That Cheap Bookshelf Has a Global Cost

But new book finds it's not all China's fault and IKEA is a hypocrite
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 12, 2009 3:38 PM CDT
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. President and Chief Financial Officer Mike Duke speaks during the annual Wal-Mart shareholder's meeting in Fayetteville, Ark., Friday, June 5, 2009.   (AP Photo/April L. Brown)
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(Newser) – Though you might have hand-crafted antiques handed down from your grandparents, chances are your grandkids aren't getting their mitts on that wood-veneer bookshelf you just schlepped home from IKEA, writes Stephanie Zacharek for Salon. The modern desire for cheap, replaceable goods is a cause and a symptom of a global epidemic, and as Ellen Ruppel Shell's book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture tells it, we can't simply blame China.

Craftsmanship "is what distinguishes the work of humans from the work of machines, and it is everything that IKEA and other discounters are not," Shell writes. Although "Shell can't offer many helpful solutions to this tangle of economic and moral problems," writes Zacharek, she points to a mid-Atlantic-based grocery chain that falls back on a very old-fashioned business model: "Treat your employees well, and they'll serve you well in return. The cost may be higher, but the price is right." (Read more Ikea stories.)