In Johann Stenebo's newly translated book 'The Truth about Ikea' the huge Swedish furniture store Ikea is rumbled, and dragged through the mud. Some of our worst fears are realised. When something is too good to be true like Ikea it IS too good to be true. Sweden's reputation takes a double whammy this week because of the strong suspicion that they have used a trumped up charge (on behalf of others unknown?!) to take Julian Assange into custody.
Sweden, that 'wonderful land' of tall healthy blond people, the land of the Nobel peace prize, of the goodness of socialism etc, has had its almost impeccable image besmirched.
British customers were so mad about Ikea in the 1990s, so in love with their yellow bags (that you feel desperate to fill up), their yellow arrows (that control one's every move herding you around like penned sheep), that their management decided to charge Brits more for their goods than other countries, and use the extra profits to expand and build up their network of branches. More fool us.
Cheap raw materials are the key to Ikea's low prices, 'instead of using the best, they use the cheapest' says Stenebo in his book. During the year a mere 13.1% tax was paid, and their green credentials are minimal despite their exaggerated claims.
All in all this has been a bad week for Sweden, let's hope they will take some positive steps to improve their image, drop the charges against Julian Assange, and make sure Ikea cleans up its act, and we should all make a New Years resolution to be more sceptical.