My James Bond Villain Couch
Allow me to tell you how Ikea created $2,000 in "NOT-GDP."
I had worked hard. And not only had I worked hard, but I had worked hard for 30 years. I saved my pennies and dimes, lived in basements while renting out the upstairs of houses I owned, drove cars over 10 years old, and would bring flasks to bars so I could drink on the cheap. And over those three decades I was able to pay off my humble house, be mortgage free, and be in the enviable position of retiring before 50.
Part of that early retirement dream was finally selling my investment properties and building my modest-but-dream home. It would not be a luxurious home as my years of living cheaply had taught me the value of minimalism, but it would be a nice home, culminating my life's work and frugality into a home I would enjoy, not merely live in.
And so in anticipation, for one of the rare moments in my life, I afforded myself something nice.
What was that something? Ikea's 5 piece "Morabo Sectional" replete with chaise lounge.
My house was designed to look like a Mission Impossible, late-50's, schwank bachelor pad, and I had found the James Bond Villain couch to be the centerpiece of my living room. And so I permitted myself to drop the $3,200 on this sleek, sexy sectional.
Of course, though, with Ikea, you have to assemble your furniture. And of course, if you've ever been there, you have to use the code on the print out they give you to find all the components that go into creating the set in their warehouse. And though I was eagerly looking forward to the day I could pour myself a small-fish bowl snifter of scotch, swirl it around in the palm of my hand, and luxuriate on Marabo 5 piece sectional as I made declarations to James Bond on how I would defeat him and achieve global domination...
that would have to wait as Ikea said half my couch was not in stock, and I would have to wait a month to get the remainder of it.
This was understandable. Sometimes things aren't in stock. Sometimes things are very popular and sell out quickly. Plus, COVID had people rushing to Ikea to redo their homes as they had nothing else to do. But after a month passed, and I still had yet to receive a notification that the remaining half of my James Bond Villain couch was delivered, I checked online to see what was going on.
This then started what would inevitably become a 4 month process.
You, in theory, can check the status of your order online. But there is such little information on Ikea's website that you are compelled to contact customer service.
Ikea is in the throes of a managerial/competency crisis, as people are losing their orders, having the wrong things delivered, etc., which makes contacting customer service about a 30 minute ordeal.
If you get to customer service, you are rolling the dice as to whether or not that person knows what they're doing. I never received the information I needed nor the same/consistent information from each of the three reps I called to see if the remainder of my couch was ever going to be delivered. Which compelled me to...
Revisit the physical store to see what was going on, which once again was fraught with its own problems of floor employees looking things up on databases that were not consistent with what was online.
The final straw was when I could no longer pull up my order #. Ikea, like a heroin-addicted single mom loses her child, lost my order. Just "poof" gone. And thank god I saved my multi-thousand dollar receipt to prove that I had paid for it.
In the end I realized that I had wasted more time and labor dicking around with Ikea for a couch that was never going to be delivered. And so I spent the better part of a cold Minnesota morning, loading up my truck, driving to Ikea, waiting in line, and getting a refund for my half-purchase. And that experience was the ONLY time I dealt with a competent Ikea employee as the process, though long, went smoothly.
No doubt everybody has horror stories about buying things, delivery problems, an returning them. But Ikea was different because of two things. One, the inordinate amount of my time, energy, resources, and money that went into purchasing a couch that simply never existed. And two, the incompetence at nearly every level and facet of the Ikea organization. And though I am long over getting frustrated or angry at companies being inept in delivering what they promised, I do believe Ikea serves as foreboding omen of what the future US (and global economy) will look like. And this is a lesson people with an IQ above 100 need to realize.
All Problems are Caused by Humans
First, you must understand where all problems in the world come from. They come from other humans.
Yes, a tornado will destroy a house and present you a problem.
Yes, a hurricane will flood your city and damage some property.
But outside natural disasters and statistical chance, nearly ALL of the problems you will face, endure, suffer, and inevitably be-forced-to-overcome are caused by humans who are fucking up.
Your boss gave you the wrong information to do the project and is now yelling at you for faulty results?
That problem is caused by your boss fucking up.
The waitress added shellfish to your salad when you expressly said NOT TO ADD SHELLFISH, and now you are being rushed to the hospital as you can't breathe?
