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September 2, 2011

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IKEA becomes life of the party

IKEA, the international chain furniture and home-decorating store, has seen one of its local outlets turned into a matchmaking site for middle-aged people.

In the IKEA outlet in Xuhui District, a "matchmaking corner" for people in their 40s to 60s emerged quietly in the store's canteen, bringing trouble to the store and its customers.

Single men and women gather there every Tuesday and Thursday to enjoy a free cup of coffee and air-conditioning, refusing to move until supper time. The activity has lasted for nearly a year, an IKEA spokesman said.

Yesterday Shanghai Daily witnessed more than 30 people sitting in the "free coffee zone," which was recently separated from the dining area in the canteen to make way for the "matchmaking groups."

As IKEA member card holders, patrons can enjoy free coffee. They bring in their own water, fruit, snacks or even lunch and spend the day there. Foods such as deep-fried dough sticks, pancakes and melon seeds were left piled on the table yesterday.

Participants don't remember exactly when the IKEA became such a matchmaking site.

"There is no organizer in fact, and we just come here under friends' introduction," said a middle-aged woman who preferred to remain anonymous.

"We are all single, but most of us don't really expect to develop a long-term, stable relationship or even get married," she added. "In fact, not many people tie the knot through the get-together here."

But people seemed to have gotten used to the regular "party," and don't plan to change to other locales.

IKEA, however, expressed annoyance at the group because their behavior not only disturbs other consumers, but also affects the canteen's business.

"Before we set up an isolated area for them, they occupied the seats in the dining area for a long time, and thus other guests couldn't find a seat," said Shen Jinhua, a staff member with the company. "And sometimes our business went down by 15 percent on their 'party' day."

He said there may be more bad news for the store, as a similar group has begun showing up in IKEA's Beicai outlet in the Pudong New Area.

Wang Chaowu, a security guard for the canteen, said members of the group often throw garbage and spit in the canteen.

They are also extremely loud and noisy, disturbing other customers. And once when a security guard tried to get them to tone things down, he was splashed with a cup of hot coffee and seriously scalded on the chest.

IKEA recently issued a notice in the canteen to remind people not to disturb other customers. It has had little effect.


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