Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - the great Canadian MALM recall

[picture shows the best MALM chest of drawers hack]

these are my two favourite MALMS in the world..... mine. They are hacked, have some nifty 'media-unit' mods, because  I have a TV that sits on top [no worries, both the MALMs and that TV is very secured...]

*edit: there was a question how these were 'hacked' - well - I added some cross pieces to the back to make it more rigid; I installed leveling feet at six points along these 2 dressers - 4 corners plus middle; I screwed together the drawers and glued in the bottoms; both units are screwed together; there was a 'countertop' that was fabricated /w backsplash that was installed on top with a hidden channel for running the cabling; the faces and the countertop were covered with a vintage Italian laminate from Abet Laminati [from their Serigrafia collection - google it; it was so pretty!], matching and wrap-arounds.....AND I secured it to the wall.  It is a solid piece of custom funriture, people!

Chapter 1 - the great Canadian MALM recall

When the news hit that IKEA was recalling their MALM chests of drawers - due to possible risk of death or injury to young children I was shocked. The number that was put out was 6.6 million Canadian MALM units in existence, possibly used, possibly not properly anchored to the wall, possibly a risk of death to a young child, a possible class action lawsuit... And everyone owns a MALM chest of drawers - I personally own 4; I love them; so functional; design oh-so-so - it would be incredibly easy for anyone to join in, and win on multiples. If IKEA's legal decided to put forth a recall, they must have assumed that there existed a good chance of this happening and succeeding - I am not a lawyer, but from what I hear, the US is much more litigious and a successful US lawsuit launch could spark similar action here in Canada. I have no experience to assume how much 'payout per MALM would have been' but it was clearly out-weighted  by some very specific benefits that IKEA will reap out of this - legal, financial, creative, and social capital.


I read the IKEA official legal release very carefully. I love reading IKEA legal, it is so beautifully written - clean and accessible - just like their furniture. This recall puts IKEA at strongest legal position to defend themselves. IKEA is very specific on what it is recalling - 

"unattached chests of drawers that do not meet the free-standing stability requirements of the ASTM standard"

Ok. Have you bought a chest of drawer from IKEA in the past few years? Did you follow the assembly instructions? Even though they are only 'picture-beings' [don't want to offend anyone with 'it's a man or woman or gender-fluid or ...' as that can turn into a minefield; let's focus on the piece of furniture], you have to follow them exactly - it is a contract between you and IKEA. If you skipped any steps then IKEA could argue that you have nullified your rights and their obligations - that is why 'IKEA Hacking' is so troubling for IKEA. 

So I think that as a purchaser of IKEA Malm, if you bring it back to the store for a refund, you acknowledge that it is 'un-attached' and that weakens your legal position... After the recall notice went out I immediately checked all the Malms that I owned - the oldest ones do not feature the sticker that warns you about the importance of anchoring to the wall and the danger of tip-over. I sure did violate my contract with IKEA on that piece...I bought it at the AS-IS section few months back.

Then comes the ASTM standard - read this carefully - 

'that meet the voluntary North American ASTM standard requirements on free-standing stability

That's right, that standard is voluntary. By doing the recall IKEA has not altered their argument  that they believe that safest way for free-standing chest of drawers is that they 'be anchored to the wall with the hardware provided' - but is it 'free-standing', by definition though, right? And also, by choosing to follow the ASTM standard IKEA reduces/shifts the risk for the safety of the design. Smart move - that's why people get insurance for their businesses - things sometimes happen - you want to protect yourself. 


I will argue that the recall cost here will be quite insignificant. Follow my reasoning on this one. This is the least expensive way of dealing with this problem - yes, it will cost money, but this method minimizes the cost. The number of units for which the refund or store credit will be issued will be tiny. Number one, I will assume that reasonable people followed the instructions and anchored their tall dressers to the wall as instructed - say only X numbers will be un-anchored and thus represent financial liability. That number is further reduced by the number of people who are willing go right now to their dressers and empty their fully functional Malms of all their contents - socks, shirts, underwear, etc. - dump it on the floor, ie. make a giant mess - and haul it over [as you do not need to disassemble it to get a refund; ha! that would be cruel!] to IKEA. And THEN find matching replacement dressers - with category to satisfy being volume of storage and style. 

