A person gets to make his last mistake only once. I almost made mine tonight. I went to IKEA. It was nearly fatal.
IKEA is the most confusing collection of cheap stuff under a single roof in any town. There were piles and piles of second-quality textiles and things made out of cardboard. There was lots of veneer. And they were unashamed; the bargain basement was on the first floor.
I saw the largest collection of wax paper lamps I have ever seen in my life. On second thought, I don’t recall ever seeing wax paper lamps before going to IKEA. And innumerable futons. (Or were those beds? I am not sure.) I have no idea what the marketing strategy is for this carnival. Instead of excelling at anything, it appears they are pursuing mediocrity in countless expressions.
There didn’t seem to be enough choices of any one thing—something was definitively unsatisfying about everything I saw, and therefore I never saw, for instance, a bed that I cared to spend five bucks on. And at the same time, there were way too many of everything—there were no less than 3,028 unsatisfying beds. They have heaps and piles and stockpiles, but at the same time they have nothing at all.
There is no way to describe the place. It is something along the lines of a road-side furniture vendor meets Home Depot meets Costco. All this chaos is strewn through a cavernous building about the size of a Texas high school football stadium. There aren’t very many employees, but most of them push pallet jacks.
IKEA is not a store; it is a marketing labyrinth. All you know for sure is that there is an entrance. Beyond this nothing is certain. The front door opens up into a one-way, narrow aisle that snakes through the place. There is an occasional arrow on the naked concrete floor pointing the way or a sign hung from the exposed rafters that announces the next collection of junk, but there are no exits, no ways out. Turn after turn after turn after turn. I thought it would never end. It was like a bad dream in a spook house. And each turn brought another display that looked like the one in the last room. The trip was so long that at the mid-way point the trail spilled into a meatball diner where weary travelers could stop and refresh themselves before continuing on their journey. I must admit that is about the weirdest thing I have ever seen. Seeing people on a date at a furniture store is odd.
There is a cultic dimension to IKEA. There is a devoted following—Ikeans, they call themselves. They will invite you over to their house or corner you in the church foyer. They tilt their heads slightly, raise their brows, and ask, “You been to IKEA, yet?” They do not ask in an inquisitive just-wondering-if-you’ve-checked-out-this-place-yet sort of way. Oh, no. It is scolding. It is condescending arrogance of infinite magnitude, the voice of one of the elect speaking to the uninitiated. The unspoken subtext is that everything you own is trash and should be replaced with white, veneered, particle board furniture and cardboard accents imported from Helsinki.
And if they can’t get you, they will go after your kids. My daughter keeps saying, “Victoria got such-and-such at IKEA,” or “Alexis’s mom got her this really cool piece of junk at IKEA. We ought to go there sometime. They have meatballs.” It’s subtle.
Being lost in the bowels of such a place is terrifying. At one point I wanted to break and run. I don’t know where I would have gone, because I don’t think I could have found the exit, but I wanted to run nonetheless. And scream. I wanted to run and scream. And set my hair on fire. Yes, that was the feeling I had. I wanted to set my hair on fire, scream bloody murder, and run as fast as I could. I wanted to run like a bottle rocket without a stem and bounce around and run over things and run into things and spew flames all over everything until something broke down.
Their strategy must be to wear you down so you will buy something—anything—before you leave. They even have a store after the check-out counters. So after you pay, you can go shopping again. We were some of the braver ones. We didn’t buy a thing. Just as I was preparing to set fire to my luscious locks, as we were walking through what looked like a Sam’s Club with towering shelves loaded with cardboard boxes, we saw the exit. We made a run for it! I was tempted to stop at the hotdog stand by the door, but I figured better hotdogs could be found elsewhere.
IKEA is what happens when America imports rather than exports.
© Rodney Shaw and rodneyshaw.wordpress.com 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rodney Shaw and rodneyshaw.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.