A very recent story by the LA Times reminded us of one of our favorite threads in the Shanghai Expat forums: Chinese behaving badly at the Ikea in Shanghai. According to the article about the Swedish furniture maker’s Beijing location, shopping for actual Ikea goodies can sometimes seem like getting a souvenir at the end of a trip to a theme park. A furniture theme park:
Every weekend, thousands of looky-loos pour into the massive showroom to use the displays. Some hop into bed, slide under the covers and sneak a nap; others bring cameras and pose with the decor. Families while away the afternoon in the store for no other reason than to enjoy the air conditioning.
Visitors can’t seem to resist novelties most Americans take for granted, such as free soda refills and ample seating. They also like the laid-back staffers who don’t mind when a child jumps on a couch.
Purchasing anything at Yi Jia, as the store is called here, can seem like an afterthought.
“It’s the only big store in Beijing where a security guard doesn’t stop you from taking a picture,” said Jing Bo, 30, who was looking for promising backdrops for a photograph of his girlfriend.
If the Shanghai Expat forums (and our own experiences outfitting out our pad) are to be believed, Shanghai’s Ikea suffers from the same problem. In any day during the summer, though mostly on weekends, you’ll find people in Ikea doing the following things:
- Changing diapers on the cafeteria tables
- Wiping boogers on the cushions of the display sofas
- Napping or lounging on the display sofas
- Doing portrait shots on the pretty furniture – even sexy portrait shots.
- Having a picnic in the dining room furniture area
- Making use of the display bowls for those picnics
- Peeing between the rows of the collection warehouse (to be fair, only children have been seen doing this so far)
Ikea, for the most part, allows the behavior to go on in hopes that these browsers and day trippers will one day become buyers. In waiting for the burgeoning middle class, they face the same challenges most retailers seem to run across – a decidedly frugal populace and plenty of copycats (including ones brazen enough to come into the store with measuring tape).
As for foreigner reactions, if Shanghai Expat is any indication, they range from horrified disgust to shrugging acceptance and amusement. Having been in China for a while, we’re probably closer to the amusement side of the spectrum – still, we make it a rule to never taking display furniture home with us.
Photo from Hi Shanghai