Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ikea and the feeling of accomplishment

Ikea is an awesome store. The real genius of the place is that they make everybody feel like they’re a cross between a master craftsman and Macgyver. For someone not skilled in manual arts, it’s a great feeling to know that I started with a few bits of plywood and ended up with a bookshelf. It lets me indulge in the ludicrous fantasy that I could go down to the hardware store, pick up a few two by fours, and whip up a dining room table in a few hours.

The reality, of course, is that I could barely convert the two by fours into kindling in a few hours, let alone a table. But that’s where Ikea is brilliant – it’s like the clever parent that does all the hard bit in the cooking, and then lets the child stir it for a few minutes at the end and feel like they did all the cooking.

Of course, this feeling lasts until the point that you realize that the instructions in fact didn’t contain any words. And that pretty much places a hard constraint on how difficult the thing can actually be.

The second genius, of course, is that they sell stuff at absolutely rock bottom prices. I went there and bought a cooking pot for $3.50. Just think about that – you can barely buy a happy meal for $3.50. Somehow, they’re able to dig iron ore out of the ground, convert it into steel, heat it into a put shape, add a handle,  ship it across the seas, and sell it to me at $3.50. While making a profit.

I can conceive, barely, of how it might be possible to make a kid’s hamburger, soft drink and fries for $3.50. I cannot even begin to fathom how to make a saucepan for that much.

Their stuff is a bargain cheap imitation of an expensive product, but a good enough version that unsophisticated people can’t tell the difference. This appeals to me, because I find it a good description of myself.

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