to live in spaces big enough to not poke out someone’s eye when they stretch, so I’m left wondering how effective these sample apartments are in moving merchandise.
And then there’s the design aesthetic. The Sixties’ stark modernist design is still in full force, with scarcely an earth tone to be found. For someone who likes mahogany, satin, and Chippendale furniture, there was scarcely any furniture that I could imagine letting into my house. The household goods offered more options, but the only colors beyond white, black, and grays were various neons.
Being a good capitalist libertarian, I can accept that other people like these things. Still, when I return, I will continue to feel like a stranger in a stranger land.
Image Credit: Flickr user Jonas de los Reyes.