Tuesday, July 06, 2004


I recently spent too long in IKEA. IKEA if you don't know it is a business that sells furniture. It's owner has recently overtaken Gates as the richest man in the world, and it is easy to see why.

It's brilliant stuff IKEA furniture, and we could wish our computers were as easy to use (Gates may have remained #1 if they were). It's not that every piece of furniture is a snap, but all the different kinds of things you can get there, the way the furniture fits together, and just the sheer engineering marvel that it is. I would love to see the process by which a piece is developed, and how that process evolved. That would make a good documentary.

The stores, however, are -- at least to me -- a nightmare. The floor layout is a bit like lines to a Disney ride: you can never see the destination so it feels like you are walking forever. So it's easy to spend hours wandering from one place to another trying to make a decision. And the first time you go, and having walked the first floor only to discover that there is a whole other second floor of accessories. Walking in there with low blood sugar is a recipe for disaster, and you can see little couple explosions happening left and right. I can't imagine going in there with kids. It would make for a great reality TV show: give newlywed couples with kids a certain amount of money and time to furnish their houses.

Interestingly enough, they sell food at a couple points in the store (swedish meatballs in the main one!). At the middle and at the end. I always wondered why not at the start, furthermore I wonder what percentage of their profits come from the concessions. Is the furniture just a great way to sell meatballs? :-)

The fascinating things about the stores though is that they show an amazing diversity of people descending upon them: Caucasions, Hispanics, Asian, Indians, Sikhs, Arabs, rich, poor, young, old. Like an airport, it's a great place for people watching if you are not in the middle of your own decisions.

It's great in many ways to see that, but at the same time, one has to wonder what happened to all the furniture that those people used to buy. And by extension, this is the question for globalization: what do we gain by our homogenization, and what are we losing.


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