Opinion: No horsing around with this promotion?


Mary Ellen and I went to IKEA when it first opened, just to look around. I was mostly looking for the exit, because the place was so massive, I was afraid we’d get lost. No problem, since there were tiny bedrooms all over the store where we could have hung out for a nice, relaxing evening. Food would not have been an issue, either, since there is a huge bistro located in the center of the store. No need to ask for directions or follow floor markings: just walk toward the smell of Swedish meatballs.

IKEA spearheaded a new promotional campaign to celebrate its company and its customers, featuring the Huvudroll Meatball scented candle, part of the Swedish furniture company’s “Store-in-a-Box” gift, orchestrated to bring the sights, sounds and smells of its hallowed halls inside a surprise package. The candle is just one item in an assortment of merchandise that will be offered to exactly 986 customers on a lottery basis. Why 986? No clue, but the number does look the same if you turn it upside down, just like the nightstand I bought at IKEA.

As of this writing, the marketing people have not completely decided what else to include in the box, or even how big the box will be. Said one executive, “We still haven’t put it all together, so we are not sure what it will finally look like.” This sounds vaguely like what I said after I tried completing my first IKEA bookshelf.

The meatballs haven’t been without controversy. Several years ago, IKEA was required to “withdraw” some of their food from supermarkets in Sweden because traces of horse meat were found in the product. In racing terminology, horses are not “withdrawn,” they’re scratched. But no shopper wants to hear the phrase, “Effective immediately, we are scratching our Swedish meatballs.”

People tweeted about the horsey issue. Here were my favorites:

  • Tried both beef tacos and horse tacos. Horse wins by a nose.
  • My friend ate it and was hospitalized. Condition: Stable.
  • Ate too much. Gave me the trots.
  • My roommate suggested we eat meatballs for lunch. I said WHOA, not so fast.

So, why was horse meat added to some products? Is it cheaper than beef? Aren’t horses harder to catch? Rabbit should be pricey. They should give turtle soup away. On cooking websites, hundreds of recipes feature horse meat. A noted food critic says, “Most of the dishes are winners.” Seems like the winners would have a better chance of not being on the menu.

I think IKEA’s pulled-pork sandwich is delicious. I’d just like to know where they pulled the pork from.

Meanwhile, I look forward to learning what else will be put in that IKEA box. If I am one of the winners, I hope whatever is in there does not require assembly.


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