IKEA stores, a wonderland for Chinese freeloaders
Taking a nap, freeloading on air-conditioning, sipping free coffee, and organizing a speed dating event…It seems that quite a number of Chinese go to IKEA stores for anything but furniture shopping.
A net user named @薇薇诺诺2661317325 posted on Sina Weibo, China’s hugely popular microblogging service, a series of photos she took in an IKEA store in the eastern city of Nanjing where almost every bed in the show rooms is occupied by one or two people soundly asleep. “From age 0 to 80, each of them has fallen into a rapturous sleep! Even on those beds that are not occupied, sheets are in a mess after a havoc has been created,” she commented.
The post has immediately resonated with Chinese netizens, and has so far got more than 35,000 shares. A majority of the 4,700 strong commenters echoed the complaint.
“At least those sleepers in your photos are decently dressed,” one wrote, “Last Friday evening when I went to the Beijing IKEA store, a lot of male shoppers I saw were topless while sleeping.”
“Here am I , from Chengdu. I saw parents browse around on their own after they lulled their child to sleep in a showroom bed,” another wrote.
A third commenter from Shanghai chimed in, “A sweater-knitting auntie and a granny that likes doing embroidery are frequent visitors. Some even sit inside leisurely peeling edamame beans after their grocery shopping. Scenes inside Shanghai’s IKEA store make people speechless!”
According to Shanghai Morning Post, employees at a Shanghai IKEA store have grown much too used to the sight. They told the reporter that from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 8 p.m. onwards on weekends are the ‘rush hour’ in beds, whereas from Monday to Friday, the place is packed with ‘familiar faces’, who come either for free cool air or with their dates to meet. Many lovebirds are so not shy about public display of affection that employees often find themselves obliged to stop them from cuddling and kissing in bed. “Perhaps (it’s because) we have made here quite cozy and home-like.”
The home product giant has also become children’s favorite playground with colorful decorations the plush toys. In one showroom, grandparents chatted on the couch while two kids were jumping on the couch and playing pillow fights. In another, a girl fell asleep on a sofa bed after she snacked on chips bought elsewhere. Her mother told Shanghai Morning Post, “I just want to bring my daughter here to play. Shopping is secondary. Kids want to eat, play and sleep. IKEA can satisfy all these needs.”
Wang Yan, PR specialist at IKEA’s marketing department, said, IKEA does not try to prohibit sleeping on its display beds, “We encourage everyone to try before making a purchase…We usually don’t hustle a shopper away. We will only remind him if he has lied in a display bed long enough to affect another shopper who waits to try the bed.”
In contrast to the IKEA’s official couldn’t-care-less attitude, some staffers and many customers frown upon the slumber party. One staffer said it has had an adverse effect on sales. “Some really ungraceful and unseemly sleep positions will affect how shoppers perceive our product, to the point where they decide not to buy it.” Besides, messy beds brings them extra workload. Many of them make more beds in a year than an average people does in his entire life.
Many shoppers also complained that display items have become too dirty. “I really don’t understand why someone would want their child to take a nap here. Any people can lie here. Really wonder how many bacteria there is,” Ms. Xu, said.
Last year, IKEA Shanghai experienced a coffee crisis. It told its customers that 30 yuan (US$4.6) spent on a membership card can guarantee them countless free refills of coffee in the cafeteria. The promotion became a near disaster: each Tuesday and Thursday, hundreds of members of a matchmaking club at their middle age and beyond came from all over the city and took up seats for five or six hours while meeting their dates. Each one of them got free coffee from an organizer who flashed her own IKEA membership card to the staff at the cafeteria and then generously extended her privilege to everyone in the club. Bags of creamer, sugar and disposable cups ran out in half an hour.