Thursday, May 17, 2012

The paradox of IKEA shopping: Disorientation produces contentment

I was just reading this interesting article  on Inside Story, reviewing a book about the rise and rise of the IKEA phenomenon.

It's a long read, so if you don't have time to read it all, you can just read my summary below. Or skip to the bit where he writes about the IKEA cat ad (see above video), and how the cats behave in much the same way as people do when they go on an IKEA adventure. That was pretty interesting reading.

I'm no lover of the IKEA experience myself. It's way too easy to get sucked into buying lots of stuff that you don't need simply because you are forced to walk past it. What the guy says in his article is true though. The whole place is incredibly disorienting when you arrive there, but about half an hour into it, you start to work out what's what, and then wham, you "feel licensed to impulse purchase," often ending up purchasing far more than what you went there for. The idea of this disorientation producing contentment seems paradoxical, but it works.

There's some other interesting commentary in this article as well, particularly on the way IKEA encourages us to subscribe to the 21st century principle of minimalist design that tells us less is more, while simultaneously managing to convince us that more is less. If we're there to buy a sofa, for example, then the cleverly organised display it's been placed in is highly likely to convince us to buy not only the sofa but the lamp, the coffee table, and a few drinking glasses as well.

I think the main issue I have with IKEA is that it encourages home idolatry and materialism. If I could get through the shop without wanting to buy all the little extras, I think I could visit there more often. Usually, if I want to buy something from IKEA, I'll send Chris because he doesn't get sucked into the funky little displays the way I do. He dislikes it so much, he gets in and out far more quickly too.


Meredith said...

Interesting. I was at Ikea just this Tuesday. I go there about three or four times a year to stock up on meatballs! (I can get three or four Sunday School dinners for 15 to 20 children out of one packet!! It's a bargain.)

I actually had a meeting there with someone I'm on a committee with - we live about an hour away from each other and Ikea happens to be in the middle. So as we sat down with our $1.95 tea/coffee and bits of chocolate slice (that was quite yummy) I was asked,
"So have bought everything you came here to get?"
Said I, "Yes, I walked past all the things I thought I wanted to buy so desperately...and by the time I had got beyond them, found I didn't actually want any of them at all...and got my bags of meatballs."

It's really interesting. If you have more money in your wallet or space on your credit card than I did on Tuesday, it is crazy the way a new set of glasses, some funny shaped ice cube trays, a salad spinner, some napkins and some tea lights can look.

That said, if you get there on the right day they do sell really great rolls of good wrapping paper at a very good price. But there were none of those this week. So I just got my bulk supply of meatballs.

Karen said...

I have heard good things about the meatballs too. A manager in one of my previous workplaces was quite keen on them and would often make a special trip to buy them (it's about an hour away from where we live). But I have never tried them. Maybe next time we go...

Sarah said...

I think the main issue I have with IKEA is that it encourages home idolatry and materialism.

I agree with that one. It's a good thing to be aware of in our culture.

I avoid the place if I can mostly because of the busyness. It's ok if you have plenty of time, but horrible if you just want one thing quickly. Also, I have trouble putting things together and would sometimes just rather buy something already assembled.

I do love the cheap food though. :)