That problem is caused by the waitress fucking up.
Perhaps you followed your heart and the money would follow when you chose your Philosophy degree, and now you're $75,000 in debt, living at home, and working the same job you did in high school?
That problem is caused by your parents and teachers fucking up.
All problems in your life, be it very important things like your career, marriage, or education to the smallest and pettiest of things like adding onions to your Sub sandwich, are caused by other humans. And these mistakes not only create incalculable misery, but waste incredible amounts of human time and resources.
But the problem with humans does not end there. Because in order for society to function and operate, we need to rely not on one mere human to do one mere thing, but a network of MILLIONS of humans to do their jobs correctly, all the time. When I get gas I'm not only relying on the gas station attendant to do his job, but the pump manufacturer to do his, the credit card payment processor to do theirs, and the fuel truck driver to do his. When you order food at a restaurant you are easily reliant upon a score of people to do their jobs the right way. And a corporation is nothing more than thousands of little worker ants who need to do their job right, otherwise the whole thing falls apart.
And today's 2021 Ikea perfectly represents where an entire entity is decaying at this atomic level.
Understand that when I decided to buy my couch through Ikea, I did not engage in the physical buildings, materials, machinery, and inventory that physically makes up Ikea. I decided to engage and rely upon the thousands of sentient people who control those physical assets to provide a product. And whereas the Subway sandwich artist may goof up and give me the wrong bread or put mustard on my sandwich when I wanted none, it seems Ikea's people are incompetent at all levels. And while it just takes one person along the chain line to screw up something, if your entire army of employees are incompetent, well then there's no helping you.
The saleswoman who ordered my couch for me (I think) didn't put the order in. Just gave me the print out.
The three different customer service people I talked to all had different stories and resolutions to my problem, indicating to me they truly did not know what was going on.
Somebody somewhere either programmed the ordering system wrong or accidentally deleted my order.
And when I physically visited the store, the well-intended floor salesman tried to help, but wouldn't shut up long enough for me to tell him what the problem was or why I was there, which resulted in both him and I wasting about 10 minutes of our respective time.
And so though I am no financial analyst and truly couldn't care about the financial future of Ikea (I obviously never intend on shopping there again), no entity can survive this level of widespread incompetence. Ikea will either get it's act together, or fail.
The Ikea Economy
This then brings about a scary insight.
There is nothing inherently wrong with Ikea's employees. Ikea has to select from the same pool of incompetent dumbasses that currently populate the US labor market. And Ikea is no doubt led and staffed by incompetent MBA's and "leaders" who all went to Buck Diddly's School of Business Management or some other such trash business college. What Ikea does reflect, however, is a decrease in the overall quality and caliber of your average American worker. The American worker of which went from a grizzled WWII vet who survived The Great Depression, to an adderall-xanax addicted Millennial or Gen Z'er who has not only been brought up under soft and undemanding conditions, but has a worthless liberal arts degree to boot. Of course that is a very large brush to paint with, but with such weak, untested, and pampered adult children being dumped into the labor market by worthless schools and colleges, it should be no shock that with such decay at the cellular level of the economy (the individual human) companies and the overall economy should suffer, which is has.
Labor force participation rates are going down.
Economic growth is only about 60% of what it used to be during the 40's-60's.
We have to borrow/print money to bail people/banks/students out of their stupid decisions.
Half the population is dependent on the taxpayer
And perhaps the biggest indication of Americans turning into Idiocracy,
It takes 25 years to grow, educate, and train your average person into becoming a self-supporting worker.
And here is where Idiocracy, the "Ikea Economy" becomes a reality. Because we are no longer aiming to put men on Mars or develop hover-cars. We're not even trying to get the nuclear family with a white picket fence. We're just trying to keep it together. And worse than that (and this is perhaps the ultimate form of "The Ikea Economy"), the majority of our resources are being spent cleaning up other people's mistakes. And that does not produce real GDP.
An Economy of Broken Glass
It is unavoidable that a certain percent of an economy's labor has to be spent cleaning up other people's mistakes. Humans are not perfect and everybody will err, and that err will require a commensurate (perhaps even exponential) amount of resources to clean up. But if the cellular unit of the economy - humans - are decaying at a rate that they do nothing but fuck up, the percent of the economy that goes to cleaning up broken windows increases at the opportunity cost of genuine economic growth.
