Oak has lost its heart

Is this accurately described?

Argos is a catalog retailer with over 800 outlets throughout Britain. It’s the largest general-goods dealer in the UK. there are hundreds such companies in the US with one of the largest being IKEA.

I visited the Argos store in Derby UK
this weekend and saw this sign. The sign is both explicit and subliminal in that it states the table to be “Oak” when it has never seen or smelled or touched oak in its life except for the pallet it was shipped to the UK on, and that the chairs associated with it are made of pine and colour-matched to oak. Oak, what is described as a Chiltern Oak Table, is in fact what we call particle board (in the US) and chipboard (in the UK). This material is not continuous-grain real wood but pulverized chips held together with synthetic resins and bulking agents. It is a false-economy board that seems inexpensive to buy but lasts for a fraction of the time real wood does. If I were to use this material and sell my furniture as Oak I would be prosecuted by process of law for false representation otherwise know as lying. Argos does this blatantly and no one knows because no one knows. The staff don’t know, and people don’t know, but, underneath, lying on their backs with their iPhone as I am to get these pics, they know. Melamine surfaces that look like oak like this are deceiving everyone. It proudly states a half price reduction on something that probably cost Argos less then £50. If you buy this table it will most likely last less than 5 years max. The legs are 3/4” thick corner jointed so they look visually at first glance to be 4” x 4”. If you drag this table across a carpet the legs will fall off I assure you.

Look at the underside of this table corner. No joints just screws and glue. This wicked deception by manufacturers and sales outlets to deprive people of true and fit-for-purpose products. How did we end up here? Anyone!!! I mean how can the majority of the UK or US populations accept this greed and pollution. This invasion of truth and trust with such blatant misrepresentation.

Let’s look at this chair for a moment. By association this chair is sold with artificial oak table as part of the suite. The chair has the same colour as the oak table but is actually made from low-grade pine. It to the point of dangerous in that it has no strength. The joinery again is screw fixings uniting corners in three dimensional quadrangle but has no integrity of structural and mechanical joinery. Imagine the hoops these engineers jumped through to come up with such a distortion of truth. This chair’s lifespan is about two years with very careful use. Why am I so despondent when companies do such despicable things. IKEA does exactly the same. What a sad day we live in.

And guess what? You get to assemble it all by yourself!

13 thoughts on “Oak has lost its heart”

  1. It troubles me, just like it troubles you. I try to tell people that this kind of furniture isn’t even qualified to be burnt, but price is the only point that people listen to — even when that same price needs to be paid again and again every two years, their memory fails them and they shell it out. Even the most thoughtful person seems to just shrug it away as though there was no other choice.

    1. Patrick Anderson

      This same scenario applies to almost all the goods one may purchase. Stores like Wal Mart force companies to sell at a price point. The manufacturer can’t supply it for that price using local labour/materials so off it goes to China et al and the downward spiral continues.

      I would bet that less than 3% of the goods sold in WM were made in the USA or EU. Unfortunately, society has become used to cheap, disposable goods and it will take a lot to convince them of their error.

      1. When I first migrated to the USA, for about five years, Walmart flew the made-in-America flag on its product and then as if overnight the US products disappeared. The same thing happened in the UK.

        1. Patrick Anderson

          I remember reading a story about the Snapper Mower Company. WM approached them to sell their riding mowers in their stores and then said they had to make them to a WM price. The people at Snapper told them to get stuffed 😀

          1. That makes me more proud than ever to be riding a snapper!
            Thanks for the info.
            Paul, I remember Wally World’s use of the Made in the USA labels in the early days and you’re right, it didn’t seem like long long before they sold us all out.

  2. furniture like this is killing real woodworking.it makes a lot more sense to make your own furniture using proper joinery and good quality timber it will look a lot better and last a lot longer.

  3. I don’t know that I would call this a product of greed from the retailer but rather a desire for the illusion of wealth and acceptance of a general low standard from the population. In the past a few pieces of quality furniture would have been prized and passed down through the generations, now “we” all want our latest fashion, color coordinated, psuedo oak, blah blah furniture set.

    1. Michael Bullock

      I agree with you Keith. I think stuff like this sells because people want to purchase a “look” at a “price point”. I think lots of folks are happy to buy this stuff then put it on a curb for the trash pickup after a couple years. Personally, I like things that last and that can acquire their own history. If being made by a real human is part of that history all the better. Inevitably some of the nice things I have acquire a ding or stain over the years, but this just becomes part of the piece. Modern culture in the US loves disposable thing. It cares only about the surface of goods and only for a moment.

  4. Similar things are happening with out food supply and in other areas of commerce. At this point, it seems the best fix is to grow it/make it yourself or buy it from someone local you trust.

  5. Roeland Middelkoop

    Aah, yes, “Oak” as a colour, rather than a wood species! No worse than “Chocolate” describing colour rather than primary flavor (let alone ingredient!)

  6. Dave Brickhouse

    “How did we end up here? Anyone!!!”

    The Cabinet Maker’s tutor wanted to be repaid time & again for a lifetime’s knowledge.
    20 students x £2,500 each = £50,000 per week.

    His pupils need to recoup their training costs, so a table made by a Cabinet Maker = £3,000-£4,000. You’d pay £300 PER CHAIR. “It’s two week’s work guv’nor!”

    Argos are 10% of the price, and it’ll last 10% of the time.

  7. I understand how we got here, but I don’t disparage the economies of scale that brought us to this point. I see our current situation as a reflection of prevailing attitude and lack of knowledge. This cheap “furniture” sells, because people buy it. Simple as that. Unfortunately, at least here in the US, it’s difficult to even find what I would call “quality furniture”. Even the moderately expensive pieces that are of sturdy construction and use real wood are designed for quick assembly by line workers, not craftsmen/craftswomen. The price gulf between quality pieces from a manufacturer like Stickley and the basically disposable items sold by WalMart, et.al, is now so great, that you have to look hard to find a reasonable middle ground. This was one of the primary reasons I was so attracted to woodworking in the first place. I can’t afford furnish my home in Stickley heirlooms, but I can learn and make my own pieces and know that every cut, every joint, every planed surface was as good as I could make it. Thank you Paul!

  8. It makes me sad to realize that my simple poplar shop stool is better made than the “High end” Furniture I can buy. My kitchen table is close to 18 years old and only now could use a refinish I will not talk about the number of chairs this set has gone through. The original bench still is around but I never did find good matching chairs. Perhaps I should try to make some who know a project for another year perhaps

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