January 28th, 2004 3:11 PM

v-2 is running the article “Ikeaphobia and its discontents” in which the author lashes out at people who lash out at Ikea and Starbucks. I take issue with what the article says, and I’ll try to explain some of that here. Unfortunately, I must admit that I fit pretty closely with the described “self-consciously leftie male between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two” the article signles out:

Unlike many nonsensical prejudices, it’s roughly possible to trace the root source of all this hostility, identify a locus classicus of Ikeaphobia: in this case, the vastly-overrated Fight Club. Ever since the film hit American screens, some years ago now, it’s been hip among would-be cynics of a certain cohort to reserve a stream of vituperation for the giant Swedish furnishings chain.

The thing is, I didn’t start hating Ikea when I saw Fight Club. I didn’t even like Fight Club when I first saw the movie. (It grew on me with time, but it only started to become a respectable thing when I read the book.) No, what brought about my hatred for Ikea was the introduction of their Unböring ad campaign. The specific commercial seems to have gone missing from their site, but it featured a sad looking lamp thrown out on a rainy street corner after being replaced by a new Ikea lamp, and a man saying to the camera, “Some of you feel sorry for this Lamp. That’s ‘cause you crazy! Besides, the new one is much better.” Following this, I read an interview with an Ikea executive (which I have somehow lost) in which the strategy of the Unböring campaign was blatently laid out: people should be throwing out thier perfectly functional products for new, fashionable Ikea products on a very regular basis. Too regular if you ask me.

That was it. I don’t shop at Ikea anymore, and I encourage people I know to stop shopping there. Making these decisions based solely on a movie is foolish (whether the issues raised by the movie hold water is a seperate issue), but I can live with being criticized for making this decision based on not wanting to encourage the alarming amount of waste this country produces.

I’m more sympathetic to the case the article makes regarding Starbucks, but given that I don’t drink straight coffee (I’m more of a tea person), I’m not swayed much by the “before Starbucks there wasn’t any good coffee in America” argument. I’m not,

old enough to remember the swill that Americans drank and were pleased to call “coffee” before Howard Schultz swept down out of his damp PNW redoubt and clusterbombed us with franchises

with any degree of clarity, so I can’t make much of a case here. However, at about the same time that this franchise clusterbombing was ramping up, I do remember Anastasia’s Asylum being a great place to go that had good drinks. (I can’t speak to the quality of their straight coffee, however.) Sadly, these days Anastasia’s has the same “attitude from the people behind the counter” that the article specifically criticizes most indie coffee shops for.

Finally, there’s this:

It feels like the same neurosis at work with young activists of the No Logo stripe: never ADM, General Dynamics, Monsanto, but Nike and Ikea and Starbucks. And never mind that each of these latter firms is, to a greater or lesser degree, founded on what used to be known as progressive principles, or is to a greater or lesser degree responsive to the demands of a politically and socially conscious audience.

I can’t speak for others, but I’m against just about all the companies on that list. Monsanto is some evil shit. But it’s easier on a day-to-day basis to see the concrete change in your life by saying, “I’m not going to wear Nike” or, “I’m not going to drink at Starbucks anymore.” Saying, “I’m not going to support General Dynamics” is a bit more nebulous. Further, I’m not convinced that Nike is all that “responsive to the demands” of its customers. Or, rather, there are people that aren’t Nike customers because Nike isn’t responsive to the concerns over issues such as sweatshop labor. Ikea might be responsive, but I’m not sure I’d consider their strategies “progressive.” What they’re doing doesn’t seem like progress to me.

Update: Anil may say that

ikea and starbucks and justin timberlake are things that only the spoiled have time to complain about

but I honestly believe that it’s good that somebody’s complaining about this sort of thing. Anyway, the Unböring campaign seem just about as spoiled as you could possible get to me.


You’ll be glad to know that I can summarize my feelings on this matter with a well-known (at least to us) phrase: Booby-trapped cookie bouquets.

