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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Flintstones Become an Ikea Family
Fred Flintstone

Fred’s boss at the plant scolded him, “why would you buy furniture anywhere but Ikea?” – this is after Fred recounted his tale about being ripped off on a divan purchase by a otechestvenaya (homeland) outfit, affectionately referred as nasha (ours) by locals. “My wife is an interior designer and even she buys from Ikea,” his boss continued.

You may recall from last month’s post that Fred and family have moved into a replacement apartment, gifted to Wilma by the city in exchange for their residence of ten years in a soon-to-be-demolished khruschovka, the five-story, panel construction apartment buildings that were built to accommodate a growing post-war population.

The first official notice finally appeared last summer, pasted to the door of the podyezd (building entrance), notifying apartment owners that they should show up at the city office to choose an apartment. Wilma came home with a contract for the new apartment and a few days later the Flintstones climbed ten floors in the back stairwell of the new building to see the space. It was time for a small celebration and to start shopping around for a kitchen, bathroom fixtures, flooring and even some replacement furniture.

The building well exceeded Fred’s expectations, a sturdy concrete structure with brick trim, with expansive views up and down the Moscow River. The Flintstones spent a Saturday touring nashiy enterprises: the shop of the Italian Marazzi tile company that built a local plant, Stilniye Kukhniye that produces handsome designer kitchens, and finally (let’s call it) Fabrika Fourth of July to look at divans and beds.

Fred Jr. needed a new bed, and the Fabrika Fourth of July Group of Companies (as it was called in the catalog Fred picked up) was offering a nice deal on convertible divans – interest free financing for six months with a thirty percent down payment. The one Fred Jr. picked was on sale at just 30,000 rubles. It would take some weeks to custom fit the fabric Fred Jr. picked, and they could wait to pick it up until the move a few months later. The financing was through a bank, and after a brief phone application at the store, Fred paid the down and they went out to celebrate their first housewarming purchase.

Each month Wilma dutifully made the bank payment, and from time to time the Flintstones stopped in to peruse for their own new bed. The staff was friendly and let them know when Fred Jr’s divan was ready. “Just let us know when you want to take delivery.”

The week the Flintstones received the keys, which meant a move within thirty days, Fred Jr recounted a news item he heard at his grandmother’s that day, “thousands of clients of the Fabrika have lost their divans due to bankruptcy.” They went to the shop; it was empty with only a small white sign providing the legal address of the representative and a phone number. No answer of course when Wilma called.

Fred got on the Internet to check the situation. There was nary a report except for a consumer site with email comments, which by then appeared to have at least one Fabrika contributor to squash any negative press. The Fabrika issued a press release stating that three companies that ordered furniture from them had become bankrupt and that they had no connection with the Fabrika. Funds paid by customers to these three companies had never been received by the Fabrika. But they planned to make a generous offer to the clients of the bankrupt companies. No answer to the questions:

Why were the shops allowed to display huge signage, and carried only the signage, of the Fabrika? What about the firmeniy magazin (company store) signs?

How is it that the Fabrika proceeded to produce divans for these three companies without any prepayment?

Why is the Fabrika unable to provide customers with any legal information about ownership, management, or financial information about these three companies when they operated such a large network of stores under the Fabrika name.

A few days later Wilma got a call from the Fabrika. They had the Fred Jr’s divan and could offer a deal – they could purchase the divan for about 30% of retail price, which was more than 80,000 rubles, or just 28,000 rubles. Wilma still had two more bank payments to make on the first 30k. Fred closed the discussion with a pogovorka (saying) from home, “F*** me once, shame on you. F*** me twice, shame on me.” The Flintstones spent the next month at Ikea.

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