IKEA Store Can’t Keep Elderly Freeloaders Out of Its Cafe

An IKEA store in Shanghai, China claims it has been forced to enforce special rules in order to keep elderly freeloaders from virtually taking over the place for hours at a time and engaging in blind dating sessions.

IKEA is very popular in China. Some people love the furniture mega-stores so much that they spend whole days in them without buying a single item. A few years ago we reported on a bizarre trend that involved people simply coming to IKEA and sleeping on the comfortable beds and sofas on display for hours, or just walking around and enjoying the free air conditioning. This kind of thing has been going on in China for the past 15 years, since the chain arrived in the Asian country, and it’s still very popular today. But it’s apparently not the only problem the Swedish retailer has been facing. Recently, an IKEA store in Shanghai has been dealing with a large group of elderly people that frequently spends hours in its popular cafe without buying anything.

Chinese media reports that dozens sometimes hundreds of elderly men and women meet up at the IKEA cafe in Shanghai every week, for long blind-dating sessions. They stay there for hours without buying any foods or drinks, and act like they own the place. According to a notice board put up by the Shanghai store, the group has been seriously affecting the cafe’s operations with their “uncivilized behavior”. Among the cited offences, the notice mentions “taking up seats for long hours, bringing outside food and tea, speaking loudly, spitting, and having quarrels and fights.”

To discourage the group from using the cafe as a free venue for their blind-dating events, IKEA has recently introduced a new rule that requires patrons to buy something from the cafe before they are seated. That hasn’t worked out quite the way they expected, because the persistent elderly daters now buy the cheapest item on the menu – a 4 yuan ($0.60) croissant – and leave it on the table so the staff can see it. They keep bringing in foods and drinks from outside and are as noisy and uncivilized as before.

But even as they exploit this loophole in IKEA’s new rule, the elderly still complain about it. “This is compulsory consumption. I don’t think it’s fair,” one of them told a local paper, while another called the restrictions “baffling”.

It’s going to take a lot more to drive these IKEA fans away, though. As it turns out, the cafe has been their favorite blind-dating venue for a few years now. In 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that between 70 and 700 elderly Chinese met up there every week in search of romance, enjoying free coffee and feasting on food they brought from home. Just like today, they often got into fights and security guards had to intervene.

Simply driving them away was never a very effective solution, as security guard Li Ya told WSJ. He once tried to tell one of them to quiet down and got scalding coffee splashed in his face. “They always argue that they have the right to do what they want here,” he said, adding that the elderly don’t particularly enjoy being told what to do by someone tens of years their junior.

Posted in News        Tags: , , , ,