Some Assembly Required

With 5 young nephews and a mother who’s the Gadget Queen, my brothers and I spent a good part of the holidays assembling stuff. (Okay, they did the assembling while I was in charge of de-coding instructions). You might think this made for some great sibling bonding, but you’d be wrong.  It was extraordinarily aggravating for all concerned.

Alison’s New Year’s Day project was to assemble an IKEA CD tower. That  didn’t sound like a lot of fun to me either and she seemed to have a few issues with it as well. I’m sure we’re not the only ones who had to assemble things before, during and after the holidays  – everything from toys to appliances to furniture and I just want to say — what the hell?”

When did we sign up to become bicycle manufacturers and furniture builders? And for the same price as you used to be able to get ready made stuff? Because I gotta tell ya, any piece of furniture that I assemble is going to be crap. It will wobble. It will lean. It will collapse. Any appliance I have to build will blow up. Guaranteed. Any toy I put together will crumble into it’s original tiny bits at first contact and be swallowed by the 3 and under crowd.

I hate IKEA most of all. Who do they think they are with their giant stores and their Scandanavian-named stuff? Oldiskiin – the curtain rod that you have to weld together.  Dorfvaad the leather ottoman whose hide you have to cure in your own tannery. Klaskeveld, the kitchen you have to build from a truckload of blvunder-wood with an Allen-key. No actual Scandanavian would be caught dead with this shit in their home.

I know the manufacturing industry’s in trouble and it’s not economically feasible to hire people to make stuff anymore, but this do-it-yourself lark, isn’t the answer.

Like those restaurants that advertise their “exciting” bread bar feature where you can toast your own bread! Who decided this would be fun? I’m paying $15 for spaghetti that I can make at home for 75 cents — the least they can do is cook ALL my food for me.

 A while ago, I bought a vacuum cleaner. It was beautifully displayed in the shop, but it wasn’t until I got the box home that I discovered the fine print, “assembly required”.

I took it straight back to the store and demanded my money back. “I came here to buy a vacuum!” I declared.” I do not need a hobby. I am NOT an electrical appliance maker person. I am not qualified to build vacuum cleaners.”

They tried to convince me that this is how vacuums were sold and that it wasn’t a big deal to put it together myself, but I told them I wasn’t interested and that I would use my O-Cedar broom until I found someone willing to sell me a fully functional vacuum.

They eventually agreed to build it for me. They had a lot of trouble trying to put it together. I had to come back the next day. HA!

Why are we putting up with this? Why would I want to buy some piece of junk bed from IKEA for $350 that I have to build myself when I could get a real bed for a bit more money, put together by a professional craftsperson/factory?

If we’re not careful this trend is going to take over the whole retail industry and instead of clothing they’ll be selling us nice flat boxes with bits of fabric, a stapler and some jolly illustrations to show you how to put together your own Vinter Koot.

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41 responses to “Some Assembly Required

  1. I bought a piece o’ crap table for the cottage and managed to put it together quite easily actually. And it doesn’t wobble, though it’ll probably fall apart after a year or two. But what the hell, it’s a cottage table. Cottage furniture is supposed to be falling apart.

  2. See this is why you are supposed to get married. Not that guys ara any better at building things but it gives both of you a handy outlet for the rage. That and its better not to start drinking alone early on a Sunday while doing a project.

  3. I hate throwing things away- in particular furniture. But with IKEA comes the unwritten rule that you have to be the sort of person who throws out their furniture every three years- because that’s all it lasts for. It’s temporary furniture. I know that to my cost.

  4. And besides? A lot of that put-it-together-yourself “furniture” isn’t even all wood. A good deal of it is particle board.

    One of handyman dudes on a home improvement show I watch is an old-school furniture craftsman…born from a long line of them. (It’s been his family’s business for decades.) When he talks about making furniture and the different parts of a beautiful, antique piece I swear to god it is one of the sexiest things EVER. He has given me a whole new appreciation for his craft and a whole new realization of how much of what we buy today is CRAP.

    Oooh. A stapled bra. Comfy!

  5. I could not agree more. If they build the stuff I buy I won’t write their blogs or make their jokes for them.

  6. This post is hilarious! Thankfully, we didn’t have to assemble anything this holiday season! (Well, except a Princess Castle Tent, but it was simple.)

