Although find love among a crowd of furniture buyers and the smell of Swedish meatballs does not seem like the most appetizing option for a large majority, this was in recent years the alternative chosen by hundreds of elderly of Shanghaiin Chinawho made the cafeteria Ikea your favorite meeting point to socialize and try to find your better half.
All the Tuesday and Thursdaydozens of lonely hearts – many of them divorced or widowed – flock to this venue located in the commercial district of Xuhui to flirt and socialize with their peers, taking over the local tables hardly consuming and not leaving enough room for other potential clients. The situation caused the company to take action.
Appointments in stores: the company’s tough decision
Therefore, tired of seeing how, instead of buying a sandwich or a cranberry juice, the elderly spend the day there consuming a piece of bread and the coffee that the establishment serves for free – some even they take from their homes oranges or hard-boiled eggs to snack on -, they decided to apply a new rule, “without food there is no seat”with which they hope to put a stop to this improvised singles club.
The decision was made last week, when hordes of elderly people went to the store’s restaurant on holidays without buying anything to eat, occupying all the seats and blocking the hallways, which caused the complaints from other clients. Since then, a sign hangs from the entrance door that says that “the restaurant will only be for people who buy food”, a decision made because of a “illegal mating group” who is accused of “inappropriate behavior”.
“The situation has negatively affected the experience and safety of the majority of our customers,” the note says, adding that they have received complaints about people occupying the seats. “for a prolonged period” and “spits, talks loudly and fights.”
What did the elders say about the company’s firm decision?
According to local media, this veteran clientele hides themselves by saying that they have nowhere else to go. “We have been to McDonald’s and KFC. But there are hardly any colleagues there,” declared Mr. Qiu, 86, told China Daily. “In those places we feel like aliens, all surrounded by young people. If there is another place in Shanghai where we older people can meet, we are more than willing to pay twice as much and travel further,” she added.
Some of the biggest stores in the world are in China, where the Swedish giant is trying to take advantage of the increasing purchasing power of its growing middle class to expand rapidly.
Although thousands of Chinese come to these centers wanting to furnish their homes with Western-style products, many others do so attracted by the possibility of being able to spend some time cool thanks to the air conditioning while relaxing on one of the exposed sofas. There are even those who do not hesitate to take off their shoes to take a nap or those who take the newspaper to catch up while lying on the comfortable beds.
The experts’ explanation of the phenomenon of looking for a partner in stores
For some experts, this phenomenon of looking for a partner in stores is a reflection of the difficult situation of the elderly in China, many of whom live without the support of their families. Furthermore, facts such as life expectancy becoming longer, the pernicious effects of years of the one-child policy and a more open mentality towards divorce have left a society in which there are more and more single elderly living alone and that they are not averse to searching for a new partner.
According to a survey conducted by the Renmin University from China in March, half of people over 60 –222 million Chinese, 16% of the total – live without anyone else, and a quarter of them declared they feel alone. Furthermore, the China National Committee on Aging predicted that for 2033the number of people over 60 will exceed 400 million people, and that in 2050this segment will make up a third of the population.
For now, it does not seem that those affected by the new measure are very willing to abandon their habits. According to the newspaperor The Telegraphmany of them continue to gather in the cafeteria with their own water and food, although buying some of the cheaper croissants in the store to ensure that they can’t be kicked out.
“I think people don’t get the idea of what life is like at our age,” said a retiree with the last name Xu. “Our children are not around, although some visit us on weekends. I feel quite good when I come here. I talk to friends, and some older people meet people who later become their partners,” she added.