The Fam and I braved Portland’s new IKEA store today. If you’ve never been to one, imagine if Disneyland and Pier One had a love child and 15,000 of your neighbors all showed up at the same time to visit.
It is no overstatement to say the store is ginormous and that tunneling through it amidst the endless surge of people has to be the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like a bull running the streets of Pamplona. With the clean light and pastel colors, it’s ridiculously easy to get lost in all that plastic gloss intermingling with all those human smells.
It took me about 30 seconds to feel the full impact of every joke and side-sneer I’d encountered while playing The Sims a good five or six years ago. If you’ve played the game, you’ll certainly know what I mean. It’s incredibly difficult to get that Sims shopping music out of your head once you make the connection, and that’s of course the point you realize that the joke is totally on you.
Beneath it all, IKEA is secondarily a furniture store and primarily an experiment in both mass psychology and what I’ll call The Bulk Aesthetic. IKEA stores are little more than sexed-up lumber yards with snaking lines of hundreds upon hundreds of human beings cutting through them. After entering the store, you will see incredibly clever and stingy use of floorspace (and the floors are mostly concrete), but you will not see natural light until you spill onto the checkout level, which upon entry feels very much like a killing floor in a meat processing facility. The endless rows of people are only broken by stacks of stale brown boxes, and once queued for checkout, there is simply no turning back.
Ahhh, the sweet scent of consumers consuming. Can’t you smell it already?