Real Gonzo Journalism: Ikea Edition

 

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.

ikea mapSuffice 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.

There are 55 comments.

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  1. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Och, Amy!  Watch some Downton Abbey to decompress…<grin>

    • #1
  2. user_536317 Inactive
    user_536317
    @JimW

    Hate the store. Love the song. Coulton is a national treasure.

    • #2
  3. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    You haven’t lived until your child has barfed chocolate cake all over you in the middle of the bedding section at IKEA.

    ME: (dripping with chocolate barf): Are you done?

    MAEDEL: No (barfs again on shoes).

    Thankfully IKEA Round Rock is ONLY ten minutes from our house.

    • #3
  4. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    The “as-is” section at IKEA is often glorious. Damaged, incomplete, and floor models, all at ridiculously reduced prices.

    Since your Kansas City location is brand new, the “as-is” section probably doesn’t have much going for it yet. Patience.

    Also, I like IKEA’s cheap picture frames, and the kitchen supplies. I got a cheap stovetop espresso pot there that was made of steel rather than aluminum. I use it almost daily.

    • #4
  5. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Amy Schley: 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.

    I strongly approve of this approach, far too rarely followed in practice.

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Misthiocracy: The “as-is” section at IKEA is often glorious. Damaged, incomplete, and floor models, all at ridiculously reduced prices.

    I got a floor lamp for like 80% off.  The wood for the upright was warped, so I cut it down, spliced some wire, made an external thread on the new bottom, and put up my new table lamp.

    • #6
  7. user_1029039 Member
    user_1029039
    @JasonRudert

    We got one a few years ago, and it was a Very Big Deal when it opened. And their products are very much more to my tastes than they are to yours, Amy. Having seen some of your furniture projects, I can see why you couldn’t find anything there that you liked. But I grew up in a house with that sort of furniture, and I’m done with it.
    Nonetheless, I’ve never set foot in IKEA. When I say we have one here, it’s still almost an hour to get there, and I just haven’t bothered to make the trip yet.

    • #7
  8. user_352043 Moderator
    user_352043
    @AmySchley

    Jim W:Hate the store. Love the song. Coulton is a national treasure.

    Yes, though he’s a Canadian national treasure. :D

    • #8
  9. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Amy, you might enjoy this:

    • #9
  10. Salamandyr Inactive
    Salamandyr
    @Salamandyr

    Amy, I had to steal part of that for my IQOTD (Internet Quote of the Day).

    A few years back, my wife insisted on a trip to IKEA when were in the Chicago area for ACEN (Anime Central).  It was, if anything, worse than the convention, and at the convention, I have to set up, tear down, and keep people from cutting themselves or stabbing others with swords for fourteen hours a day.

    • #10
  11. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Also, http://www.ikeahackers.net is a really awesome website devoted to re-purposing Ikea furniture into new configurations.

    • #11
  12. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Jim W:Hate the store. Love the song. Coulton is a national treasure.

    I love IKEA. I love it because I actually like their folding space saving furniture. Not because my apartment was European sized, but because with space saving furniture even a normal sized American apartment can feel bigger and roomier. Also maybe because every time I have gone to IKEA it has been a fun filled day adventure with my friends.

    • #12
  13. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    I love IKEA.  First, they have this chocolate tort thing in the frozen food section.  Really good.

    And there’s so much useful stuff in there that won’t break the bank.  A lot to like about that.

    Finally, what kind of libertarian follows the arrows?  Skip ahead!  Cheat!  Heck, go ahead and steal stuff for crying out loud!

    • #13
  14. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Ikea is pretty much representative of what and why I hate pop culture. I don’t want popular or trendy furniture and housewares, and you can’t make me want to. I cannot stand the pressure exerted by social conventions and unexamined common knowledge. I’m reminded of this post I wrote a while back (http://ricochet.com/archives/it-is-known/ I can’t embed from work computer…) I’m also reminded of the time my weapons officer wanted to end our training early so he could go home and watch Friends. When I scoffed at such an idea he asked if I liked Friends. My reply, “Sir, people like that are why I work with nuclear weapons and would have no problem using them.”

    • #14
  15. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    See, now I hate furniture stores like this:

    furnitureGiant, fluffy furniture in all the loveliest hotel lobby styles.  Complete the set by purchasing fabulous hotel-style tables that you can crap up with hotel-style lamps and useless color coordinated pottery.

    Need a little something for the walls?  How about one of our beautiful dime-a-dozen reprints at high, high prices?

    Please see Pat Sajak at the front desk if you’d like to purchase a ceramic dalmatian.

    • #15
  16. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Percival:

    Misthiocracy: The “as-is” section at IKEA is often glorious. Damaged, incomplete, and floor models, all at ridiculously reduced prices.

    I got a floor lamp for like 80% off. The wood for the upright was warped, so I cut it down, spliced some wire, made an external thread on the new bottom, and put up my new table lamp.

    There’s a whole section on Instructables.com with different projects that use cheap IKEA projects and modify them into way better things.

    For example, if you need to quickly build a stage or riser for a political candidate to give a speech, quickly run to IKEA and buy a bunch of LACK end tables (only $9.99 each), some extra wood screws, and a throw rug.  Assemble the tables and then screw them to each other to make the stage, then put the rug on top to hide the seams.

