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Wake Up, Sleepy Ikea Shoppers!

Joy Ho for NPR

Ikea sure makes Chinese shoppers comfortable. Customers of all ages nap on sofas and beds in showrooms all over China.

The Swedish furniture giant has had enough. In April 2015, a Beijing Ikea store introduced a new regulation, banning people from sleeping on furniture displays. But customers did not obey the rules. And Ikea staff members have found it difficult to implement the no-nap policy.

And then there are the Shanghai seniors who went on group blind dates in the well-lit canteen without ordering anything — not even the Swedish meatballs. They'd sit and chat for hours, while other customers were holding food trays and yet couldn't find a seat.

Ikea's Shanghai outpost in Xuhui district asked people who brought their own snacks and drink and held the seats for too long to buy something from the cafeteria before being seated. That plan didn't work out either. Some would just buy a croissant — paying the equivalent of 60 cents — so they could enjoy the canteen facilities.

And now the nappers have a nemesis.

This month, a comedian who goes by the name of Longge (literal translation: "the Dragon Brother") posted videos on his YouTube channel in which he and his friends wake up random people who are sleeping in Ikea showrooms.

In the video, they pretend they're customers checking out products in the bedroom displays. When they encounter a sleeper, they snatch the duvet, grab the pillow, pull up the mattress and even lie down with the sleeper.

"You can't see I'm sound asleep?" says one gray-haired man napping on a sofa. "You people are so uncivilized."

The five-minute video has received more than 30,000 likes and 5,500 comments on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter. Most of the netizens say Longge did a great job, and Ikea should do something about people who nap on furniture displays.

Only a few people say Longge went a little too far. "Some people might be just very tired," says a netizen. "Some workers don't own a place in the city. What's the problem of taking a little nap there during lunch break?"

The Swedish retailer opened its first store in China in 1998, when the Chinese middle class had just started to grow. Ikea had a tough time drawing Chinese customers, who considered the Nordic brand a luxury that's out of their reach. To cater to the Chinese market, Ikea has lowered prices by half over the past decade and encouraged people to try out products and make themselves at home.

In 2015, a spokeswoman for Ikea China told the Wall Street Journal that they do encourage Chinese customers to touch and try products. Maybe that's why people nap comfortably and children play with sample toys in the kids' section. One couple even stayed overnight and livestreamed a hide-and-seek game (although without Ikea's permission).

And Ikea gets what it wanted: a quick expansion in the country. There are 24 stores so far, and in 2016 customers spent almost $2 billion in the food department alone. And everybody knows that a big meal can make you sleepy.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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