Last night (Monday) came a curious piece off Germany's ARD network (Channel One, a state-run TV network). It was roughly an hour-long piece over Ikea.....the put-together furniture company from Sweden that has numerous stores in Germany. It was entitled: Ikea-Check.
It's ARD's investigative journalism game. Basically, they went at several different angles. Ikea's management was flexible and allowed filming within the stores, interaction with customers, and even allowed ARD to travel outside of Germany and personally visit one of the plants which supply the furniture to the store.
I would generally say that most Germans have visited an Ikea, and most working-class or middle-class families have at least one Ikea item in their house.
It's generally hard to slam Ikea. Their instructions on putting items together.....are simple and easy to understand (proven by several customers). Quality-wise.....for what you pay....it's a decent deal, which ARD's reporters tended to agree with. But then it came down to this odd diversion near the end of the show.....going off to another country and pronouncing inhumane working conditions and low-scale pay. The hint here, was that Germans were supporting a totalitarian regime in place and the residents of this eastern European country. At least ten minutes of the piece were devoted to that angle.
The number of Germans watching the Ikea-Check? First, virtually no one under the age of twenty-five watches state-run TV, period. Then you mix in this fact....from the adult population....documentary news pieces just aren't appealing.....so you can chop off another couple million potential viewers. So out of eighty million potential viewers....I'd take a guess that around one million Germans watched Ikea-Check.
The curious statement which they left in the documentary piece was this interview with a eastern European manufacturing manager. It went along the lines of: If I don't take advantage of this opportunity to make cheap furniture for Ikea....someone else will and they will find the employees to do the job.
He's kinda right about this.
A shocking documentary? No. In fact, there's really nothing in the entire piece which I found to be that interesting. I've put together Ikea furniture and know that it's a decent quality (at least as long as you don't take it apart and assemble a second time somewhere else). I also know the pricing is pretty decent. And I'm fully aware that you can't manufacture cheap furniture like this in Germany, Austria, France or any high-cost European country. If you want to pay 150-Euro for a high-quality cheap looking chair....fine, but if I could manufacture the same chair in Estonia for 25-Euro and sell it to you for 36-Euro, would you prefer to pay 150-Euro over 36-Euro?
Yeah, there is all of this civil or human rights stuff, but frankly.....when a guy works for a living and only brings home 1,200 Euro a month from his 1,900 Euro salary....with taxes, pension and healthcare cost eating up a big chunk of his salary....what idiot from ARD is complaining in a documentary about the small bucket of money left for a guy to pay rent, heat, gasoline, clothing, and essential items of life? There's a bigger story here, but I doubt if ARD will ever cover that.