    Around here, we lovingly refer to the “instructions” as “destructions.” My hubby refuses to even try to decipher them, which is fine with me, because I love a mental challenge…especially if someone else is willing to do all the manual labor. 🙂

  7. Jazz – I thought cottage furniture was supposed to be stuff from your regular house that has been replaced by new furniture? But good for you for being handy enough to put it together wobble-free

    Bandobras – It’s much easier (and saner) just to sit on the floor or save up to buy good furniture.

    MisssyM – I don’t get where the savings are for the consumer. I see lots of savings for IKEA, but why not spend money on a piece of furniture that will last 25 years or more (or forever like some antiques) instead of buying junk every 3 years? Live and learn.

    Lesley – I think everything IKEA has is made of fibre-board. And really, Lesley, is there anything you DON’T find sexy?

    Dr. Monkey – Also, if they sell me real furniture I promise not to expect them to feed me hot dogs and Alpo meatballs

    CP – Sometimes the instructions at least provide a bit of levity; especially when they’re written in some very foreign country and loosely translated into English.

  8. Vinter Koot. Hah!

    This argument is also true in grocery stores. For the same exorbitant price, we now have the luxury of scanning and bagging our own food! They could advertise it as the privilege of getting a cardio and strength-training workout built into the mundane task of buying ingredients.

    At the Westboro Superstore they don’t even have baggers. Not a single one. So you either scan your own stuff or wait in a very, very long line while the poor check-out clerk has to first scan and then bag everything for every customer. Or, if they’re lucky enough to have me in their line, I’m frustrated enough by the time I get to the front that I just start bagging my own stuff. *sigh*

    Rant over. Can you tell I’ve had a Monday? I need a damn hug, and maybe some coffee.

  9. Awesome rant, XUP!

    (Admittedly, I enjoy assembling things, and the satisfaction of having assembled them, but also stuff I build from bits of scrapwood, too–like the spice cabinet I made from a former futon frame.)

    – RG>

  10. I come from a long, proud line of un-handy males (and females, for that matter) and we’ve always managed to put things from IKEA together, and very few things in our house wobbles. IKEA is awesome. Long live Swedish ingenuity!

  11. The Maven. First, here’s your hug (oooxxxoooxxx — a few kisses thrown in for good measure). Next – YES! Damn grocery stores and their evil self-scanner and their evil self-scanner voice woman hectoring and ordering you about. First the don’t provide cashiers anymore, then you have to bring your own bags, next we’ll have to bring our own food.

    RealGrouchy – I think building stuff yourself is fabulous. I can’t do it and have no interest in doing it, but I admire people who can make stuff. It’s very creative. I don’t think “assembling” stuff counts as creative though. It’s more like doing a jigsaw puzzle — you need patience; you need to be clever enough to figure out the instructions and you need some good tools.

    Alison – It wasn’t intregal to the plot – no worries.

    Pontus – You are obviously and IKEA shill sent to make bloggers who speak out against IKEA look foolish and incompetent. You have never commented before; your ISP address is not familiar; and you’re posting anonymously without a link. This is exactly the sort of pathetic fibreboardesque ploy I would expect from IKEA

  12. the scandanavians must be a whole lot more patience than the average person to spend the time putting this junk together.

    perhaps they could spend more money on upgrading the quality of their pieces and less (well way less) on radio commercials. maybe even, ah, lets see, take them right off the air.

    they are stupid, unfunny and a waste of airtime.

    besides there are always left over bolts and wing nuts!

  13. I put together a stand for my mother’s tv and she was gushing about how much like my carpenter grandfather I am…and I’m saying that the holes are already there and everything’s labeled with easy to read instructions (a minor miracle) before I gave myself a mental slap and said “thank you”.

    I’m too cheap to buy already assembled and expensive. I’ll be sick of it by the time it falls apart anyway – usually. Which brings to mind “no tools needed” assembly. Don’t do it! The computer desk thus labeled never stopped swaying, even after I screwed a bunch of brackets on to it (I had given it to my daughter by then to be a junk magnet).

  14. This could fall over into the health industry and when you need surgery they give you a box of xacto knives, some old towels and a chart of the human body with a big red X saying remove this.

    It could happen.

