LATELY — 15 March 2005


I picked up a desk and some other bits and pieces at the new (and notorious) Edmonton Ikea the other day. Some notes:

I now have a kid-size duvet cover that I don’t need… I put my Powerbook in a kid-size pillow slip, you see but mine’s worn out, and they’re very difficult to find–they sell them in Ikea, but only in sets…

Ikea makes a big deal of making you pay £1 for parking. (There’s a big sign explaining the situation that I meant to take a photo of.) They say (a) that it’s to encourage people to use alternative modes of transport and (b) that the money goes to some council/alternative energy consortium that funds local public transport initiatives. (Including, I imagine, the shuttle bus that takes people between the tube station and Ikea.)

I don’t really buy this. It sounds like a scam to convince consumers that they’re dealing with an oh-so-environmentally friendly company; a program designed get customers to forget that a trip to Ikea generally ends in consumption on a wide-scale. (Of products of dubious provenence: “Our long-term goal is to source all wood in the IKEA range from verified well-managed forests, that is, forests that have been certified according to a forest management standard recognised by IKEA”.)

First of all, taking your car to Ikea is a good use of a car! A car is, uh, genuinely useful when you’re trying to take furniture home, flat-packed or not. Second, the Ikea car park is the biggest I’ve ever seen in the UK, and the Ikea has, of course, been put in Edmonton so that it can be surrounded (below and around) by parking spaces. (That is, Ikea intends and expects a large number of customers to drive–so why whine when they do?)

The Ikea restaurant has a whole lot of “lingonberry”! (Lingonberry sauce for your meatballs, lingonberry-topped desserts, lingonberry soft-drink.) All through my lingonberry-dipped Swedish meatballs and lingonberry soda I thought the delicious thought that the lingonberry was, in fact, Ikea’s creation: a corporate berry for these corporate times. Sadly, though, there is such a thing as a lingonberry.

My desk is held together entirely with screws and bolts. (Those hexagonal (?) Ikea bolts aren’t anywhere to be found, which I wish had been made clear on the package, because I didn’t have a Phillips screwdriver of my own…)

When I was in Greece, and seeing Greek billboards, I got to thinking about how it’s a bit sad that seemingly all multi-national companies have names made entirely from letters from the English alphabet. (The only exception I can think of is Nestlé, which is a bit feeble…) And even though they don’t always look like English words, they’re always pronounceable by English speakers. Ikea, though, seems to not mind giving products names that not only contain non-English letters, but that are also frequently unpronounceable. Go go monoculture, eh?