Ah yes, IKEA: the Swedish furniture giant known for its warehouses full of inexpensive furniture, Swedish meatballs, and…serial-dating Chinese seniors? In recent years, IKEA cafeterias in China have mysteriously transformed into a popular destination for elderly Chinese to gather and spend time with one another, often for hours at a time. Managers at the IKEA location in Shanghai complain that many visitors do not even make purchases before settling themselves down in the canteen to socialize with strangers who are there for the same reason.
Me and my friend visited IKEA and ate lunch there recently. I enjoy eating their veggie balls with gravy and rice. Their vegetables are also tasty but a bit bland.
The branch, described in the column to have had difficulties because of free-riders, is located in Shanghai. The 35,square meter floor space store is bigger than typical outlets in Europe but the smallest of IKEA's 11 stores in China. It is also unusual because it is in the city center and 60 percent of its visitors arrive by public transport.
Store managers decided to clamp down on what they described as 'illegal date clubs'. Since the store opened several years ago, hundreds of lonely, divorced or widowed elderly people have descended on the cafeteria in search of love and companionship. Management said they occupied seats for 'extended periods,' 'spoke loudly,' 'spat on the floor,' 'flirted' and had 'quarrels and fights'. The store posted a notice saying: "From today, the restaurant will only be for people who purchase their food first.
Editor's note: A notice at Ikea Shanghai has been shared widely among netizens on Chinese social media. It states that the store's cafeteria now requires customers to order food before sitting down in cafeteria seats. The policy is in response to an elderly blind dating group that occupies seats for a long time, consuming only their own food, brought from home.
Ikea has banned an elderly matchmaking group from one of its restaurants in China unless it agrees to start paying up. The Swedish retailer has told its cafeteria in Shanghai to stop anyone having a seat unless they buy food. But there are barely any peers there.
Sun was dressed in a navy blue suit, and wore his dyed black hair slicked back. The only tell-tale sign of his 70 years was a cluster of white hair at the end of his right eyebrow. For about an hour, he sat there all by himself, peering at the other patrons cruising around the nearly full seat cafe.
Frank Langfitt. An elderly Chinese man and woman chat at a park in Shanghai. Hundreds of elderly Shanghai residents make their way to IKEA twice a week for an informal lonely hearts club.
Turns out that when your giant, tax-dodging global furniture enterprise pitches itself as a kind of flat-pack-on-tap public utility, it gets treated like one. Init was poor Germans who used their local Ikeas as a day-care and soup-kitchen. A decade later, the pensioners of Shanghai are treating it as a social club, where they can "picnic, nap, and read newspapers" and meet by the hundreds for a blind-dating event in the cafeteria, for hours, without buying anything.
By Malcolm MooreShanghai. For the past year, large groups of middle-aged Chinese men and women, typically aged between 40 and 60, have gathered at Ikea's branch in Xuhui in the hope of finding love. The singles parties have taken place every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, when the Swedish furniture store offers free coffee to holders of its membership card. Ikea's enormous stores have become a second home to many Chinese, with families congregating at the weekend to nap on the display beds and eat in the cafe.