Saturday, December 14, 2013

Letter to IKEA

Dear IKEA,
My wife and I have been customers of your store for many years. I turned 40 this year, so, like everyone else my age, I have kind of grown up with your brand. I have always liked the Swedish style, compared to the North American style of Lazy Boys and other garbage that can be found at the Brick in some Great White Weekend Tent Sale. And we both know, there is a market for your furniture and a market for that and never the twain shall meet, am I right?

I have always loved the set-up in your store, the maze of domestic dreams that would unfold before your very eyes, the little kitchen and bathroom set-ups, the fake art that was actually good, the comforts of home in your unique brand of understated simplicity.

We wanted to separate ourselves from the previous styles that our parents and grandparents had lived with. We would trade coffee makers for espresso machines and Bodem coffee presses. Hell, I bought my first coffee press at IKEA in 1996, not long after I left the nest.

My first furniture, a book shelf, a table and chairs and a CD rack, were all purchased at IKEA.
As the years passed and our income grew, we purchased higher end items, a leather sectional, beds, mattresses and modern shelving, to list but a few.

Now that we are just about to have our first child, we purchased many items from IKEA, to furnish the baby's room. Again, we both love the contemporary, minimalist style.

I felt the relationship between customer and provider could continue for a lifetime.

Then the strike or lockout or whatever you call it, happened in May 2013.
I usually try to avoid passing judgement on a labor dispute, I will not cross a picket, but I don't take sides or make a call until I have more information.

Well, I found some information. I am sure I need not pass it on to you because you are well aware of this information. It is readily available in many forms online.

It seems that the Richmond store has been behaving quite badly. And when I looked a little deeper, I discovered that they have been consulting with Labourwatch and other anti-worker, right wing attorneys, organisations and their ilk.

I have to say that I was shocked. I have always thought of IKEA as a more 'progressive' company, hailing from the left-of-centre, socialist Sweden. It just goes to show you that image does not reflect brand.
In our modern consumer world, much is green washed for the benefit of compassionate individuals, who want to make a difference in whatever way they can. Feel good is substituted for actual good, in order for corporations to retain customers.

Your company did $1.4 billion worth of sales in Canada last year. That's not too bad for a country this size. I know, you only have 20 stores and only 2 of those 20 are unionised, but I think Canadians have treated your company well. We have let you into our house, at least wipe the mud off your shoes.

I just wanted to let you know that you have lost a lifetime customer. I have spent untold thousands of dollars at your stores and I will have to find a new place to go.
I have to wonder, how many customers are you losing, that are just like me? And then I wonder if winning the battle against your employees will cost you the war with customers?
I doubt it. Most people don't care about someone else's labour fight. They just want to get some new pillow covers that are cool, for a reasonable price.
Ultimately, you can never know how many customers or potential customers you will lose due to your actions but I know one thing for sure. My shadow will never darken your doors again.

Merry Christmas.
Tony Durke.

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