IKEA is Swedish for "No photographs"

On Wednesday evening, my friend Trysh and I went out for the complete suburban experience. First, dinner at Swiss Chalet (for non-Canadians, it’s a chain of family restaurants specializing in roast chicken with dipping sauce) followed by a shopping trip to IKEA, the home of BILLY bookshelves, Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce…

…and a bizarre “no photos” policy.

We discovered this policy when we passed by a bin of stuffed animals. Stuffed ants, to be precise.

“Eeeeeeugh,” said my pretty companion, “you know, the last thing that I’d like to snuggle up with would be…”

“…a three-foot giant ant?” I said, completing her sentence. I grabbed one out of the bin and gave it a big bear hug.

“Give me your camera,” she said, “we have to take a picture of this.”

Here’s the resulting picture:

Apparently, this is some kind of violation.

Immediately after the picture above was taken, an IKEA customer service representative came up to us and informed us that photography is forbidden in IKEA.

Since it was only a half-hour until closing and since Trysh needed to get some picture frames, I decided not to argue the point then and there. She was, after all, someone who didn’t make that stupid policy and probably not aware enough of the decision-making process behind that policy to debate it.

A “no photographs” policy for a furniture showroom is silly.

If I were from a competing store attempting to undercut IKEA’s prices, I could just as easily take notes. IKEA gives you golf pencils and paper so that you can take notes.

If I wanted to copy IKEA furniture design, I wouldn’t photograph it; I’d buy one so could study it in detail.

If I wanted to get a better idea of how a piece of furniture would look in my home or whether it would match my current decor, I would take a digital photograph.

If I wanted someone else’s opinion on a piece of furniture, I’d take a digital photograph so that i could show it to them.

Many people take their kids to IKEA. What if one of those “important moments” happens while you’re there, and you want to capture it? (It’s not as ridiculous as you think — my friend Bryce’s kid started walking for the first time while we were at a Mexican restaurant at a big dinner full of people from the CodeCon 2002 conference.)

I really hate being treated like some kind of criminal by companies who then expect me to give them money. I don’t like being told that I can’t have a friend take a picture of me inside their showroom when I’m quite certain that they themselves are monitoring me through the store’s security cameras. I’m with Lawrence Lessig when he says:

…it is bizarre that we increasingly live in this world where every movement is captured by a camera, yet increasingly, ordinary people are not permitted to take pictures with cameras. This is yet another part of a growing obsession with control that seems to mark so much of this society. At a minimum, we have a right to take note of this control, and criticize it where we can.

I think it’s time for me to write to IKEA’s customer relations department.

And take my business elsewhere, say a nice Canadian company like EQ3, who have funky furniture and are just down the street from me.

Or organize one helluva flash mob.

Perhaps all of the above.

Who’s with me?

Recommended Reading

The Photographer’s Right. A downloadable flyer that explains “our rights when stopped or confronted for photography”. Written with US laws in mind, but it should work for Canadians too.

The Starbucks Challenge. Starbucks doesn’t have a “no photography” policy, but some of its managers don’t know that. here’s the original story, and here are some comments.

10 replies on “IKEA is Swedish for "No photographs"”

This is one of the things that impresses me about the store I work at. Customer Service is ‘supposed’ to reign over everything else. When the almighty dollar is involved it doesn’t but on all the frivolous things like photos and pets, they invite all. We even take polaroids of things so people can show their family and contractors.

anon tbit

If you want a flash mob, I can get a few people out to it – maybe as many as a dozen (I’d say 5-10% is nothing to sneeze at 🙂 )

I can do it discreetly, too – no TorStar from me, I promise

I realize we’re close enough to practically be considered part of Canada, but our US city (Rochester, NY) sports a Swiss Chalet restaurant as well. Haven’t been there, myself, but I’ve driven past it many times.


This just cracks me up. Why someone can get all excited because someone snaps a photo inside a business is really rather humorous. Isn’t there more important things to worry about? Unless there is a danger for someones safety, then I say snap away.

Scott Leverenz

Sousveillance (inverse surveillance) is a concept that should apply here. See for some interesting examples of what happens when you take a camera into various establishments using surveillance.

Maybe we should organize a “flashlamp mob” flash mob, using our camera flashes to mob the bosses. Something like World Sousveillance Day (December 24th flash mob),

Sorry, I don’t agree with you there.. really. Maybe it’s because I’m a Swede. ;P

Swedish for “No photographs” is “F�rbjudet att fotografera”.

In Sweden there’s a law that you cannot take/publish photographs if the people in the picture does not agree with having their picture published.

can some one send me the ikea customer service/complaints hotline number or mail address PLEASE

can some one send me the ikea customer service/complaints hotline number or mail address PLEASE

one of those comments talked about elche in the costa blanca it is a pretty amasing place, very undeveloped, people are only just starting to move there, there are very few buildings, but now they are starting to move some things over there like shops etc but the landscape and things are amasing! have to be seen to be belived

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