Sad news for elderly lonely hearts in Shanghai: they can no longer look for love in Ikea.
The Swedish furniture giant’s Shanghai store has seen a strange occurrence even locate partners and of senior citizens descending upon its cafeteria that was famous to socialise.
Locals said it occurs twice weekly, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV News reported the elderly patrons would regularly purchase a cup of coffee or some bread and “spend an entire day just chatting with others”.
They are believed to be part of a relationship community, making use in their Ikea membership cards.
This week, Ikea put a stop to it by visiting a strict “no food, no seating” rule to discourage senior citizens from occupying canteen seats for “prolonged periods”.
In a notice posted at the entry of the Ikea Shanghai Restaurant, staff identified an “illegal blind-dating group” and accused it of “uncivilised behavior”.
“It is having a negative implication for our canteen’s operation. From now, the restaurant will simply be for those who purchase their food first.”
The news has brought attention with many in support of the aged, from netizens on Chinese social media.
“They’re benign,” wrote Ed Ed Chiu in a response to a post by CCTV News on the popular Chinese micro-blogging Sina Weibo platform.
Weibo user Lee Xin slammed the move as a “draconian measure” and said it was cruel to elderly patrons.
They are likely expecting to find some business again and are solitary. If anything, the store should practise empathy and at least sympathise with these old folks,” she said.
Some elderly patrons, who spoke to local media outlets criticised the move.
“We have been to fast food outlets like McDonald’s – but there are hardly any peers there,” said an 86-year old guy who went by the name of Qiu.
Mr Qiu told the state-controlled Global Times newspaper: “We feel like aliens – surrounded by kids. If there is another spot in Shanghai where elderly people can assemble, we’re a lot more than ready to pay twice as much and travel farther.”
But others online voiced support for the store’s management, commending its efforts in “keeping shop policy”.
“Intolerable behavior,” said one Weibo user. “I’m with the direction with this. It’s deplorable how individuals are got photographed sleeping on Ikea displays, what spitting and swearing in public? This must not be taken whatsoever.”
Another user Lao Gao from Beijing wrote: “To everyone romanticising this, please also consider that the store has an image to carry on while protecting the interests of other paying customers. It’s ugly behavior to take up seats for such long durations while you make others wait.”