Social media has done its part for better or for worse regarding its influence on global events. Unfortunately, we’ve heard most about election interference, dissemination of fake news, and people generally being vicious to one another. We get it. Human beings can be pretty terrible and have a storied history of spreading it via our increased connectivity. We certainly don’t hear enough about the good, heartwarming, and humorous things social media has been used as a springboard for.
Once upon a time, gatherings of people in public places for flash mobs were sensational events that brought people together for nothing more than a little choreographed fun and laughter. Now, social media has increased the length at which people will go to plan and gather hundreds, thousands, even millions of people into a group with a goal. Whether or not that goal is met or a gathering comes to pass doesn’t matter, the sheer power of numbers is there.
Let’s talk about IKEA for a minute. This place has everything. About 30% of the population drinks coffee and IKEA has a legendary cafe with snacks and bevies aplenty for the shopper who needs sustenance mid-shop. It’s big enough to have traffic signs and lanes painted on the floors. It’s hard not to have everything in a store renowned for their scale and popularity. Some 45 million people move every year and IKEA is one of the most common places on the planet to buy, well, everything you could possibly need for your home. But, amidst the sprawling shopping citadel that is IKEA, there also happens to be plenty of room for mischief beyond the coffee, couches, and cacophonous consumerism.
A recent social media event that was kept underground had gathered enough momentum to cause police action to preemptively gather in an attempt to stop the event before it started. In Glasgow, Scotland, a Facebook event gathered the interest of some 3,000 people committed to mobbing an IKEA to play a massive game of hide-and-seek. It may seem harmless enough, but, in case you’ve never been inside an IKEA, the Swedish furniture store is gargantuan, with the largest store in the world boasting a 700,000 square foot expanse. The flooring industry in the U.S., from 2016 to 2017 alone, reported growth of 3.85% in dollars and 3.2% in volume. IKEA, having some of the largest spaces filled with nooks, crannies, and furniture all spread of vast floor space, makes it an ideal place to stay well-hidden for lengthy periods of time. IKEA Glasgow staff found out about the plan and called the police.
“While we appreciate playing games in one of our stores may be appealing to some, we do not allow this kind of activity to take place to ensure we are offering a safe environment and relaxed shopping experience for our customers,” said Rob Cooper, the IKEA Glasgow Store Manager.
The forecast of furniture sales in the United States alone is projected to reach $122 billion by 2020 and IKEA has a large stake in that game, yet still can’t seem to shake mischief. The problem of hide-and-seek is somewhat of a recurring thorn in the side of IKEA stores across the world. So much so that in 2015, IKEA had to officially ban people from playing hide-and-seek in their stores. If you think the 3,000 person event in Scotland is large, just pop over to Facebook events in Eindhoven, Amsterdam, and Utrecht where masses of 32,000, 19,000, and 12,000 signed onto the events.
“It’s hard to control. We need to make sure people are safe in our stores and that’s hard to do if we don’t even know where they are,” said IKEA Group spokeswoman Martina Smedberg.
Only 33% of retailers have the technology to display their inventory online, which, for IKEA, is a lot. Their international reach allowed them to develop the huge online store they have, but their brick-and-mortar warehouses have become a type of pilgrimage for shoppers, tourists, and mischief-makers alike.
Back in Scotland, once the police caught wind of the 3,000 person hide-and-seek game, they tasked five officers to literally inspect people who were entering the store. A minor kitchen remodel has an ROI of 81% and these officers were there the entire day judging whether they thought people were there for that perfect kitchen set up or to hide amongst the inventory. No easy task, given the number of people that go through the doors of an IKEA store in a day.
“People are stopping everyone who looks like they are here for a game of hide-and-seek,” said one person who had visited the Glasgow IKEA that day.
As of 2017, there were 662,390 police officers in the United States. Now, the IKEA hide-and-seek phenomenon hasn’t yet hit the United States, but you have to sympathize with the five Scottish police officers who were scanning a crowd, judging shopper or gamesperson. In the end, there were no arrests or incidents, so apparently those officers did their jobs well enough. Either that or the reverence people have for the IKEA group is so lofty that they respect their wishes, even if it spoils their fun. But, not all is lost! There are Swedish meatballs to be had.