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?