ARLON, Belgium — A disoriented shopper was rescued on Thursday after being lost for nearly two weeks in an IKEA store near the Luxembourg border.
Late last month, Michael Parrish, 33, entered the premises for a “quick stop” to purchase an inexpensive lamp for his infant son’s bedroom and 100 lime-green napkins requested by his wife, he says. However, after more than an hour of unsuccessfully searching for the cash registers, he knew he was in trouble.
“I kept following those stupid arrows on the ground, but as if by design, they only led me in circles,” he told the Wurst. “Each time I passed an employee, I tried explaining in perfectly good English that I was lost and desperately needed an exit, but no one understood me.”
“They just kept repeating in these comical Belgian accents, ‘Euh, no, I am so sorry, we have no more in stock,’” he said.
Parrish says that although he was able to sustain himself with lingonberry soda and frozen Swedish meatballs that he would sit on to warm, he still feared he would never again see his wife and child.
“I tried writing a goodbye letter with those cheap pencils that you find everywhere, but the tips kept breaking, and anyway, I was having a hard time fitting all of my heartfelt final words into those tiny boxes on the little slips of paper they give you to jot down item codes,” he said.
Several times during the 12-day misadventure he passed by acquaintances and colleagues who were out shopping, “but as in daily life,” he says, they refused to acknowledge him, instead averting their gazes or checking their smartphones.
“I actually ran smack-dab into that new intern from my company’s accounting department, Sandrine what’s-her-name, from France,” Parrish said. “But just like at work, she totally ignored me, despite that I was holding on to her legs and crying.”
Parrish’s harrowing ordeal ended when visiting company officials found him napping in the bed department on a queen-sized HEMNES model fitted with a HJELLESTAD mattress, still clutching the lamp and now-soiled lime-green napkins he hoped to purchase.
“At first we mistook [Parrish] for a transient and scolded the staff for allowing him to make camp in the store, but then he waved an IKEA loyalty card at us, and also my English is pretty good so I was able to make sense of his mad gibberish,” said company vice president Dag Lindholm. “I called up HQ and they immediately dispatched a rescue squad from the IKEA naval base in Karlskrona, Sweden.”
“Unfortunately, Mr. Parrish’s rescue was delayed by several hours after the squad got turned around in the pillow section and couldn’t find their way out,” he added.
While still relatively uncommon, the number of people getting lost in IKEA stores is on the rise, according to reports. To avoid becoming a victim, retail shopping experts suggest customers go in groups of at least three, and that they should be equipped with a GPS device, emergency whistles, and survival items such as water, a smartphone charger, and toilet paper. Alternatively, some shoppers have been observed unravelling a large ball of IKEA-branded yarn as they go from one department to the next.