korean ikea 1

The flat-pack furniture superstore IKEA means so many things to so many people. To students, it’s a great place to buy budget tableware, furniture, and bedding when they are setting out on their own for the first time. To families, it means affordable but nice looking furniture. To the unlucky assembler, it’s infuriating builds when pieces just don’t fit together. And to the rest of us, it means Swedish meatballs and ice cream!

Strangely, at the first IKEA store in Korea, which only opened about two months ago, it means something no one has thought about before: free pencils, and they’re apparently being swiped from the store in their thousands every single day.

Complimentary items and free samples can really attract people to your business – just ask Costco. On Sundays, when they feature the most free samples, the store is absolutely packed, and there are even people who go to Costco solely for the “free buffet”. But when do the customers take it too far? How about when the equivalent of two years’ worth of pencils are taken from the IKEA store in Korea after only two months?

IKEA staff hand out pencils and paper measuring tapes to their customers so that it’s easy for them to browse and jot down notes about items and sizes. You often have to write down the product number of whatever it is you want to buy too, as you will have to go find the appropriate box once you reach the cashier floor. Since IKEA gives these pencils away, they aren’t anything fancy. They are your standard run-of-the-mill six-edged pencils and they are only 8.5 cm (about 3.3 inches) long. Even so, people are apparently taking them in by the fistful.

korean ikea 2Image: Flickr (Rae Allen)

According to the Chosun Ilbo, a Korean newspaper, it appears as if these “free” pencils are perceived as especially trendy. You can actually find them online on a site that sells used items, listed as “pencils that I took from the Gwangmyeong City IKEA store”. They are being sold for about 3,000 won (about US$2.70).

No one knows if anyone is actually buying these pilfered pencils, but the act itself is definitely inviting plenty of negative online criticism. The keywords “IKEA pencil beggars” is trending right now on Korean sites, and some pretty harsh condemnation is being put forth. Since this is the first case of any IKEA store using so many pencils, some Korean bloggers claim that it’s a disgrace to their country.

korean ikea 4Image: Flickr (Will Taylor)

This kind of behavior shouldn’t be accredited to just Koreans, it’s all those shrewd and cheap customers from around the world too – we can’t even begin to imagine how much complimentary stuff is greedily taken from hotels each year. Costco stores around the world have even experienced these kinds of customers one might call “the onion hoarders” –  people who come to the food court area of a Costco with containers and fill them with the complimentary onions set up for the hot dogs.

korean ikea 5Image: Flickr (AmandaB3)

It can probably be attributed to human nature. Give someone something for free and there are bound to be people who will take advantage of it. Let’s just hope that the “cool factor” of IKEA in Korea will eventually die down and they can get back to using the pencils at a more normal rate and for more normal uses, like writing down how many cases of those delicious meatballs to order.

Source: Sankei News
Top Image: IKEA