A Belgian couple has made headlines in the country after one of them was asked to leave an IKEA in Ghent for trying to sneak around coronavirus bubble rules.
Hendrik Wallijn discovered the hard way that the flat-pack furniture chain is strictly enforcing the rules after a plan to pretend he didn’t know his wife while shopping ended with him being asked to leave.
IKEA currently only allows one customer per household, in line with the current government rules, which can carry fines of €250 for the offender and €750 for the shopkeeper if they are broken.
In order to better enforce these rules, IKEA has been giving each arriving car a bracelet, which allows entry to the store for one person.
“I gave our bracelet to my wife,” Wallijn told Het Nieuwsblad, adding that after waiting a while a stranger who had finished shopping offered to give him a second bracelet, allowing him to enter the store.
“There, me and my wife kept our distance and pretended we didn’t know each other. At the department with the beds we exchanged three words, about the bed we were going to buy or not,” said Wallijn. This interaction, however, drew the attention of the shopkeeper, who subsequently asked to escort one of them to the exit.
A spokesperson for IKEA confirmed the store is currently on the lookout for bubble offenders, with staff and security told to watch out for offenders. Anyone found to be breaking the rules will be called to account, if they refuse to cooperate the police will be called in.
“Unfortunately, we’ve already had to do that. There have already been several incidents with aggression, in several shops. Fortunately, so far none of our staff has been injured,” said Ikea spokesman Colombine Nicolay.
Wallijn, while aware he broke the rules, also stressed that he did not believe they were logical in the situation. “In Ostend, where we live, people sit on the beach half a meter from each other. I also think you should be able to make such expensive purchases, like a bed, together”.