Feeling sad because you’re alone and don’t have anyone to celebrate Christmas with? Well, Ikea wants to help find you a holiday party — or even host one.
The Swedish furniture and home goods giant has set up an online project called “No Empty Chairs At Christmas,” where those lacking scheduled holiday festivities can register on a special Ikea website and volunteer to host a Christmas party, or find a party that Ikea helped make possible. There’s a long list of disclaimers online, but Ikea says “There is still a place for you somewhere.” (If you live in Switzerland, though the site has conflicting information on that point.)
Such personal ventures are decidedly rare in the retailing world, which is primarily dedicated to selling customers items, and at the most wishing customers a goodbye on the way out the door. During the holidays, some stores go so far as to host parties at their own locations for regular customers.
Ikea, however, has made some overtures in the social direction, however. The company dedicated relatively large spaces in its stores for community meeting rooms. And some store staffers have a charter to reach out to local organizations on contests and projects. Often these have something to do with selling goods, such as a contest to fully decorate a college student’s dorm room with Ikea furniture and accessories.
The “No Chairs” project goes much further.
“At IKEA, we believe that no one should be lonely over Christmas if they don’t want to be,” the website says. “So, whether your family is abroad, you are a single mum or dad, grandma or granddad or you are simply single, somewhere there is a place for you and people who would love to celebrate with you.”
The online system asks people to register with their name and E-mail address, and choose to either host a party or visit one already set up by a host. As of Friday, the system did not appear to show any events in the Tampa Bay region, and a close reading of the “Terms and Conditions” page reveals that IKEA “will stay in the background.” Though the contract says users need a valid place of residence in Switzerland, the registration process does not specify a country, and the entire page is in English.
That being said, any participant hoping to host or visit a party must acknowledge that: “In particular, ‘No Empty Chairs at Christmas’ is not a dating platform and may not be misused as such.”