My Ikea nights: new craze irks Swedish furniture giant

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A new fad that has people hiding out in IKEA stores overnight and walking out the next morning has left the Swedish retailer less than amused.

In Europe, pranksters seeking a thrill have followed in the footsteps of Bram Geirnaert and Florian Van Hecke, two Belgian students who filmed and posted on YouTube a video clip about the night they spent last summer at an Ikea store in Ghent.

Their video, entitled “Two idiots at night in Ikea”, has been viewed 1.7 million times — fewer however than their British counterparts “Carnage” and “LordOmar”, who have made a name for themselves by spending 24 clandestine hours in stadiums, zoos, cinemas and theme parks, and whose stay at a British Ikea has garnered 2.3 million views.

“We were thinking about something crazy we could do after we graduated from high school,” Geirnaert told AFP.

Hiding out for hours each in a separate cramped display wardrobe, the two ventured out into the showroom once they were sure the cleaning staff had gone for the night.

“We didn’t go too far inside the store because we didn’t want to risk being caught by a motion sensor,” Geirnaert recalled.

Crawling under the covers of a large bed, “we were too nervous to really fall asleep. With every sound of the wind or every noise we heard we were wide awake again.”

When the store opened the next morning, Geirnaert and Van Hecke coolly walked through the aisles to the exit, as unwitting sales staff greeted them and thanked them for their visit.

Others have not been so lucky.

“Carnage” and “LordOmar” were caught by a night watchman, as were two teenage girls in the southern Swedish town of Jonkoping on December 17.

The underage girls will not be prosecuted, but future trespassers may not be so fortunate, Ikea spokesman Jakob Holmstrom said.

– Daytime dozers –

“We hope we’ve seen the beginning of the end” of this “overrated” craze, Holmstrom told AFP, insisting the prank is hardly worth the effort.

“It’ll be a long night of sitting still, only to then get in trouble with the law.”

At its almost 400 stores worldwide, the manufacturer of Billy bookcases has been targeted by around 1,300 clandestine night visitors, Swedish police investigator Lars Forstell told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

But Ikea roundly rejects that number.

“We have no overall global number but we have had significantly fewer incidents than 1,300. If we look at Sweden, we have had four cases at 20 stores,” Holmstrom says.

Geirnaert and Van Hecke are meanwhile not encouraging others to break the law.

“Ikea didn’t personally contact us, we only read in the newspaper that they thought it was funny once but they didn’t want other people to try it,” Geirnaert said.

Holmstrom strongly advised against re-creating their prank, stressing that Ikea “can’t guarantee people’s safety. If something were to happen they wouldn’t be able to get out”, in the event of a fire for example.

In addition, intrusions of this kind amount to trespassing, punishable by law, he said.

Meanwhile in China, Ikea — founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad and which has 180,000 employees worldwide — has a similar but different problem: visitors are known to pop into Ikea stores during the afternoon to take a nap in the display beds.

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