Thu, Mar

Forced Religiosity, the IKEA Con and Other Notes of Interest


GELFAND’S WORLD--I was having coffee with a friend over in Carson the other day, so I took the opportunity to walk over to Ikea to buy some potato chips. They have good potato chips. Since I hadn't been through Ikea for some time, I rode the escalator to the top and commenced what I call the Ikea journey. That's the part where you walk in great circles around each floor from one section to the next, and then take a downward spiral from floor to floor. For some reason, the trek ordinarily involves getting lost and repeating one floor. I repeated the second floor, because the approach to the stairs wasn't obvious. 

Along the way, I half filled my yellow shopping bag with brightly wrapped bargains. Apparently a bunch of stuff was on sale, because the price cards showed a sale price, which was printed as a Family Price, in big numbers. The signs reminded me of Family Size cereal boxes and Family Size laundry detergent you see in the super markets. Down below in microscopic print was the price you would ordinarily pay. I could see how much money I was saving. 

So after what seemed like a two mile hike through the store, I managed to find the steps down to the cash register level. It was there that I discovered that about half the items I was trying to purchase were going to cost me more than the "sale" prices. 

Ikea has succumbed to temptation, in this case the gimmick of creating a discount club. I was invited to present the cashier with something called the Family card. It turns out that those sale items weren't really on sale at all. In order to get what had appeared to be the going price but in this case turned out to be the Family Price, I would be required to have that card, which means that I would be required to turn over all kinds of personal information, everything from my email address (mandatory) to phone number to home address. 

But the store offered to make it easy for me to divest myself of my personal privacy. I could fill out an application right there. Or not. For me, there were two alternatives. I could either pay higher prices than my fellow shoppers or abandon my pile of goods. To abandon my purchases would be a symbolic gesture at best, considering how much business Ikea does in a day, but I don't like to get conned. I left the pile on the cashier's counter and asked to speak to a manager. 

A polite request to the manager -- to be allowed to purchase my goods at the advertised price -- was to no avail. They claim that the price that the customer sees as he approaches the item really isn't their advertised price. 

It's the standard retail store con. You traipse across acres of floor space, lugging your bag of goodies, and when you finally get to the cash register, the prices have suddenly increased. This system isn't even good enough to be referred to as bait and switch. At least with bait and switch, you get something better for the higher price. Here you just get the higher price. 

Parenthetically, I wonder how safe that Ikea layout is in the event of a fire or an earthquake. I asked the manager, "How do people get out in the event of a fire?" 

His answer: "Follow the arrows." 

I looked down on the floor. I couldn't see any arrows. I should add that this was in a rather complicated part of the store layout, a place where it would have been hard to figure out which direction the fire exit was. 

Here's somebody else who complained about the card, but is a big fan of most things Ikea: The blog that goes by the title of American Genius [https://theamericangenius.com/editorials/ikea-family-card-pretty-much-useless/] argues that the Ikea card is "pretty much useless." 

I'll have to get the potato chips somewhere else. Maybe I'll use my Vons Club card. 

Another loss in the Hollywood preservation community 

Bob Birchard was a pillar of the Cinecon organization, the group that puts on one of the longest running and most respected festivals of classic films. Each year over the labor day weekend, he would join his fellow cinephiles by presiding over the Cinecon festivities. Besides his efforts in the Hollywood preservation community, Bob was a film and video editor and the author of books on Cecil B. DeMille and on Tom Mix. Bob Birchard passed away at the end of June. 

Most of us found out when we clicked on the Cinecon website.  

That website is worth looking at for another reason, the festival itself. One recently rediscovered classic that will be screened on Friday is the 1928 Dolores Del Rio film (set in southern California) Ramona. Another must-see which is one of the great comedies of all time, Girl Shy starring Harold Lloyd, will be screened on Monday. There will of course be a special tribute to Bob Birchard. 

Cinecon doesn't sell tickets to individual movies, but you can get a day pass for $40, which is good for about 12 hours of movies and presentations. 

Colin Kaepernick, neighborhood councils, and the politics of resentment 

The San Francicso 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been quietly sitting out the playing of the national anthem at preseason games. This has worked out pretty much as you would expect. The idea of a robust society which welcomes divergent viewpoints is lost on a lot of people. According to news accounts, mid-level executives in other NFL cities have been calling him terrible names. You might say that the people who complain about somebody else being unAmerican are themselves the most guilty of that accusation. Some players are simply keeping quiet, presumably based on the reasoning that a quarterback who led his team to the Super Bowl is entitled to some slack. 

Down here in the San Pedro area, we've had a sudden efflorescence of neighborhood councils reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. There is a certain level of quiet grumbling among some folks. The pledge is one of the few officially sanctioned religious statements in this country, with its Under God wording added in the early 1950s as a snub to the officially atheistic Soviet Union. Not everyone feels comfortable with expressing privately held religious sentiments as part of an official government activity. One woman suggested that the local council refrain from reciting the pledge, which bothered her, and do something tangible for veterans instead. One of the proponents of the Pledge referred to her proposal as "disgusting." I like to think that the recitation of the Pledge is a snub to Donald Trump. 

That part about one nation indivisible certainly makes that point, and with liberty and justice for all makes the point even better. I fear that these points are lost on the ones who have been flag waving the most.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected]