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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Ikea's Stuff is Tough To Assemble, So It Bought a Startup To Do It For You (arstechnica.com) 151

One of the most popular jobs on TaskRabbit, a service that lets you hire workers for quick gigs, is assembling Ikea furniture. So perhaps it's no surprise that the Swedish retail giant has acquired the startup for an undisclosed price. From a report: For now, TaskRabbit services -- where each worker sets their own rates but the company takes 20 percent -- are available in 40 American cities and in London. The majority of its American workers (or "taskers" as the company dubs them) do not receive any health or retirement benefits, as is typical in so-called "gig economy" jobs. While TaskRabbit itself has not been sued in federal court by any of its workers so far, other companies in the industry have been -- numerous labor cases filed against Uber were recently heard at the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco. It seems unlikely that Swedish business culture will have any impact on TaskRabbit's workers, the overwhelming majority of whom are ad hoc contractors. Sweden, which generally lacks a similar "gig economy" environment, boasts universal public health care and housing and child care subsidies. Employees in Sweden are required to be provided a minimum of five weeks paid annual leave, and wages are typically set by annual collective bargaining. According to Ikea's statement, TaskRabbit will remain an independent company and will remain in San Francisco -- as such, its taskers aren't considered to be employees.
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Ikea's Stuff is Tough To Assemble, So It Bought a Startup To Do It For You

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  • Seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ILoveFatCashews ( 5089757 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @03:28PM (#55271401)
    IKEA furniture isn't that difficult to put together. You just need to take your time, follow the directions and try not to misplace any of the small parts.
    • Indeed, was going to post the exact same thing. If it is difficult, it's probably because you're not following instructions.

      furthermore: Ikea's furniture is crap, it's going downhill in quality the last 10 years.

      • And now their employment standards are going down in quality as well. Ah the race to the bottom.
        • Hey its nice to see were not the only country in the race to the bottom.
        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          How about a does of reality, Many years ago it was a gig economy across the board, as a result of abuses unions were formed. Guess who is going to make a major comeback. Goes how violent the corporate reaction will be and guess who will be using the national guard and out of control law enforcers to kill unionists, until the corporations finally accept defeat. Their greed and ego demand they kill to retain total power and they will do it, right up until they lose and this time and bunch of them will end up

      • True about quality, I have some furnitures that are almost 20 years old, mostly ABO and LEKSVIK and they are still very nice in solid wood.

        • Then you buy a new house and nothing fits in it anymore. The last house I bought came with real wood furniture because it was unrealistically heavy for the previous owners to move to the place they were going. It didn't suit our style and we couldn't sell it for anything, so ended up giving it all to our movers for free if they would take it out.
        • by mark-t ( 151149 )
          I have several Leksvik pieces as well... they are some of the nicest furniture elements that I own. I was very upset to discovery that Ikea has apparently dscontinued the line.
      • I'm an evil landlord and I've had tenants call because they couldn't change the light bulb in the ceiling, or flip their circuit breakers (they were scared of getting electrocuted), or relight the pilot on their gas stoves.

        A lot of WTF moments including one this morning.
        • I presume some of the tenants had to have their electric outlets blocked to prevent the electricity from leaking out. Ahhhh, the tecnologically challenged.
          • I presume some of the tenants had to have their electric outlets blocked to prevent the electricity from leaking out.

            When it leaks out through your baby, I bet you change your tune...

            • by Pascoea ( 968200 )

              When it leaks out through your baby, I bet you change your tune...

              And then he'll buy some of his own damn outlet covers. Not the landlord's responsibility to baby proof for his tenants.

            • This makes sense in the US, where the electrical outlets seem carefully designed to maximise the chance of electrocution. It's monumentally stupid in the UK, where you can't access the live or neutral holes unless you push something of the correct size into the earth socket first. It turns out that the child safety covers can be turned upside down and inserted with just the earth pin to expose the other pins quite easily, at which point any small metal object can be used to touch the live connector.

              Tha

              • It turns out that the child safety covers can be turned upside down and inserted with just the earth pin to expose the other pins quite easily

                I've never seen one where that would be possible. The earth hole is too far from the edge so the other two prongs would hit the plate and stop it going even half way in.

            • by amorsen ( 7485 )

              Outlet covers are a safety risk. Babies less than one year old have managed to remove them, and slightly older ones can use them to defeat the safety features of modern child-proof sockets, Euro and UK.

              Don't use them!

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Indeed, was going to post the exact same thing. If it is difficult, it's probably because you're not following instructions.

        furthermore: Ikea's furniture is crap, it's going downhill in quality the last 10 years.

        Yeah, I've never had much difficulty putting together Ikea furniture. For wordless instructions (because of how many translations would be needed) they are fairly self-explanatory. It's almost as if Ikea actually tests their instructions. They also aren't afraid to use more paper than necessary to e

    • How do you unpack and build flatpack furniture in a 475 sq. ft. apartment?
      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        If you can't (even temporarily) spare the no more than 40 square feet or so of cleared floor space to build it, you probably don't have room for it when its finished anyways.
      • Step one, don't buy more furniture than will comfortably fit in 475sqft apartment.

        Seriously, if you've left yourself enough room to move around-in once the furniture is placed, then you should have enough room to assemble it. If all you have are 1' wide paths through the place then you have too much furniture.

      • Re:Seriously... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) * <scott@alfter.us> on Thursday September 28, 2017 @04:16PM (#55271835) Homepage Journal

        How do you unpack and build flatpack furniture in a 475 sq. ft. apartment?

        Your bed should provide enough flat area to assemble most things. I put together a 6-drawer Malm chest that way. As a bonus, it also keeps the finish (such as it may be) from getting scratched or scuffed.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        I installed an Ikea kitchen (8' long), dining table, sofa, chairs, bathroom vanity, and bookcase in a 500 sq. ft. apartment. Lots of room. Never at a loss for space. I don't know what your problem is.

      • Seriously? I furnished my old 16m^2 single-room apartment (172sqft) exclusively with Ikea furniture, and I built it right there in the apartment, including a bed, a dresser, a table and various other things. Not a problem at all.

    • Regardless of how hard it is, having a readily available service to put it together extends their customer base. Could your grandmother put one together?
      • If I was a grandmother I wouldn't want a stranger in my house putting it together.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Could your grandmother put one together?

        No, that's why people have grandkids.

        • by Xenx ( 2211586 )
          Technically, they only have kids. It's up to their kids to follow through on the long game.
    • IKEA furniture isn't that difficult to put together. You just need to take your time, follow the directions and try not to misplace any of the small parts.

      Don't forget: be careful not to damage the easy-to-flake particle board when said instructions include 'hammer the dowel into the hole'. I've never not been able to do the assembly without marring the gloss white finish in at least one spot.

      • Me as well, this makes me wonder what kind of insurance TaskRabbit provides. Presumably if the assembler you payed for wrecks a piece by scratching it or whatnot, they would cover it.
        • I have. I usually use a block between the hammer and the dowel to prevent exactly that. I hit the block, and the dowel goes in without marring anything. Tada!

          • You have to have it on a flat padded surface as well. Put it on a hardwood floor and any slight movement is going to scratch it somewhere. Have it too padded and firm hammering may break the piece.
            • by msauve ( 701917 )
              Fortunately, most of the stuff comes in cardboard boxes, which are the right mix of padding and firmness.
              • A double bed comes in three boxes a foot wide. How is that supposed to work?
                • by pahles ( 701275 )
                  A double bed is nothing more than 4 boards, and a lot of slats. It will easily fit in a couple of boxes, even if they are just a foot wide.
                • by msauve ( 701917 )
                  You only need a fairly small piece of cardboard under each corner. Maybe you should just hire it done.
                  • Apparently you are willing to be a lot more delicate than I am when putting together furniture. I have a pretty big house, and there is just no room to maneuver with that 'a box under each corner' nonsense.
        • by mark-t ( 151149 )

          I'm somewhat surprised by this article, as every Ikea store I've shopped at (4 stores, all different cities) has a service that you can pay for to get someone to come to your home and assemble the furniture. I had no idea it was not a standard thing that was done everywhere, and must apparently just be a service offered by the Ikea stores that I happen to have shopped at.

          I've never paid for the service, but it's my understanding that if they fail to build it correctly, or damage it during assembly, the

          • Likewise. Pretty certain this is offered in most IKEAs in the UK.

            Not sure this is a new service, more that they are going to use TaskRabbit to either expand it or replace the existing system in the US.

      • When I was a kid we had a rubber mallet, it was fairly hard but slightly malleable, perfect for hammering in dowels without harming the surface of anything. Lacking that, try a few layers of towel over a hammer head...

      • by Saithe ( 982049 )
        You know you don't HAVE to hammer it in with one shot, you can just tap it nicely a few times and it'll go in just the same. ;)
        • Some parts are difficult to go in. I just put together a shelving unit with a threaded metal piece to be hammered in. It had four spikes rather than nails so it took a lot of force. Tapping wasn't going to do it.
      • I've never not been able to do the assembly without marring the gloss white finish in at least one spot.

        Sounds like a general approach you use to assembly rather than anything IKEA specific. Place the dowel in, put a piece of wood over the top to give you a larger hitting target, and tap gently.

        The only real complaint I have with IKEA is they tell you to use Philips head screwdrivers while providing Pozidrive screws. The biggest damage I see is stripped screw heads.

    • You are describing something that takes long term focus on one subject. Have you seen modern people? The modern environment has trained everyone to have a short attention span.

      Also there are people that are just lazy.

      Instead of paying someone to assemble cheap furniture, spend that money to buy something that looks better, comes assembled, and will last a lifetime.

      • I bet if you do a cost-benefit analysis you'll find that it's competitive to buy slightly better, preassembled stuff than to pay someone to put cheap stuff together for you.

        • I don't know about that. Pre-assembled can be pretty pricey - after all you really are still paying to have someone put it together for you. It just happens before you see it. And you're probably paying skilled worker rates rather than gig worker rates.

          • Yes, but those skilled workers are assembling in a perfect work environment with all tools needed on hand and in order. That has to cut down on their time.

            • by TWX ( 665546 )

              The first important bit is that they're not merely assembling a flat-pack kit, they're actually manufacturing furniture. It's not manufacture-then-assemble as two separate stages, it's assemble-as-manufacturing as a single process.

              Second, the product is designed for its finished result, not for its flatpack design. It's probably better furniture simply because it's not designed with flatpack as a strong consideration.

          • by TWX ( 665546 )

            Whenever someone talks about gig-worker rates I'm reminded of Benny Hill's "Fred Scuttle" character on The Benny Hill Show that would do things like organize budget vacations for four quid, with predictably disastrous results.

        • It's not so clear cut. On the one hand, assembling things in a factory is likely to be largely automated and a lot cheaper than having people come out to assemble things. On the other hand, shipping flat-packed furniture is a lot more efficient than shipping pre-assembled furniture. That said, the limiting factor is often weight, not size, at least for the last leg of delivery. When I've had flat-packed furniture delivered, I've never seen the delivery lorry more than about a third full (often a lot les
    • Absolutely, I put up 3 tables, something like 20 chairs, 3 big TV/media, multiple living-room kallax and besta, shelves, beds, whatever, ~80 furnitures in all, and it's easy, just follow the step.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      Even changing instructions from text to pictograms isn't simple enough for some millennials. They want video.
      • I think you're getting the cause and effect backwards here. Youtube is free, so why the fuck not?
      • The pictures are worse than text. They're so minimal it's often difficult to determine which piece is which, which way it should be facing / flipped, and which order do do the various sub steps in (or if any of that matters).

        • Ikea ones are pretty easy to follow. We bought a new house about a year ago and did a lot of flatpack assembly. The Ikea directions were in a completely different league to companies like Homebase / Argos (same company now), Wilko, and B&Q. Each step was clear and the diagrams always let you easily see which orientation almost-symmetrical pieces should go and so on. In contrast, every other manufacturer's directions left me swearing.
    • When I hear someone complain about Ikea furniture being too hard to put together, it tells me immediately that they are an idiot (just like back in the 80s if their VCR flashed "12:00AM" continuously).
      • just like back in the 80s if their VCR flashed "12:00AM" continuously

        That doesn't mean that you're an idiot, it can just mean that you're lazy. It's been over a decade since I last had a power cut at home, but in the '80s we'd have at least a brief (under 5 minutes) one every few weeks and the VCR didn't have battery backup for its clock. We'd typically only bother to reset it when we wanted to use the timer record facility.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      It's not difficult, it's just bothersome. The engineering of their furniture is interesting, but it's tedious to assemble. And it takes a long time, there's a lot of small pieces that need to be repetitively be put together.

      Occasionally I run into steps where I need 3 hands -- two pieces are loose fit and adding the third with the fastener makes it prone to falling apart before you can set the third piece.

      My only other complaint is that quality is hit or miss. Sometimes the finished piece isn't that sound

    • It is if you buy add-ons, and realize the add-on requires you to undo step 11 and 12 from the primary piece of furniture, which happens to be a 6 ft high mirrored sliding door of your bedroom closet. Of course, undoing step 11 and 12 means also re-doing steps 5 to 10, because that's all the small pieces that are in the way or on the component to remove. Not mentioning you only have about 2 inches to manoeuvre between the ceiling and the top of the closet. This is basically impossible if you're not with at l
    • Yeah, I have no idea where the idea came from that IKEA furniture is hard to put together. However, it often requires *two* people for the larger pieces. And I can certainly see wanting to hire help sometimes.
    • IKEA furniture isn't that difficult to put together. You just need to take your time, follow the directions and try not to misplace any of the small parts.

      And sort all the parts into separate piles and count the parts *before* you start assembly.
      (Ya, seems obvious but people seem to get that confused with "oblivious" all the time.)

    • Well they let right winger shop there so yeah.
    • Actually assembling furniture is a pain in a butt. You see, I personally end up assembling furniture when I change cities. And you can imagine when you move from one end country to another, changing states and jobs, always tight on time, the _last_ thing you need to spend your precious time on is taking half of your day to assemble a sofa and a bookshelf, and the the entire evening to assemble a bed and a drawer.

    • by havana9 ( 101033 )
      Depends of the furniture. There is a service already of transport and assembly, that especially for kitchens is useful.
      This is the one for UK [ikea.com]
      This is the one for France [ikea.com]
      This is for Italy [ikea.com]
      Installing a kitchen is difficult, you have to be at least in three and have some woodworking tooks available if you have to fit and adjust some things, as always happen.
      Not to mention the safety hazard problems you have to install a gas or electric stove if you don't have the right tools to check that the pipes are ga
    • If you are to pay someone to assemble your IKEA furniture, you are nullifying the price advantage to buy this crap at a bargain price in first place. So, you better than put that money on better, already assembled furniture. Take into consideration your IKEA furniture will end up in the garbage within a 5 to 10 years period of time. High quality furniture will last many generations. IKEA furniture is a good idea for the young people just starting in life and prone to move in the early period of their adult
    • by Rande ( 255599 )

      Not worked in helpdesk have you?
      There are people who literally cannot follow the simplest of directions without you being physically there to direct them.

    • by sa1lnr ( 669048 )

      Indeed. And everybody is fit and able to assemble a wardrobe, bed or table on their own. Aren't they?

  • I've assembled a few pieces of Ikea furniture in my lifetime and I've never found the task to be particularly difficult. Time consuming, yes... but not hard.

    Ikea offers this service already, by the way.

  • I thought that being easy to assemble was one of the primary selling points of Ikea stuff.

  • If you are suffering from extreme cases of cat parasites, simple everyday tasks like assembling IKEA furniture can be a challenging. Considering how widespread this disease is, this service is much needed for all the disabled individuals.
  • by Major_Disorder ( 5019363 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @03:48PM (#55271609)
    But I actually enjoy putting this stuff together. I am color blind, but I imagine it is like what other people get out of doing jigsaw puzzles. Except when I am done I have a piece of furniture instead of a picture with a bunch of wavy lines through it. Crappy furniture I admit, but still better than a crappy picture.
    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday September 29, 2017 @03:36AM (#55274891)

      Crappy furniture I admit

      What you meant to say was "accordingly priced" furniture. As far as quality for price goes it's about the best bang for buck you can get on the market. Shelves priced about the same as typical low cost Chinese import, but without sagging when you dare to place a book on them. Even their kitchen countertops are actually capable of withstanding the abuse typical of a kitchen.

  • What will prevent them from making their instructions more unclear in order to drive customers towards their new "service"?

  • Wow, that summary sure editorialized. Task Rabbit, from what I can tell, sounds much more like a contractor than a "gig."

    My mom would like their service; not that hard to assemble, but still easier than doing yourself.

    • These guys take 20% of your earnings and provide no benefits? Sounds like a real gig economy setup. In contrast, the agency through which I currently do contract work take 3% of my fee rate, and for that they provide people who match assignments to my skills rather than only provide a damn website where I have to look for jobs myself. Plus they pay my invoices on the dot even if the client is a bit late with paying theirs.
      • A general contractor would mark up a sub contractor by at least 15% in construction; depending (entirely) what the task rates are, it isn't that bad of a deal.

  • I don't have a lot of flat pack stuff, but putting it together always makes me consider if I shouldn't just grab the kreg jig and screw everything together instead of using the dowels and bolts.
  • I am sorry but, what ? I have built table, beds, shelves, a swivel chair all from Ikea. Heck 5 months ago I unmounted them for a move a rebuilt them. They are not hard to mount and usually the visual instruction shows you all pieces with letter and steps of instructions by number... The few people I know which had a hard time was because they were not following simple steps : 1) have the proper tool 2) identify before even mounting the pieces and screws you have got by their picture/letter 3) read the damn
  • This is the same reason fast food restaurants exist; people are too lazy or don't have time to do it themselves.

  • Maybe their bicycles and accessories [ikea.com] are harder to assemble than their furniture?
  • In what way it is tough? It sure requires some effort from you, but, from an intellectual point of view, you just have to have a modicum of common sense, and a capacity to follow instructions. It is not tough, but you have to work.
    • Not always tough, but sometimes awkward. Like:

      - Screws in places where you cannot get a screwdriver to fit.
      - Crawling around on your living room floor for two and a half hours (hope you have carpeting)
      - Missing fasteners
      - Build materials out of tolerance
  • Ikea's Stuff is Tough To Assemble

    Do people genuinely have that much trouble assembling Ikea? My seven-year-old boy just built a bunch of cupboards for his room. All I had to do was some of the final hammering and screw tightening.

    Is this really something grownups struggle with?

  • If Ikea's products are tough to assemble, they should not buy a startup to build it for you. They should buy a startup to make it *EASY* to assemble.
  • 99% of the comments on here are about how easy Ikea is to assemble, and how dumb their customers are. Nobody noticed that TaskRabbit is charging 20% for this service?!?! That seems a little steep, doesn't it?
  • You should be sterilized and banned from voting.
  • Yep.. Ikea products are definitely hard to assemble. Not only that, the assembly instructions are poorly written/illustrated.

    But do I want to pay $120 for someone to assemble my $100 desk? HELL NO!!! Are you stupid? The simple answer is that I buy my stuffs from somewhere else.
  • ... unless you're fucking retarded.

    But then given that Russia just brainwashed an entire country's worth of rednecks into electing a serial-bankrupt paedophile over Twitter, anything is possible really :-(

  • Take into account the time you need to screw Ikea stuff together. Or the money you need to pay for the startup.

    Then consider that you wind up with extremely heavy chip wood furniture that won't survive a move. Also, the heaviness makes disposal in the country I live an avoidable expense.

    Ask yourself whether you want to be surrounded by exactly the same furniture your neighbor has. Crooked doors included.

    Suddenly paying twice the amount for good looking light furniture that you can take with you to yo

  • if you can get through your basic lego, you should be able to put together ikea stuff. jeez...
    probably these people are just lazy and rather pay then do it themselves.

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