Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Ikea Syndrome

It all started with a good idea. Why pay for someone to build you a wardrobe when you can go get it at a warehouse, build it yourself and save some euros in the process? So there we were, screwing and hammering around, blissfully happy to be building our first furniture items with our own hands, almost as proud as a kid playing Lego.

It was a good concept that could be exported to other areas, right?

You wish.

I've spent all summer trapped in a sort of Ikea-ish nightmare. It's been a WTF moment after another. It all started with the hard head scratching of buying a Ryanair ticket, which is Byzantine to say the least ( how much do they weight? do I want insurance? am I paying with a credit card? will I carry oversize luggage? a bicycle? where do I leave? how many bags do I want to check in? why do I need to give all those details at least six hours before I go to the airport? what do they need the issue date of my passport for?). Another much better one was flying to Nice and finding out that I have to print the stickers for my suitcase myself on an automated machine, this time for Iberia --which is not, repeat, not, a low cost airline.Seriously far from it.

But the Best of Them All has been being sent to this sorry excuse of a student residence in Nice where not only they expected moi to clean the room before I leave it to the next unsuspecting student, but ALSO, and this is where it gets bizarre, the pillow (not, mind you, the pillow cover, but the pillow itself), AND the mattress cover (paying, bien sûr, for the laundry costs myself). And all of this, by the way, before 9.30 AM. Oh, and incidentally, the lady was not pleased with my cleaning so she decided to charge me 48 Euros for the cleaning I had already done, anyway.

And all of this while treating me as one of her employees (and believe me I feel terrible for her employees), and, on top of it, arguing that she was doing it to KEEP THE COSTS OF THE RESIDENCE DOWN!!!!!! (lie: there are cheaper residences in Nice, who actually hire professionals to do the cleaning). Humorously enough, she also mentioned that the only people that complained about this ingenious arrangement where Spanish, which also put her in the category of a racist biotch in my book, but never mind.

(Aside rant: The name of this lovely place is France Riviera (on Nice, Rue de France) and I would reccomend it with all my heart if you enjoy sleeping on a sofa bed with a mattress so old that is split in half, and sharing your neighborhood with the créme of Nice's prostitutes at night. And being yelled at for various things, e.g. making too much noise with your flipflops on the stairs, talking too loud or effing turning your lights on in your own room: "il faut économiser", she said, to the poor suffering soul).

But bear with me. The gist of this is, she made a huge effort to explain to me that she was treating me more condescendingly than any boss I've ever had (and heck I've been a waitress!), to KEEP THE COSTS OF THE RESIDENCE DOWN.
This philosophy, as you might have gathered from above, is spreading with the whole crisis spirit. With the excuse of making things cheaper, companies of all sorts are actually turning their customers into employees. You might have noticed how some supermarkets already have this nifty machines that allow you to work as a cashier for them (well, they give you a discount... oh, wait, no, they do not), or how hard it is to find someone to put gasoline on your car lately. I wouldn't be surprised if soon enough we'll find ourselves carrying our luggage to the plane or paying to use the capuccino machines at your corner coffee house.

The problem is, first, I can never be as good at doing all these things as a professional. Second, someone has probably lost his or her job because suddenly every customer is giving 10 minutes or their time to that company, and usually, and
that's the terrifying part, for free. Now think about all the money that those companies are saving on salaries, and all the time of your life you are giving them. Terrifying, huh? Well, I suggest we demand our employee discounts next time these guys ask us to do their work for them. Otherwise, my humble suggestion is 1) boycott 2) complaint and 3) do the 50s husband thing, i.e. mess it all up so badly that they give up on us, because we're too stupid.

(Related to my frustration are the article IKEA is as bad as Wal-Mart at Salon.com, and the book that inspires the article, Cheap, the High Cost of Discount Culture. They're more about why cheap is not necessarily better, and surely explain all this much more eloquently than I do)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Brains, not bombs.

This week there has been two terrorist attacks in Spain, from the "separatist" group, ETA. They want an independent Basque country, and instead of using their BRAINS to try to convince the Spaniards that their motives are worthwile , they've used BOMBS. The first attack, in Burgos (bit far away from the Basque country, by the way), has left hundreds of people homeless, as they targeted a building where the civil guards (a sort of police) live with their families, destroying the front of the building completely. The second one killed two young men (also civil guards) in Majorca, even further away from the Basque country. Their only crime was, apparently, to be protecting the thousands of people that live in Majorca or come there to spend two weeks in the sun.

I'm not going to enter the discussion of whether the Basque country should be independent or not. But for the first time in the Spanish democracy, they have a non-nationalist government, democratically elected, and, if nothing else, that is a good thermometer of how a good part of
Basques feel about nationalism. Most nationalists definitely do not support ETA either. As for me, I'm not Basque, but I'm from Madrid. However, I've had my fair share of attacks here (including the death of a professor from my university). I'm really tired of this. This blog is part of a virtual demonstration against ETA and its methods.

Ps. I'm moderating comments for this one, I don't want to get flooded with political comments from either the nationalist or the non-nationalist side, as I won't be able to monitor this in the next few weeks and I won't allow any insults to be posted here. The way I see it, you are perfectly entitled to your opinion, whatever it is, until you use violence to make your case.