    Lack Stage

    • #16
  17. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    The King Prawn: I don’t want popular or trendy furniture and housewares, and you can’t make me want to.

    I don’t see IKEA as “trendy”.  I see it as selling “modern staples”.  It’s like the furniture equivalent of rice or oatmeal.  Many of the designs sold at IKEA haven’t been modified or updated in decades.  That’s pretty much the opposite of “trendy”.

    • #17
  18. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Casey: Finally, what kind of libertarian follows the arrows? Skip ahead! Cheat! Heck, go ahead and steal stuff for crying out loud!

    Indeed!  Rather than being a soul-crushing chore, I see shopping at IKEA as a challenge!  Analyze the intent behind how the store is designed and subvert that intent by devising strategies for getting what you need and out the door in the shortest amount of time possible.

    I have been known to leave IKEA with nothing more than a pack of batteries and lightbulbs.

    The worst part is waiting in line at the check-out.  There is no way to hack that process.

    • #18
  19. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Salamandyr: A few years back, my wife insisted on a trip to IKEA when were in the Chicago area for ACEN (Anime Central). It was, if anything, worse than the convention…

    The IKEA experience is way different if you go alone.

    If you go alone, it can be a sublime experience of exploration and discovery.

    With a wife or girlfriend, it’s more often interminable torture.  They want to follow the arrows. They want to examine every room. They don’t want to skip ahead or double back to check something out a second time.

    They just don’t “get” IKEA, man.

    • #19
  20. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    “I don’t see IKEA as ‘trendy’.”

    It’s not that it’s actually trendy, it’s the attitude of people who buy it without ever considering if they actually like it or if it is functional for their purposes. They buy it because “it is known” that Ikea makes what you need. And, if you espouse a differnt opinion such as “meh, I don’t like it” they gasp just like leftists do when you express skepticism about man-made climate ________. (Yes, you have to fill in the blank. I’m not sure what the word of the day is for why we need communism.)

    • #20
  21. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Quick tip for IKEA non-conformists: Follow the arrows … backwards!  Start at the check-out and then work your way from the warehouse to the living room displays.  Totally different experience.

    (I also like to do grocery stores backwards.  Start at the frozen food and end at the fresh produce.)

    • #21
  22. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    The King Prawn: It’s not that it’s actually trendy, it’s the attitude of people who buy it without ever considering if they actually like it or if it is functional for their purposes. They buy it because “it is known” that Ikea makes what you need.

    I have never met people who do that. I have only met people who go there because it’s cheap, and then move on to actual “trendy” overpriced furniture when they start making more money.

    The only way I can think of IKEA being “trendy” is if the word is used in an ironic sense, like intentionally watching bad movies (which I also do).

    • #22
  23. user_352043 Moderator
    user_352043
    @AmySchley

    Misthiocracy: The only way I can think of IKEA being “trendy” is if the word is used in an ironic sense, like intentionally watching bad movies (which I also do).

    Well, to judge from the local Craigslist, mid-century modern design (of which IKEA is the cheap version) is very trendy right now.  After all, everyone wants their house to look like Bloomfield’s house, right?

    • #23
  24. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    “I have never met people who do that.”

    The people (mostly women) I know who are into the Ikea thing squee with delight at its mention. Being cheap (even if they don’t have to be) is part of their whole “the struggle is real” pantomime.

    I may have woken up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

    • #24
  25. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Amy Schley: After all, everyone wants their house to look like Bloomfield’s house, right?

    I don’t know who that is.

    • #25
  26. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    The King Prawn: The people (mostly women) I know who are into the Ikea thing squee with delight at its mention. Being cheap (even if they don’t have to be) is part of their whole “the struggle is real” pantomime.

    Oh, well, that probably explains it.  I don’t associate with women who “squee”.

    That, or they don’t associate with me …

    • #26
  27. user_352043 Moderator
    user_352043
    @AmySchley

    Misthiocracy:

    Amy Schley: After all, everyone wants their house to look like Bloomfield’s house, right?

    I don’t know who that is.

    Excuse me, Blofeld. My apologies to James Bond villain aficionados.

    TanakaOffice

    • #27
  28. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Amy Schley:

    Misthiocracy:

    Amy Schley: After all, everyone wants their house to look like Bloomfield’s house, right?

    I don’t know who that is.

    Excuse me, Blofeld. My apologies to James Bond villain aficionados.

    Meh, I’m not terribly impressed by Blofeld’s sense of design.  Not enough windows, for one thing.

    On the other hand, it depends on which Blofeld you’re talking about.  Telly Savalas’ mountaintop retreat in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was indeed pretty groovy.  The automatic sliding doors had wood paneling!

    • #28
  29. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    The King Prawn:

    The people (mostly women) I know who are into the Ikea thing squee with delight at its mention. Being cheap (even if they don’t have to be) is part of their whole “the struggle is real” pantomime.

    Wow, that’s weird.

    • #29
  30. user_352043 Moderator
    user_352043
    @AmySchley

    Misthiocracy: Meh, I’m not terribly impressed by Blofeld’s sense of design.  Not enough windows, for one thing.

    True, but that was his volcano base. And IKEA has some lamps that look like that tower, and the same background chairs and table lamps, and while IKEA doesn’t have tiger-skin rugs, they do have cow-hide ones.

    Give me Chippendale or Arts-and-Crafts decor any day of the week over that stark plasticy barreness.

    • #30

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