Why I hate IKEA

The Ikea multistory car park at Ikea, Birstall...I know this is an unusual opinion. I know lots of people love IKEA. And I know there is  a time and a place for IKEA in one’s life.

But the problem with IKEA is that it’s created a home furnishing phenomenon that’s leaking to mainstream retail outlets. The entire concept of “putting it together yourself” has become contagious. I don’t always like or want that concept, but apparently I don’t get a choice anymore.

I can remember when IKEA first came to the U.S., bringing its ultra-cool Scandinavian design sensibilities to college campuses and young professionals everywhere. No longer did co-eds have to survive with charitable hand-me-downs from mom & pop – now we could afford to go out and buy stuff ourselves! The materials may not have been the best quality, but we saved money by suffering through strangely-illustrated instruction manuals and somehow managing to assemble our furniture at home. Clumsy people like me suddenly felt like full-fledged carpenters with that little screw wrench in our hands.

It was fresh, young, modern. A revolution in the dull world of furniture retail.

IKEA hit the world by storm and is still growing by leaps and bounds. We even have an IKEA on our little island of Gran Canaria, and they’re so popular that they’re looking to expand.

The problem is when I go out and buy what I consider to be “adult” furniture from a real “adult” furniture store, and it’s handed over to me in a box with assembly instructions. When did this happen? I’m positive I remember my parents getting furniture actually delivered in one piece to their house, unloaded from a large truck in our driveway and without the requisite screw wrenches. When did the shift happen that furniture companies everywhere took the IKEA concept and started to apply it as an industry-wide standard, all the while still charging me “adult” prices?

I just came up against this new reality when I purchased a desk for my new office space. I bought it at El Corte Ingles, which is the largest and best-known department store on the island. Very “adult” material. I saw exactly what I wanted in their showroom, pointed to it and said (quite shrewdly, I thought), “Yo quiero esta, por favor.” Nowhere on the display model did it show a screw wrench. Nowhere on my receipt did it warn about “assembly required.” And yet, two days later, it was delivered to me in a giant box with IKEA-esque instructions (and screw wrench!) inside.

So that’s why I hate IKEA. I respect their business model and I respect that there’s a place for them in the world. I furnished my son’s entire nursery with IKEA goodies. I even love to wander around their aisles on a quiet afternoon, stocking up on colorful tea candles and frozen Swedish meatballs. But I hate that they’ve created something so popular that furniture stores everywhere now assume that’s what I want.

Trust me, if I want to hone my fledgling carpentry skills and save a few euros in the process, I’ll head to IKEA. But when I pay full “adult” prices for something, I expect you to deliver me the goods in one piece. “Assembly required” is not the status-quo, my fine furniture-dealing friends….