Ikea, a Bulgarian idea of luxury

http://www.presseurop.eu/files/images/article/Ikea-Bulgaria.jpg?1316790997The long awaited opening of the Swedish brand’s first shop in Sofia has been spoiled by controversy over prices — an opportunity for Bulgarian journalist Martin Karbovski to poke fun at his compatriots’ taste for novelty at all costs...

Martin Karbovski


The emblem of the fast food restaurant chain was a clown. Children loved the place because there was a free plastic toy with every kid’s hamburger. I still remember the opening of the chain’s first restaurant in Sofia. Everyone was dressed up to the nines, as though they were going to the opera. They tried to book tables in advance, and when that didn’t work they deployed the tried and tested socialist method of camping outside so as to be first in the queue next morning.

The same applies to the inauguration of big western brand shops today. We haven’t changed much. Bulgarians like to pay high prices – a habit, which probably became ingrained under socialism. Everything western should by definition be expensive. And the more it glitters, the better. When times were hard, the manner in which prices were set was completely arbitrary. But one principle always applied: never mind if it is expensive, just as long as you can have it. And in any case, we were so poor that we never stopped to think about the real value of things.

In the scramble for profits, the continent’s poor are the biggest losers – a fact that has not escaped the attention of the crafty owners of major brands, to the point where you are much better off shopping in Milan, which is a lot cheaper, than you are in Sofia. For years, we waited impatiently for Ikea, where we were told you could buy cheap good quality things, to open up in Sofia [Ikea opened a shop there on 20 September]. Then when we found out that the prices charged by the first Ikea in Bulgaria were considerably higher than those in neighbouring Romania, we were mightily offended.

We like to buy cheap junk, but only at high prices

But before we go any further, might I suggest that Bulgarians take a leaf out of the book of the man who founded Ikea – an elderly gentleman who still drives an old car, which he refuses to exchange for a brand new one because he is thrifty. When you are immensely rich, it’s easy to be thrifty! It’s when you are poor that it’s a bit more complicated: you can’t cut back on anything. Swedish absurdity has now arrived in the Balkans, where the Bulgarian poor are being invited to buy wardrobes for twice the price they fetch in Greece.

Being thrifty and balancing your books are western preoccupations. We are a race of extravagant pashas, who insist on our right to buy stuff at the highest possible price.

I have been wondering why Ikea took so long to open a shop here. I think it is because we like to buy cheap junk, but only at high prices. Nonetheless, some of us were hoping that Ikea would demonstrate that even cheap things can be sturdy and reliable. But today, we suspect the furniture chain of engaging in cunning, peculiarly Balkan calculations. Because Ikea has certainly understood our native psychology. We like to buy plastic pearls, and we like to buy them so much that our desire for them has to be reflected by the price we pay. If the price is too low, we are disappointed… It’s a bit sad, but that is the way it is. Still, we shouldn’t take it too badly. After all, Ikea is arriving in Bulgaria. It’s worth going down there to push your way into the queue… ( Fonte: www.presseurop.eu/ Standart Sofia)

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