Ikea bans viral games of hide and seek in stores, citing safety concerns.

Massive Games of Hide-and-Seek Are Now Banned at Ikeas in the Netherlands

Massive Games of Hide-and-Seek Are Now Banned at Ikeas in the Netherlands

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
March 16 2015 1:08 PM

Massive Games of Hide-and-Seek Are Now Banned at Ikeas in the Netherlands

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Sorry, kids.

Photo by Sven Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Ikea has quashed the dreams and shortened the bucket lists of tens of thousands of people, saying it won't allow several guerrilla hide-and-seek games to take place in its stores in the Netherlands. “It’s hard to control,” an Ikea spokeswoman told Bloomberg. “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.”

More than 57,000 people were invited to participate in a May 16 game of hide-and-seek at the Ikea in Eindhoven, Netherlands, according to a Facebook page for the event, with about 32,000 people RSVPing. Twelve thousand were invited to a similar event at an Ikea in the Netherlands’ Breda on May 9. Had either game moved forward, it could easily have broken Guinness’ record for the world’s largest game of hide-and-seek, which was set in January 2014 in China and involved a mere 1,437 participants.

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While this isn’t the first time Ikea has contended with plans for massive hide-and-seek outings in its stores, it may be the first time the company has banned them outright. A game that took place in 2009 at an Ikea in Sweden reportedly attracted about 150 people and forced organizers to apologize for the “whooping and cheering” that scared customers straight out of the store. And when thousands of people in Melbourne, Australia, signed up to play hide-and-seek at an Ikea the following year, the company said it would “discourage” customers from participating in the event but would not “go so far as to ban them.”

At any rate, the more interesting question here is how many people an Ikea store could reasonably host for a game of hide-and-seek, were the company’s management to get on board. The Eindhoven store, which opened in 1992, is 28,600 square meters, according to Ikea’s website. That's about the same as four standard soccer pitches, or 5⅓ American football fields. Let’s stipulate that for a really good game of hide-and-seek, you need at least 20 square meters (about 225 square feet, or a 15-foot-by-15-foot spot to stand in). Less than that and you might as well play sardines or blob tag instead. Also, presumably not all 28,600 square meters in the Eindhoven store are usable space, or even accessible to customers looking for hiding spots.

So it’s incredibly hard to say how many people could effectively play hide-and-seek in an Ikea. But it should be obvious that 32,000 people is totally unrealistic. With a potential turnout like that, the event organizers should look for a much, much bigger venue. Or maybe just embrace their inner child another way, like with flash mobs or giant adult snowball fights.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.