Posted by: Benjamin on January 28th, 2004 7:04 PM

He’s missing the point entirely. neither fight club nor the people i respect blame ikea for enslaving and conforming the masses with hip design-oriented furniture. they are, instead, the accoutrements of the consumerist lifestyle that we are depressed by and balk at. ikea can no more be blamed for kakhi wearing lame-o’s than pop punk can be for the emergence of the fauxhawk. and insofar as the complaint that ikea is ruining art by making it marketable, that’s beef to be taken up w/ the art community who have thier heads up their asses if marketability is a problem.

the anti-anti-starbucks part was just plain wrong. they have a tendancy to set up shop accross the street from existing indie coffe houses and drive them out of business (much like cvs does w/ pharmacies, but cvs isnt mentioned in the article. cuz the author is a dipshit). and their coffe is only ‘drinkable’ because it’s overloaded with sugar and cream. outside of america coffee shops sell something called the Americano, so called because it’s overly sugared to the point that coffee is undetectable without the use of sophisticated chemical machinery. coffee is bitter and tastes like swill. if you dont like it, drink tea like the rest of the civilized world.

but what really drives me nuts is how he reduces the ‘lefties’ to whiney puppies who shit on the carpet cuz they cant go outside. that’s just not nice.

finally, all opinion pieces online need to have a comment section. otherwise he’s having a onesided conversation with no hope of compromise or agreement. coughrichardcough his arrogance is what really infuriates me.

but i agree w/ you greg on the nikey vs general dynamics. and to ben’s sentiment, i add this:

Ha ha! Cookies on dowels!

Posted by: shuli on January 30th, 2004 9:36 AM

Hmmm. Not quite sure what to think. I don’t believe I reduce lefties to “whiny puppies.” After all, I am one.

I’m sort of upset myself that the piece has been (and no doubt will continue to be) used to condone unethical behavior on the part of Starbucks or Nike. Nobody should ever give them a free pass - but neither are they, by a long, long shot - the worst things in the world.

Someone whose critique of the world begins and ends in a dismissal of popular options doesn’t have much of an analysis, if you ask me. Better they should have even a raw Marxist construction than some easy-to-demolish line based on solely on jealousy or resentment, right?

Posted by: Adam Greenfield on January 30th, 2004 12:14 PM

you have a point, but i think your essay/critique/rant goes to far by appearing to condemn all who dislike the injustice and waiste that popular culture disregards or (more often) supports. there are bandwagoners out there who do have little real conviction but it is their superficiality which should be attacked, not the whole trend of anti-capitalism. perhaps this is present in your piece, but your annoyance came across more clearly than an understanding of the difference between posers and those who believe in thier convictions.

but do people actually blame ikea for the stale uniformity depicted in fight club?

finally, i’m shocked and delighted to see you respond. i rescind my ‘dipshit’ comment.

Posted by: shuli on January 30th, 2004 3:00 PM
  1. Starbucks/Ikia/etc…are not the problem. The problem is the mating of socialistic impulses (of which Ikea and Starbucks both have, or at least had, i.e. high wages (starbucks) and low prices (Ikea)) with a capitalistic and self-interested market. Or, to put it more bluntly, when you give the people what they want and what they want is to be stylish and quick and cheap, even if the place accross the way goes out of business, you end up with chain stores that run rampant. Basically, this is the problem with Democracy. That these stores bring up people’s quality of life is incontrovertable (unless you want to argue that pleasure and contentment do not equall happiness and that happiness has more to do with virtue, in which case you have issues.) In this respect they are a lot like drugs. They make people happy, but at a cost that a lot of third parties (Ikea haters) don’t want to accept. The drugs aren’t to blame here. If anyone is to blame, it is those that take the drugs (if you really think drugs/conformity/capitalism is bad) or the those who aren’t very understanding of others (Ikea haters).

  2. Technically, the following arguement is rather of an ad-hominum nature, but hypochrasy really annoys me. The vast majority of people who hate Nike religiously wear Sketchers (or Adidas, or whatever). Most people who hate Starbucks have never had their coffee, never looked into their corporate policy, and have never worked there. They react against conformity and rampant capitalism just as strongly, and with no more basis, than those who lust after air jordans.