That number of people who are willing to do that, I think, is very slim. 

Then the 'financial cost of the recall' is further reduced as not all dressers qualify for a refund - some get partial store credit. Read - 

'Chests of drawers manufactured prior to 2002 will be eligible for a partial store credit.'

And then, FINALLY, any reasonable individual who is genuinely concerned with this recall and the state of their un-anchored MALMs will likely chose the much, much easier route and just pick up a free wall anchoring kit - part of IKEA's 'Secure it' campaign - at a store OR IKEA can have it delivered to you dwelling go home and just attach it to the wall. And what if you are not do not possess the skills necessary to do so? Well IKEA provides a number that you can call, and - read - 

'and we will work with them to find out what the best resolution is for that customer.'

That number is 1- 800-661-9807. I will call that number and find out exactly where it leads, and will report back. 

Final thoughts on 'Financial' - so? how much is it gonna cost? Not that much as the number '6.6 million' would suggest. It's gonna be much, much less. Much less than the cost of a successful lawsuit. 


Hey! IKEA will use this as a great opportunity to design and launch with much fanfare [!!] - read - 

We are also working on new products that will meet (or exceed) the ASTM standard and our solutions will be shared with the whole industry without charge.

a whole new line of ASTM compliant chests of drawers! If this is not a great opportunity to not only be creative but also to 'sock'em rock'em' your 'competition' [I put that last word in quotations marks, as the question begs 'does IKEA really have competition?'] than I don't know what is. Think about all the other furniture manufacturers and importers that will suddenly find themselves in the spotlight for being 'non ASTM F2057-14 standard compliant'. I know that if I ever design, mass produce and release to the public a chest of drawers, than I will surely spend that $44 to purchase all the info associated with ASTM F2057-14 standard, to ensure that it is compliant. 

And finally;

Social Capital!

I love IKEA. Everyone does. And I love them even more, now, that they are so pro-active and want to save themselves some coin so they can keep lowering the prices for us ordinary folk - although I caught millionaires shopping at IKEA! 

They are being honest, straight forward, upfront and easy to understand. They are taking a lead on this one - they will be the ones narrating this story. They will be the ones creating the dialogue and pushing it where they want it. They are showing leadership and corporate responsibility. Even blemishes like these, which could potentially turn into nightmares, IKEA turns into an opportunity to shine. Watch this video, 

this is IKEA Canada president, Stefan Sjostrand, talking about the challenge that they are facing with this recall. Mr. Sjostrand should not quit his day job - he is not a 'natural YouTuber' - the video - all taken in a single shot monologue; a Woody Allen specialty- is somewhat painful to watch, with the awkward body language, punctuated with the occasional 'pronounciation slip-ups' - good lighting though; 'no tie, get things done' attitude and with the top-button undone on a non-descript dress shirt, he comes across as genuine and caring, in his reserved Swedish way. 

IKEA comes across as genuine and caring, in its reserved, legal, Swedish way. 

Because they are. And so what if they are making billions doing so?
IKEA really is going to change the world. 

*another one my IKEA Hacks. So I actually design and build free standing or free-hanging furniture pieces. I recently launched a brand called 'film cabinetry', which does furniture styled after a movies - you can have anything that you want, I particularly enjoy modern design based on IKEA hacked pieces. I style my apartment after Woody Allen movies. 

I love laminates. I have access to some vintage Italian laminates -  I use them extensively - and I am sitting on some really pretty ones - I have one from Diafos collection - I wrote about this piece before. Another I am turning into a piece of art. This piece I called the 'Canadian Iceberg', Diafos white from ABET - not available anymore - the quality of the surface is that of the ice. Stunning. 

[pictures shows a hanging SEKTION hack clad in exterior luxury Italian laminate]