Ikea's well-styled displays may have many shoppers wanting to live in the showroom area, but few have seriously made good on the thought until recently. 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 Mr Bram Geirnaert and Mr 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, titled "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.

Mr Geirnaert said: "We were thinking about something crazy we could do after we graduated from high school."

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," Mr 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, he and Mr 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 Dec 17.

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

"We hope we've seen the beginning of the end" of this "overrated" craze, Mr Holmstrom said, insisting the prank is hardly worth the effort.

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

But Ikea 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," Mr Holmstrom says.

Mr Geirnaert and Mr Van Hecke are not encouraging others to break the law. "Ikea didn't 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," Mr Geirnaert said.

Mr 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. Intrusions of this kind amount to trespassing, punishable by law, he said.

Meanwhile in China, Ikea – founded in 1943 by Mr 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 on the display beds.


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Article by Agence France-Presse, originally appeared in The Straits Times.