08 November 2011

Assembling Furniture

Rowan Callick (who I respect for his insights) recently had a piece in the Australian newspaper (29-30 October)  about the growth of consumerism in China and the desire of many Chinese to establish their middle-class credentials.   He stated that many Chinese are attracted to places such as Ikea, and then went on: "But because the customers lack any do-it-yourself experience, most pay a premium and have Ikea staff come to their homes to assemble their purchases".
The relevance of this is that I needed a new study chair, so we went to Officeworks and found one that was suitable.   But it came in parts, in a box.  The box was clearly labelled "Made in China".   But on attempting to assemble the chair, the truth dawned:  it's not only Chinese consumers who shop at Ikea that have no idea about D-I-Y assembly, it seems to extend to all the Chinese who design and manufacture these things.  In fact, I'd go so far as to suggest that the reason these items are shipped in bits is as much about saving space as it is about factories who can't follow their own assembly instructions!   It was indeed an "interesting" experience for me to follow the instructions.  I don't know where Ikea in China get staff who are capable of putting things together. But the good news is, ultimately it all worked.  After overcoming some challenges in recognizing the various parts (the diagrams use different scales!), using a torch to peer into screw-holes to get them aligned and some seriously hard pushing and shoving, the chair did get assembled.  Hopefully, it will stay assembled!

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