After years of allowing its cafeteria area to serve as a “dating scene” for local retirees, Shanghai IKEA is shutting down the party with new rules to restrict seniors from socializing at its store.
New rules implemented October 5 at the Xujiahui-based store say customers must first purchase food before entering the dining area and they aren’t allowed to bring in food from elsewhere either.
Store personnel are patrolling the dining area, which has been cordoned off.
Single Shanghai retirees have been converging at IKEA as a place to socialize and possibly meet a new marriage partner. However, participants of the twice-weekly meeting have attracted controversy for talking too loudly and taking away seating from paying customers. Fracases have also broken out throughout the history of the social gatherings.
Shanghai IKEA had previously attempted to control the social fraternity in 2011 by limiting the retirees to a corner of the cafeteria, but was ultimately unsuccessful.
Zhang Xiaofang, 63, told Shanghai Daily that the IKEA meetings are important because it had been too difficult to meet people since her husband died 15 years ago. “I come here mainly to meet and talk with other elderly people. We are very lonely and there are not many places for us to meet new friends,” said Zhang.
So far, the retirees have attempted to circumvent the rules by purchasing the cheapest food item in the IKEA restaurant, priced around 10 yuan, while 60 others converged around tables outside the eating area. No such policy has been instituted at Beijing IKEA branches, mainly because the social gatherings have been strictly a Shanghai phenomenon.
IKEA stores in China have been notable for becoming hangouts for Chinese customers. An open customer policy has resulted in a phenomenon whereby Chinese visitors to IKEA come and sleep in their beds and sofas.