I just read a story that offers a sad commentary on one company’s treatment of the elderly.
At the Ikea store in Shanghai, China, management has put an end to allowing senior citizens to use its cafeteria to socialize and even find partners.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV News reported that the elderly patrons would often buy a cup of coffee or some bread and “spend an entire day just chatting with others”. They are believed to be part of a dating community, making use of their Ikea membership cards.
Ikea put a stop to this type of behavior by imposing a strict “no food, no seating” rule to discourage senior citizens from occupying canteen seats for “extended periods”.
In a notice posted at the entrance of the Ikea Shanghai Restaurant, staff identified a “match-making group” and accused it of “uncivilized behavior”.
“The situation has adversely affected the dining experience and security of most of our customers,” it said, adding that it had received public complaints about “spitting” and “quarrels and fights”.
I’m not sure how elderly people, looking for a place to socialize, could be viewed as any sort of security risk to other customers. And if there is spitting and fighting taking place at an Ikea cafeteria, my guess is that it’s not limited to these matchmaking groups.
There has been mixed reaction to Ikea’s decision.
Some believe that Ikea should show some empathy towards these individuals, since they may be lonely and just looking for companionship. I’m not sure what it says about our world when there are lonely people in the world’s most populous country.
Others complain that it is not right that these elderly people are taking up seats all day without buying anything.
I come down firmly on the side that is against Ikea’s decision.
I think that Ikea should welcome such people to its stores, and have special events to attract more people to its stores. I think they should provide free coffee to these folks. I would think the favorable publicity from such an approach would outweigh the costs.
If it is, or becomes a space issue, then either repurpose some existing space as being just for the elderly, or add on a new space to accommodate these individuals.
I think that a company that shows respect and empathy and support for the elderly is the type of company I would support with my spending, and I think many others would feel the same way.
I hope that Ikea reverses its decision, and the elderly realize that maybe they were looking for love in all the right places after all…
A classic song from a classic movie, Urban Cowboy.