IKEA is a lot more than a great place to shop for duvet covers and fish roe spread: it’s also a great place to nap, cruise, invest in renewable energy and dabble with vegetarianism. But above all, IKEA stores are totally awesome places in which to partake in massive games of hide-and-seek.

After IKEA permitted a game of hide-and-seek involving 500 people (read: grown adults) to take place in a store in Wilrijk, Belgium, last summer, online organizers have taken it upon themselves to attempt staging similar — and much larger — events across the Netherlands. While the Netherlands isn’t the emoji-embracing home furnishings retailer's ancestral home — that, of course, would be Sweden — the country is home to the retailer’s international corporate headquarters and 14 different retail outposts.

Organized via Facebook, large-scale games of hide-and-seek — or Verstoppertje  are planned for a trio of Dutch IKEA stores in the coming weeks. One, which has garnered 12,000 Facebook sign-ups, is to go down at the Utrecht store. Another 19,000-person strong event is scheduled at an Amsterdam store. Finally, a staggering 32,000 (!) Facebook users have expressed interest in attending a May 16 game to be held at the Eindhoven outpost.

Sure, IKEA stores are no doubt spacious — opened in 1992, the 28,600-square-meter Eindhoven store is roughly the size of a little over 5 American football fields as noted by Slate.

Yes, they’re filled with all sorts of nooks and crannies along with a multitude of beds to crawl under and bins filled with plush children’s toys to hop into.

And, yes, there’s even a ball pit (normally reserved for potty-trained patrons ages 4 through 10).

But are there really enough spots in an IKEA store for 32,000 grown adults to effectively conceal themselves during regular business hours?

It looks like we may never find out as IKEA has officially put a stop to the viral Verstoppertje madness.


But, really, can you imagine trying to shop for affordable patio furniture while there are several thousand hide-and-seekers running amok? At my local IKEA store, tensions are already high enough amongst the combative, wild-eyed shoppers. Add in extra pushing, screaming and the potential of a stranger leaping out of a PAX wardrobe at you, and you’ve got a full-on IKEA nightmare on your hands.

IKEA spokeswoman Martina Smedberg tells Bloomberg that public safety is the main and most obvious concern involved with having thousands of people attempting to hide amongst a labyrinthine series of furniture showrooms. “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," she says of the retailer's firm stance against flash mob-y hide-and-seek events.

With IKEA out the picture, event organizers are now apparently on the hunt for alternative locales.

While guerilla hide-and-seek events held in IKEA are apparently on the rise in the Netherlands, they’re really nothing all that new. Slate notes that there were plans for a large-scale game in suburban Melbourne, Australia, in 2010.

The previous year, 150 teenage hide-and-seekers descended on a Swedish IKEA store, which, apparently, quickly devolved into chaos and sent one terrified female shopper running for dear life out an emergency exit. After coming under fire from IKEA brass, hide-and-seeker Gustav Danielsson expressed regret, noting that he and some of his fellow participants had “… saved up for a small Christmas present for her.”

So,  the big question is: where would you hide in an IKEA store?

Via [Slate], [Bloomberg] via [The Atlantic]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.