IKEA’s dark secret

Ikea

Count me among the group that doesn’t give a tinker’s damn that IKEA is returning to Dartmouth.

Dartmouth, which is part of Atlantic Canada’s largest metropolitan area, has gone absolutely agog since the giant retailer has announced they’re going to set up shop here again after a 25-year absence.

I wasn’t around in the early 60s when The Beatles first came to North America, but I’ve seen video and pictures. Some people are that excited and I guess that’s their prerogative, but the disappointing thing is how some media outlets are treating this like it’s news.

IKEA is the “least sustainable retailer on the planet” says Wig Zamore,  an urban development expert trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If you look past the thin veneer of their slick marketing campaign, you’ll realize that they are just like Wal-Mart, but without the image problem. That’s right, IKEA is Wal-Mart with a little Scandinavian élan.

The only time I ever shopped at IKEA was when I was a student back in the 80s. I bought a shelf there and I still have it, despite repeated suggestions from people I live with to throw it out. I have refused, a concept which completely undermines their business model that is designed around cheap, throw-away furniture.

My shelf still works. Its pine arms have not gotten tired and it still holds things up in my basement. If I ever need to replace it, I won’t be going back there for a new one after reading this excellent takedown in The Globe and Mail. It’s an excerpt from Ellen Ruppel Shell’s book, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture (Penguin, 2009).

Read it all the way through, and I hope that it makes you think before you decide to shop at IKEA. It’s a free country and I understand the difficulty of trying to make ends meet, but how we shop shapes the world we live in. When you spend your money, you’re voting on the type of economy you want. There is no such thing as cheap. There are always costs, it’s just that some of them are hidden from your view.

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2 comments on “IKEA’s dark secret

  1. Karen Doherty says:

    it is discouraging . We are bombarded with noise from companies wanting our $’s and some is more persuasive than others . I want affordable furniture and I was looking forward to IKEA setting up shop again . I had no idea at what cost . A lot of us can’t afford to shop at the high end stores that sell very expensive furniture but we can’t afford to shop this way either . Who does make reasonably priced furniture, pay decent wages and don’t rape the forests ? Is there anyone out there who is a responsible citizen of the planet and mankind ? If so , please tell me who they are so I can take my business there.

    • I know what it’s like trying to live on a limited budget, too. It can be tough to spend more, but in the end, it’s worth it on so many levels. I sometimes buy second hand stuff, but when I buy new, I go to Lake City Woodworkers in Dartmouth. I know that it is locally made of solid wood and supports a great organization.

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