A perfect example of this is social workers.
Social workers don't produce anything of value. They merely clean up the mess of broken homes, deadbeat dads, and single mom sluts. And one can't even claim they do that as poverty, crime, and dysfunctional homes are not only still present, but on the increase. But their salaries are still counted in GDP and GDP per capita, when there was nothing of value produced there.
But what if on every level, every human, in every institution of the economy, decayed to this level, not just the "social work industry?"
It cost me $2,000 in lost wages and time to order a FREAKING COUCH.
What if one person at the water sanitation department screwed up? That cost the Michigan taxpayers $600 million with the Flint Michigan water crisis.
What if you major in a dumb subject and need to go back to college to get a degree that's employable?
That is potentially going to cost the US taxpayer $1 trillion.
And forget big ticket items. What if every interaction you have to have with every human over the course of one day, involves 1 in 10 of these humans fucking up? Forget water or a college degree, you will waste hours of time just buying a video game or getting gas.
And this is the ultimate cost of "The Ikea Economy." Certainly, there will be great and many and costly boondoggles like higher education, the welfare state, or the banking crisis. But when it comes to the normal day to day functioning of society, where we engage in hundreds of individual actions directly and indirectly with thousands of individual people, normal day to day functioning, be it your job, your home, or merely going out in public, will become increasingly less efficient, more costly, and more difficult. You will have to order your burger three times before the waiter gets it right. You will have to ask the Ikea rep DO YOU HAVE THIS IN STOCK, and then VERIFY IT IS IN STOCK, before you fork over your credit card. You will have to check with UPS four times to find out where your package is. And you will have to call up the electric company three times to get them to turn your power back on.
I may have had a bad experience with Ikea, but I fear it will now become the norm.
The New Normal
The new normal economy will represent what I've been predicting for quite sometime - a second world economy.
With the average American being a complete idiot, not to mention incredibly spoiled and thinking real work is beneath them AND with enough government welfare/UBI to prevent them from ever having the fear of homelessness or starvation kick their ass into being a responsible adult, you can expect the US (and other nations) to become increasingly like second and third world economies. Supply chains will become increasingly unreliable. Bribery will be the most efficient means to get things done. Underground, black market, or mafia economies will become the most efficient channels by which to get things done. And the intelligent individual will simply limit the amount of interaction he/she needs to have with the rest of society. Larger organizations will no longer be functional or feasible, often times being bailed out by a printing press. Entrepreneurs will simply say, "why bother?" And the real costs of goods will go up.
But the real problem, I predict, most people will face is the maddening psychological environment this will create.
Think about my desire to buy a couch from Ikea on a very basic, simple, and moral level.
Ikea claimed unto me they had my James Bond Villain couch. Why else would they advertise it, let alone allow me to purchase it in advance?
But Ikea was not capable of delivering my couch, and I'm pretty sure somewhere in the chain of command of Ikea a man knew this.
This then behooves the question, why are you going through the facade of even offering the couch? Why are you even in business? What psychotic mentally ill reason do you have to waste my, and other people's, time?
And thus apply this flawed economic/business mentality to the overall economy:
What if that's every economic interaction and transaction in the economy? That you're not sure you're going to be delivered what you asked? That one party says they're going to do "X" and only 50% of the time does so? To a certain extent this is already happening. Ikea promising couches that never were. Universities promises educations/career that would never pay. Target promising fat women men will inevitably some day like them. But aside from the obvious and INCREDIBLE economic costs, not to mention all the added costs it takes to clean up these messes, what about the psychological toll people will pay living in this incompetent, mad, Ikea world?
Thankfully, I am a minimalist. Thankfully, I am old. And thankfully, I no longer care about society or the economy. I am going to spend the rest of my days laughing at stupid people making stupid mistakes and screaming at the sky for problems brought about by their own stupidity. But if you are smarter than the average bear and wish to avoid the pain and agony of this Ikea Economy that cometh, may I strongly recommend you minimize the amount of stuff you need, the number of people you rely on, and prepare yourself psychology for the incompetence that is about to ensue?
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