  15. I get a perverse satisfaction out of putting things together. Of course, I wouldn’t have any of that stuff in MY house…but I am called upon to assist friends on occasion. I will happily build (and let them live with) their crap. 🙂

  16. Raino – Ya, the quality really sucks. The only person saving money on this stuff is IKEA. Real Scandanavian furniture is gorgeous – clean simple lines, light woods. They’ve taken the concept and cheapened it akin to the difference between a sirloin steak and a McDonald’s hamburger.

    Mama Zen – I think they do it deliberately to make you come back to the store. Once you’re there you will, of course, buy something else, right?

    UP – Really? How tacky. Did you check it out to see if it was fibreboard?

    Jobthingy – OMG. I couldn’t handle doing that. My hat’s off to you, woman. And thanks for the warning!

    Nat – Merci

    Becky – It’s all crap! But the bright spot in the story is that your mother loves you and is proud of you and impressed by you. So, I guess we have to give IKEA some credit

    Cedar – It really could. I’m telling you this is not a good trend onto whose bandwagon to jump. No sireee.

    DP – I’ve ruined your life? How? Why? OMG. I will now commence self-flaggelation. (See? A do-it-yourselfer all the way)

    Debra – That really IS perverse. Do people never come back atcha and blame you for their crappy furniture?

  17. I have to side with Pontus (we were both sent from the xkcd.com forums, where someone who reads this blog had noted you saying “swedes would not put up with IKEA crap which we both know is untrue as we are both Swedes, and loves us some IKEA).
    And I have to disagree that IKEA is all crap, it’s good for some things and bad for others. For example my current bookcases are both IKEA, and I have no problem whatsoever with them, they were cheap, and they look good.
    Of course the rest of my furniture now that I think of it is hand made by a family friend who used to have it as a kind of Hobby.
    So yeah, IKEA is pretty good, but not for everything (for example have a wardrobe from IKEA that isn’t what you would call perfect). Never had any major troubles assembling stuff though, don’t get what the deal is.

  18. Fjafjan – Ah-ha! Swedes. Welcome. My next question now would be if maybe IKEA in Sweden is different than IKEA in North America? Most exports lose a lot in transition. Canadian beer is great in Canada, but in other countries it pales by comparison. Is Swedish IKEA stuff all made of cheap fibreboard finished with a cheep veneer? Does it come in boxes with pieces missing? Thanks for stopping by with your comments and my apologies to Pontus for suspecting him of being an IKEA shill. I hope you both come back again and comment on some non-Swedish furniture posts.

  19. I adore IKEA. There isn’t one in my little town, so when I have gone (3 times total) it has been a festival! I buy like there is no tomorrow! I am energized by smart design and pledge to reorganize my life! I am happy!

    Until I get home. Then I shout “F you, effing IKEA. Come and get your sticking pile of fiberboard! What, am I supposed to spend a week making you Elligks and Urmlas and Fliggus?”

    IKEA is a lie. A beautiful, organized lie.

  20. Pingback: Mile73.com » Blog Archive » Normal, normal, normal.

  21. Deb – You had me worried there for a while. I was wary the first time I walked into an IKEA. It all looks amazing, true — but they serve hot dogs. What kind of place serves hot dogs? What does that say about their level of class and sophistication? Who exactly are they catering to?

  22. The only thing I know about IKEA, is from an episode of Friends, when one of them was boycotting it but ended up loving it. I live in sheltered Brown County, Indiana.

    BUT, my mother loves furniture that has to be assembled and husband gets to do it and then she gets really upset when it falls apart. We keep telling her that Fiberboard has self-destructive properties so that you have to buy a new one. She doesn’t believe us.

    Right now, she has this great computer station where you can close the doors and hide everything away. Only, one side sits on the floor now, never to be shut again.

    I thought only grocery stores served hot dogs in the parking lot.

  23. Pretty much any furniture that you have to assemble yourself is crap. Real furniture isn’t put together with a hex key. And it’s not even high quality fibreboard most of the time — it’s the really loose stuff that you can actually scrape out with your fingernail. Moms are really hard to convince of stuff, I find. My mother spends so much money on crap – every gadget known to man. Her latest thing is these “magic” bags that are supposed to keep produce fresh indefinitely. So she bought some asparagus 2 weeks before Christmas, popped it into the bag and decided we would have it for supper on Boxing Day. Boy was she disappointed when she opened the bag to slimy stench instead of crisp veggies. Sigh…

  24. XUP- “non-Swedish furniture posts”? There’s furniture that doesn’t come from Sweden? This must be stopped! Fjafjan, alert the bosses, we must convene the council!

