Monday, February 5, 2007

Ikea, Chili's Restaurant, and the Wal-Marting of America, Part 1

Yes, this is supposed to be a recording Blog, I know. But if you let me rant away about the malaise of the American marketplace in general, trust me; I will get to pro audio. Believe you me, I will drive straight in to the heart of the so-called "pro audio" scene, which I call "amateur audio". Because this all tied together. Think of this as an on-ramp to my opinions about pro audio. Or better yet, an "on-RANT".

First, let me address Ikea. I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about, because we needed a dresser, and we were going to Jordan's Furniture, whose nearest location happens to be right next to the new Ikea mega-store. This fact in itself was curious. This Jordan's store has been there for 20 years, and Ikea opens up in 2006, literally right next door. A coincidence? Obviously not. Why does Starbucks always open up a new location within a block of an existing neighborhood coffee shop? To kill the old shop, that's why. It's probably in their mission statement. Wipe out the old mom and pop shops until there's nothing left but green signs selling $5 burnt, bitter excuses for a cups of coffee.

Wow, first paragraph and I already digress.

So we are approaching Ikea, and it looks like we are driving up to The Boeing Factory. Or some giant industrial building in Detroit. Or a prison. I am reminded of those future-shock movies where people have become hopeless automatons of The State. No windows. Even prisons have windows. So we drive around the huge parking area for what seems like hours trying to find parking. At one point we stop and ask one of the guys directing traffic if there's an expectant mother parking zone, as my wife's nine months at this point. Um....gosh, uh like, no, we don't uh, have... OK, well, what's the closest lot to the entrance? Oh, uh, over there... So we go "over there" where he said, and I dunno if he was mentally challenged or just stoned, but this was absolutely nowhere near the entrance. 500 yards away, at least. So we waddle in to the flow of hundreds, following signs to the huge entrance. At this point it feels like we are going in to a sporting event. Crowds like this are more typical of Fenway Park or The Boston Garden. Up escalator! Once inside, we discover quickly that this place is designed like a giant cattle-run. Or a really bad ride at Disneyland. You are in a maze laid out on a grid, with only one way and one direction of flow, passing by one cubicle of prefab "style" after the next. OK, I see. Well, I'm not a crammed city-dweller in
Tokyo or a college student wanting to outfit a one-room dorm. I'm also a full-size person with some weight to me. Even if I was 22 and starting out for the first time, I don't know that this cardboard world would appeal to me. The prices: $59.95, $79.99, $129.95, $29.95, $9.99. Cardboard, cookie-cutter, D.I.Y. crap! No quality. No sturdiness or reliability. Why on earth were people telling me this place was fab? "Have you been to Ikea yet?" "Dude, ya gotta go check out Ikea!" And for every hundred people, there is one haggard-looking Ikea customer-service person. One such guy is answering questions about a $30 foam fold-out couch/bed thingy. What's there to explain? It's thirty freakin' dollars, it's made out of foam, you lay on it, and in about four months it's in the dumpster. Seems like the buyer (good thing he was a smaller Asian man) is concerned about the quality. Again, $30. Same thing Wal-Mart has. Actually, I think I've seen this "bed" at Petco! You want sirloin for hamburger money, or what? Very quickly the wife and I realize we want to get out of this crowded, horrible place. That's when the real trouble began. We follow a sign that says, "Shortcut to Exit". We keep following...and following... making turns, going in to big one room after another, making our way from one "shortcut to exit" sign to the next. This is the same kind of "shortcut" a New York City cabbie takes when carrying a drunk, rich tourist from Texas. We are getting more and more agitated. We realize at one point we really are going in circles. Then down a level. Yet more store to walk through. It's starting to feel like a nightmare you can't wake up from. My wife is going to have the baby before we get out of this Goddam store! Horrible. You get the picture. It takes us WAY longer to get out of the store than we actually spent browsing the store. I'm sure this design is on-purpose. All it did for us was piss us off.

