IKEA Recalls 1.7 Million Topple-Prone Dressers In China After Media Frenzy

Swedish home-goods merchant IKEA is a global retailer, which unites all of humanity in having the exact same dressers in our bedrooms. While the Malm and other dressers that are especially prone to toppling over were recalled in the United States and Canada, the company sold the products in its stores all over the world, and they weren’t recalled in other markets, notably the European Union and or China. Now, after two weeks of state-controlled media fuss, IKEA in China has recalled the dressers.

The perception of the IKEA brand in China is a little different from here in the U.S. and in Canada. We tend to think of the retailer as a place for starter furniture; “for college kids and divorced men,” as geek troubadour Jonathan Coulton once sang, because of course there’s a pop song about IKEA.

Back to China, though: over there, consumers tend to see imported brands as better quality than items produced domestically. The New York Times explains that Chinese consumers go out of their way and spend extra to buy from IKEA, considering the products superior to Chinese brands.

That leads to higher expectations, which in turn led to consumer outrage when customers learned that the dressers had been recalled in Canada and the U.S., but not in China. The company explained that the products sold in those markets met local regulations, so there was no need to recall them.

In the U.S., the standard that the dressers didn’t meet was a voluntary one, and the products were only recalled after six known deaths of small children dating back to 1989. However, Chinese media turned the geographically limited recall into a scandal, and the company finally gave in to pressure and recalled affected dressers.

Dressers sold in the European Union still haven’t been recalled. The lesson here: the growing population of middle-class Chinese consumers aren’t going to accept even the suggestion that safety standards there should be any lower there compared to the rest of the world.

Ikea Extends Recall to China After Criticism [New York Times]