The thought of IKEA brings up complex emotions in many of us. On the one hand, their furniture is affordable and reasonably attractive, and always seems to fit that spot where you need a shelf. On the other hand, wandering aimlessly through their giant stores is a special kind of retail hell, their furniture tends to fall apart too fast, and, oh, they've been accused of doing strange and devious things like spying on their employees. Well, now comes another dark truth about the makers of the beloved Billy bookcase. A documentary for Swedish public television is charging that, back in the time before the Berlin Wall fell, IKEA used East German political prisoners to manufacture some of its furniture.
The retailer allegedly worked hand-in-hand with the Stasi, East Germany's hated secret police, and it was in Stasi files where evidence of IKEA's using political prisoners in manufacturing was found. Yikes. Of course, this happened back in the 1970s and 80s, and the IKEA of today says it is deeply troubled by these allegations. They're conducting an investigation, but a spokeswoman said, "So far there are no indications that we would have asked prisoners to be used in manufacturing or known about it." However, last year a documentary for German television leveled similar allegations against the company, saying that inmates, including political prisoners, in several East German prisons were used to make IKEA furniture, including at one factory that was built right next to a prison where they produced their famous "Klippan" sofa. That certainly makes the thought of buying one—or even sitting on one—significantly less appealing.