We will never go back there. But what haunts me is this is what America is coming to. Mass marketed, no-quality, cookie-cutter crap. No customer service. Nothing authentic. Nothing unique. What's worse is there in NO expectation of quality anymore. The bad thing isn't just Ikea itself, it's that people throw good money at Ikea. They shop there, in droves. They support it! Not only that, they have bought in to some clever marketing, and actually think it's COOL! And they are cool by association.

Sadly, I notice a lot of the older, higher-end furniture stores in the area are going out of business now. Is it because of Ikea? Yes. Yes it is. My Dad was in the furniture business, having two or three small specialty stores. Everything was custom. Nothing was cheap.

This is America now: Ikea, Target, Starbucks, McDonalds, Wal-Mart. In fact, I have an idea: What if we took the Ikea sign off the big blue building, and put a Wal-Mart sign up in its place? Because that's what it is. It's Wal-Mart furniture. Forget the whole Swedish design marketing bullshit. Maybe the meatballs are good. I don't know or care. But if it said "Wal-Mart" up there, how hip and trendy would it be then?

So the wife and I make our way to Jordan's, a store with high quality, fair prices and great customer service. (And yes, Jordan's has its gimmick side, but it's a very smart and entertaining one) We buy a $500 dresser for the baby's room; a very slightly blem'd floor-model, for $315. That's more than anything in the whole Ikea store. It's a solid, real wood dresser that will last for decades.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Chili's discontinues it's original, award winning "Texas Red" chili after 30 years. The last authentic Texan thing on the Dallas-based chain's menu is replaced by a dumbed-down, bean-filled imposter, and Drewcifer from "Big D" is beside himself with rage.


Zach said...

Sure, I agree with you on everything, but the Starbucks coffee. The reason I love Starbucks is because they have GOOD service! They understand what I mean when I say, "black coffee." Also I recently did have a bad experience and when I complained I was given an apology letter and free drink coupons.

As a side note, I want everyone who says Seattle’s Best is so much better than Starbuck’s to know this,'s_Best_Coffee.

Drewcifer Von Tone 666 said...

This is what I'm saying! There's no authentic "local flavor" anymore! Starsucks now owns Seattle's Best. And I LIKED Seattle's Best. At least 'bucks hasn't started burning the Seattle's Best beans yet, but it's only a mtter of time!

The question is, will Dunkin' Donuts (once a local Boston shop also recently acquired by a huge conglomerate) buy Starbucks, or will Starsucks buy Dunkins?

Global Coffee Deathmatch for ultimate supremacy! I'm rooting for Dunks, cause at least they wont burn the beans beyond all regognition!

Zach said...

The problems is you like a shit loads of cream and sugar in your coffee (would you like coffee with your cream and sugar?), which means Dunks doesn't constantly screw your order up. Some of us, however, enjoy the taste of black coffee.

You know, Samara had a good post about Starbucks superior service. Maybe we should get her to add to this conversation.

samara said...

See also here.

Jon said...


Congrats on the new blog. You've made a great start. Looks cool too.

I've noticed a tendency for urban professionals to worship at the altar of European design. Personally, I wouldn't want to live in a space filled with IKEA stuff. It would feel cold and antiseptic. Ditto for post-modern architecture. Where's the warmth?
And god forbid you have kids running around, messing up your uber-minimalist "space."

You're on to something here, and it ties in with American roots rock music, dontcha think?

Jonny Wells

jrad said...

First of all-- I love your tone and your zone!!!!
Right-tha-fuck on!! I actually found it because I was doing a search to find the right phrase for "chain store" as an explanation for what my avatar Superchimp fights in addition to giant robots, politicians, television drones and everything else that's bad-- so I just googled Ikea, starbucks and target and found your blog! Probably the first time using those names to look for something has resulted in anything good!

Second of all- @Zach-
I drink my coffee black- and that's why I can't drink that starbucks crap! They roast every stupid bean to a cinder- they have all these different exotic beans and you can't taste any difference between any of em! Now it's practically impossible to get a decent cup anywhere 'cause everyone's trying to imitate them! AAArrrgh! Ask any italian-

It's All About The Tone, Baby!