Riot at Ikea Opening

Chaos at Ikea opening (Evening Standard)

Five people are in hospital today after hundreds were crushed as the opening of England’s biggest Ikea store turned into a riot. Nine ambulances were sent to the outlet in north London after reports that up to 20 people had suffered heat exhaustion when the opening at midnight descended into chaos. Staff closed the doors after half an hour amid fears the stampede could become a Hillsborough-style crush.

Security guards said they were put “under siege” by customers who attacked them, leaving one guard with a dislocated jaw. The store remains closed and a cleanup operation is under way. Ikea apologised for the chaos and admitted the store was understaffed – but added that some customers “behaved like animals”.

Up to 7,000 flocked to the Edmonton store lured by adverts promising huge discounts, including £45 sofas and £30 bed frames, to those who bought before 3am. When the main doors opened 40 security guards were overwhelmed and crowds pushed through, leaving people pinned to the wall or trampled on the ground.

Susie Steiner, who edits the Guardian‘s home and garden section, says Ikea treats its customers so badly, a riot is the least it might have expected

There has been much talk about consumer greed in the wake of the Ikea riot, about the depravity of people crushing one another for a £45 sofa. But there is less talk about Ikea’s greed, and in particular about the way in which this giant of a corporation manipulates its customer’s emotions, sending them into ever more hysterical cycles of rage and frustration. The impervious face the company presents to its screaming, fitting, hyperventilating public is an interesting psychological phenomenon in itself. Ikea behaves rather like a cool lothario who seduces and woos but offers no emotional aftercare … and then wonders why its lovers go off at the deep end.

This unbending approach is evident in all Ikea’s rules of purchase. You can look on Ikea’s website, but you cannot purchase anything on it. You cannot purchase over the telephone either. You cannot ring up and add to your existing order, you must visit the store again. If you go to an Ikea store by car, you must resign yourself to a couple of hours in a tailback. If you go to an Ikea store by public transport, you must resign yourself to being stung by the store’s furniture delivery service.

Like Kevin Drum, I’ve made numerous trips to Ikea without rioting or other ill effects. Ikea offers a style of furniture I like quite a bit, modern Scandanavian with clean lines and light woods, at a rock bottom price. My desk, bookshelves, and bedroom furniture came from Ikea and I’m reasonably pleased with it given what I paid for it.

Like Wal-Mart, Costco, and other merchants with large stores and low prices, Ikea provides a lousy shopping experience. Their customer service is lousy, the lines are long, returns are incredibly inconvenient, and it’s a pain to find anything. That’s why they’re able to hold prices so low.

I get annoyed every other time I go to Wal-Mart but I keep going back because it’s worth the aggravation to be able to find commodity goods all in one place at a low price. On the other hand, I’m not willing to get up in the middle of the night and fight crowds to save a few bucks on a lousy couch. If I were just starting out, though, I might be. But I wouldn’t be expecting any emotional aftercare–just an unboring couch.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Chaos at Ikea opening

    I have an air-tight alibi.

  2. Akatsukami says:

    I don’t care for Ikea’s styles; I wouldn’t have their furniture if they sent a selection to my apartment along with a free case of stout. But, as you point out, many people — not just those with no other budgetary choices — will buy solely based on price, with every other consideration consigned to the “it would be nice, but not if I have to pay for it” category. And, to be clichéed about it, they get what they pay for.