I like Ikea. I know that makes me a slave to commercialism and consumerism and possibly communism (if you go by the average American’s assessment of Sweden’s “socialism”), but I keep going back to the big yellow and blue box in Burlington.
I accept that I’m buying furniture that is mostly paper and wood fibre and poor quality glue. I know that I will get a blister on my thumb from trying to drive a 6-inch bolt with nothing more than an Allan key. There is no question that the instructions will be like trying to follow a Japanese No play while someone is jabbing you in one eye with a chopstick.
But it’s cheap and convenient and most of the stuff fits in the back of my Corolla due to the wonders of “flat-packing” (a term that makes me think of stick people roughly doing things to each other (snicker)).
Lately, however, I’m getting the feeling that Ikea is extending too far beyond its original mandate of cheap, affordable, flat-packed (giggle) furniture and accessories. I say this because I just installed an entire Ikea floor at my in-law’s house.
Yeah, a floor.
Ikea makes flooring now, and not just tastefully abstract throw rugs with names like “Kaarpit” and “Bürber.” No, this was a stack of 10 boxes of “Tündra,” some kind of plastic/wood/adamantium laminate (available in 7 different colours) that the people of Sweden think is easy enough to install that they can sell it without written instructions.
Like most Ikea products, there is a brief safety blurb written in 29 different languages, usually going along the lines of, “Please do not eat this product or use the plastic bag as a sheet set for your infant child.” After that, you had to puzzle your way through 63 cryptic line drawings. I now know how Young and Champollion felt when first tackling the Rosetta Stone, except that their stone tablet didn’t require the following tools (displayed visually): a hammer, a bone saw, a power drill, and something that looks like a universal joint from a ’96 Dodge Caravan.
I think that my favourite drawing is still the first one, where you were instructed (I think) to determine the dominate direction of the light entering the room, so that the laminate pieces could be oriented lengthwise to the rising or setting of the sun. Now, I’m no flooring expert, but that seems like the material is just a touch too environmentally sensitive. Do I have to coo at it in a reassuring tone to keep it from getting depressed while I lay it? Do I have to play up-tempo classic rock when I sweep?
And Ikea needs to make up its mind about what an exclamation mark (!) means. In one picture it appeared to be a warning about hammering too hard while using the “Behnt” metal assembly tool (the hammer with small squiggles got a checkmark while the hammer with large squiggles got the exclamation (!)), and then in the next picture it seemed to be an encouragement to take your bone saw to the delicate fibreboard tongue and groove system. I appreciate the subtlety of a continuum of values, from “Please Dö (!)” to “Dammit, Døn’t (!),” but not when I’m trying to understand how to snap together things on which people will have to walk, ideally without injury.
I’m sorry, Ikea. I just don’t think you should go beyond anything more difficult than a “Billy” bookcase. I see that you have appliances for sale now too, which makes me worry that when my in-laws buy a new fridge, I’m going to be stuck with a series of wordless cartoons cheerfully trying to tell me how to inject the R134a refrigerant into the reservoir using my “Hÿpo” tool kit.