Saturday, June 14, 2014
L3 Reading Comprehension Exercise
Buy Things that Last
Everyone loves a bargain, as long as we believe it’s in good taste. And nobody does low-price, high-style better than IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer. IKEA passes as the anti-Wal-Mart: a company where value and good values coexist. It uses design to make up for its lack of quality, and its brand—represented by all those smiling, white-teethed Scandinavians standing next to smooth, shiny modular furniture with unpronounceable names—as a passport to a guilt-free world of low prices. But put down your 59-cent Färgrik coffee mug and ask yourself: Can we really afford to shop at a place where an item’s price reflects only a fraction of its true cost?
IKEA challenges its talented European team to create ever-cheaper objects, and pressures its suppliers—most of them in low-wage countries in Asia and eastern Europe—to get the lowest possible price. By some measures the world’s third-largest wood consumer, IKEA proudly employs 15 “forestry monitors.” Eight of them work in China and Russia, but illegal logging is widespread in those countries, making it impossible to guarantee that wood is obtained legally. (The company refuses to pay a premium to ensure its wood is legal, saying that costs would be passed along to consumers.) IKEA furniture made of particleboard is not meant to last a lifetime; indeed, some professional movers decline to guarantee its safe transport. But to be fair, creating heirlooms is not IKEA’s goal. Nor, despite a lot of talk to the contrary, is energy conservation: the company boasts of illuminating its stores with low-wattage lightbulbs but positions its outlets far from city centers, where taxes are low and commuting costs are high. The average IKEA customer drives 50 miles round-trip. Cleverly, IKEA transfers transport and energy costs onto consumers, who are then handed the additional inconvenience of assembling their purchases. Designed but not crafted, IKEA bookcases and chairs—like most cheap objects—resist emotional involvement and are often treated as disposable. When they break or malfunction, we tend not to fix them; rather, we throw them out and buy new ones. Wig Zamore, a Massachusetts environmental activist who was recently recognized for his work by the Environmental Protection Agency, is working with IKEA and supports some of the company’s regional green initiatives. But as he put it, “IKEA is the least sustainable retailer on the planet.” And in real costs—the kind that our grandchildren will have to pay—that also makes it among the most expensive.
 A material made of pressed wood fragments and resin.
 A valued possession that is passed down in a family through several generations.
1. According to the author, which of the following statements most closely represents a typical consumer’s view of Ikea’s designs?
a) They hide the furniture’s poor quality.
b) They compensate for the furniture’s poor quality.
c) They aren’t as tasteful as some people suggest.
d) They are exotic because they have Swedish names.
2. The article mentions several ways in which Ikea keeps its costs down, mentioning all of the following EXCEPT:
a) Using suppliers in countries with cheap labor.
b) Locating its retail centers outside of big cities.
c) Buying large amounts of wood every year.
d) Requiring customers to assemble their purchases.
3. According to the text, which of the following is a reason why Ikea is sometimes believed to be a green company?
a) The lamps they sell use low-wattage bulbs.
b) They make furniture out of recycled material.
c) They never buy illegally-harvested wood.
d) They participate in various green initiatives.
4. According to the author, the low quality of Ikea furniture is an environmental problem for all of the reasons below EXCEPT:
a) People don’t usually bother to fix cheap things when they break.
b) People rarely feel any attachment to objects that aren’t well-crafted.
c) Ikea furniture is not designed to last a lifetime.
d) Its low quality makes it unsafe for people to transport.
5. The author’s principal claim against Ikea is that
a) its furniture is of very low quality.
b) its business model harms the environment.
c) it tricks people into believing it’s a “green” company, when in fact it isn’t.
d) the company contributes to deforestation in low-wage countries.