    I obviously can’t compare with North American versions of IKEA, but I can tell you most larger bits of furniture in my parents’ home is IKEAn in nature, and all of it is still more or less intact. Pieces missing has never happened to me, I’ve always thought that was a myth. The one criticism you could have raised and I would have agreed with is complexity. Obviously, putting together a simple bookcase or attaching the legs of a bed is no problem (which I did yesterday, btw) but I fondly remember learning how to swear while watching my father try to assemble a desk complete with drawers, a corner sofa and a fold-out couch.

  25. Pontus – Do they sell ready-made furniture in Sweden? Because in the olden days in Canada we’d go to a nice store with big, solid furniture on display, pick out what we liked and some strong men with big trucks would deliver to our homes all nicely wrapped in blankets so it wouldn’t get scratched. You can still get that, I’ve heard, at some very special places. Also, I’m dying to know if they sell hot dogs and nasty-tasting meatballs in the IKEAs in Sweden?

  26. Hey! Those nasty-tasting meatballs are of the finest quality!

    Jesus, I dunno, what do I look like, a furniture… erm, buying person?

  27. Pontus – I have no idea WHAT you look like. I’m just assuming that if you’re Swedish you’d know everything there is to know about Swedish stuff. So the answer to the hot dog/meatballs question is yes?

  28. Bork bork bork! Ersky-berr, err de durr, de meatballs. Herdy herr, and cook the meatballs!

    …yes, we have hotdogs and meatballs at IKEA.

  29. Yay for Ikea! I actually like Ikea. Affordable, let’s me change my furniture around more often. Of course, it also forces me to actually change my furniture around quite often.

    Proof is a new Ikea bed that is currently residing in 4 packages behind me. It finally arrived yesterday after the initial Ikea bed died on Christmas after only 4 months. At least they did a swap for another model, because a straight swap would have been useless – why would I want another crap bed? Apparently, one of the wooden thingies wasn’t long enough, which is why they carved many tiny spikes into it and elongated it with another piece of wood. Which is of course exactly where it broke. And no, I wasn’t doing the nasty.

    I am still staring at the new bed. Sleeping on my Ikea sofa is bad for my back. But knowing that assembling the new bed will take me 2-3 hours is really killing me as well.

    As for names. Mandal broke and went, Malm is waiting to be assembled. Tylösand is the sofa currently killing my back. And still, despite all of this… I still like Ikea. 🙂

  30. Gila – I’m reading your comment and I really don’t feel the love. I think you’re suppressing. You have one crappy bed, one uncomfortable sofa and one collection of fibreboard waiting for you to spend hours putting together with no guarantee that it, too will not be just another crappy bed. And you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in ages. What’s to like? You spend 1/3 of your life in bed. You need a good bed. Take that pile of junk back to IKEA and splurge on a fine mattress and a gorgeous bed. You’ll wonder why you were ever foolish enough to set foot in IKEA. I promise.

  31. Sigh. Yeah, it might be denial. And some megalomaniac interior design dreams that tell me my place can look just like those catalog pages. Which it never does.Having ferrets might play into that, since Ikea never has cardboard stuffed behind the cupboard to stop them from climbing up (and then jumping to their death) or self-made half-high separating walls to the living room to keep ferrets apart.

    As for the bed – I will eventually have one custom-built for me, sometime this year. Mainly because my attempts to “modify” a bed to be just what I need have been unsuccessful.

    I am still staring at the packages, by the way. The fact that I inherited 3 ferrets today when a friend broke her knee (and have no clue when she will take them back) isn’t helping.

  32. Gila – Don’t even take the stuff out of the box. If you’re having a bed made later this year then save yourself the aggravation of putting together yet another crappy IKEA bed. Go get a futon and sleep on that in the meantime. They’re very comfortable and good for your back and they store easily so you can whip them out when company stays over. You can’t go wrong with a futon.