Posted by: Simon on February 2nd, 2004 12:36 PM

I completely agree with Shuli that opinion pieces online really ought to have comments enabled. Always. Adam, if you’re still reading this, why is it that the v-2 articles don’t allow comments? There’s a ton of good content that deserve comments!

Regarding Simon’s drug analogy, I’m not so sure I buy it as far as Ikea goes. Ikea might bring about overall happiness in people’s lives, but (perhaps like drugs), I’m worried that if people aren’t thinking enough about what they’re doing, the Unböring approach to consumerism will probably push a lot of people into debt which isn’t something that often causes happiness. If you’re actually thinking enough about this to come to the conclusion that you want to embrace this Unböring lifestyle, then by all means go for it. It just seems that the Ikea ads aren’t really targeted at people who put a significant amount of thought into their furniture buying life — it’s more of an “Ohh, shiny!” approach.

As for the Anti-Nike, Sketchers wearing bunch, I have no respect for them. I’m not trying to claim that all Ikea- (or Nike-) haters are free of hypocricy; Rather, I’m trying to defend a position which I find sensible.

Posted by: kasei on February 2nd, 2004 1:20 PM

Trust me. Drugs can put you in debt too. And they are often used by people who aren’t thinking a whole lot about long term happiness. Not that I don’t like drugs. Oh dear no.

Posted by: Simon on February 2nd, 2004 8:38 PM

That was my point. Drugs can be fine if you realize what they’re going to do to you (monetarily or otherwise). But if you’re not careful, overdoing it, while perhaps providing temporary hapiness, can have some rather large unwanted consequences.

Posted by: kasei on February 2nd, 2004 8:41 PM

But is that a reason to condem drugs? Or the people that take them?

Posted by: Simon on February 2nd, 2004 8:54 PM

No. It’s a reason to encourage people to think about what they’re doing, and then make decisions. The thinking is the important part for me. I might disagree with their final decision, but if they’ve actually spent time considering the situation then I can at least respect the decision.

Posted by: kasei on February 2nd, 2004 9:06 PM

Exactly. So we shouldn’t blame Starbucks. We should be concerned with the lack of thought exhibited by starbucks patrons.

Posted by: Simon on February 3rd, 2004 2:01 PM

yeah, but it’s less hassle to outlaw starbucks than it is to force pacified people to think.

besides, i think the main concern should be the grand divergence between wealthy and poor (countries or people, either is applicable) that such institutions only feed and do not cure.

and against you’re claime that since we werent directly taken advantage of by starbux we have no room to complain i respond: best buy is evil to its employees and customers and i think i can reason by analogy that starbux is as evil. best buy’s only saving grace is 10$ cd’s, but the record companies are making a marketing move in that direction any way.

Posted by: shuli on February 3rd, 2004 4:13 PM

So…I now work at starbucks and can’t entirely hate it anymore. I never thought that they were evil, but I did witness them push out one or two other indie, if you will, coffee shops. However…so did Higher Grounds (a slightly bigger, pseudoindie coffee shop) and some other one I can’t remember right now. I mean, it’s kind of annoyed when my friends come up to me and go “AHHH! How could you do this, Starbucks is EVIIIIL?!” But it’s ridiculous, because they never said anything about the other coffee shops getting bigger. Whatever, I’m rambling now.

By the way, Starbucks takes pretty good care of me. Benefits for only 20 hours of work per week…and they actually do humanitarian work-they practically sponsored me when I went to Nicaragua. What other employer would do that? Seriously. And um…Best Buy is evil. Especially because they’re almost like any other employer. They make their employees work for commission, which sucks, but isn’t evil-no one’s jumping on New York Life’s back, and they’re worse that Best Buy-not only are they fleecing innocent people of their money…they also give out freaking TONS of mail, which people just throw away, wasting, literally (but not all by themselves, a lot of people don’t recycle), millions of sheets of paper a year! I don’t hear anyone boycotting financial institutions. Why not?

Whatever. I’m done now.

Posted by: Ashley on October 15th, 2006 9:52 AM