“Hej!” is the traditional greeting for visitors to IKEA stores, but in Shanghai one group of longstanding customers has found themselves rather less welcome.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, older singletons have congregated in the bistro at the Xuhui store to gossip, make friends and sometimes even find love.
In keeping with IKEA’s policy in China, which welcomes its “patrons” to feel at home in their stores, this golden-years group has never been required to buy anything from the bistro. Many brought their own food and drink during their day of leisure, and others hold IKEA membership cards, which entitled them to free coffee from the bistro.
According to the Shanghaiist website, the penny-scrimping practices have been driving the café’s revenues down 20% on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
On October 5 the situation changed as signs were put up demanding that people “Buy food first, and then find a seat”. The new signage shocked the regulars, but according to ThePaper.cn it hasn’t resolved the problem of table-hogging. The savvier pensioners now simply spend Rmb10 ($1.48) on the cheapest item on the menu and still stay the whole day, with the food often lying untouched in front of them.
One customer explained to the reporter, “These buns are just tokens! All we do is put them here so that the workers can see them.”
For some of the store’s younger patrons, the new policy is a welcome step. “This group’s behaviour has already disrupted the normal order of the store,” one whippersnapper told ThePaper.cn.
Elsewhere in China the Swedish improvement chain still welcomes visitors to relax in its stores and cafes free of charge, so perhaps this isolated restriction in Shanghai may yet be rescinded by more senior management.
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