The High cost of low prices [IKEA edition]
On paper, IKEA could hardly appear more virtuous: an eco-friendly company that gives all its money to a charitable trust. But President Ingvar Kamprad is actually a canny, media-manipulating, racist ex-Nazi who produces low-quality furniture from questionable materials, running a company whose profits are funneled through a collection of shady Dutch charities that let it dodge taxes while claiming to fund design projects that ultimately become part of the company’s research and development.
A journalist in 1994 threatened to expose Kamprad’s adolescent membership in Nazi youth organizations. Kamprad addressed the matter publicly, apologizing to his Jewish employees and dismissing this revelation as a brief and foolish flirtation with Nazism. But it appears he may have been raising funds and recruiting members as late as September 1945, and he remained friends with a Swedish fascist politician through the 1950s.
And Kamprad’s Nazi adventure may have been indicative of a deeper vein of racism. Johan Stenebo, Kamprad’s former personal assistant, says Ikea execs often refer to foreigners as “niggers” and deny them promotions. All of Ikea’s top executives come from the same small region of Sweden as Kamprad, Stenebo alleges; he also characterizes Kamprad’s heir apparent, Peter, as an “incompetent racist.”
*As an extremely frugal individual, I’m am deeply saddened by this news. A phrase kept popping into my news as I read the original article: “Voting with your wallet.” Should I be feel a responsibility to my own personal finances or to the greater social issues that are funded by my $49.99 purchase of the Billy Bookshelf on Aisle 1 bin 7? What do you think?