What Is IKEA Doing Spying on Its Employees and Angry Customers?

IKEA seems so friendly and efficient and non-threatening—unless you consider taking over the décor of houses worldwide to be aesthetically threatening—but it seems there might be a darker side to everyone's go-to furniture retailer. The Swedish company is being investigated in France for hiring private detectives to spy on their workers and pry into the lives of unhappy customers. Creepy.

Two French trade unions filed complaints against IKEA for digging up police files and confidential personal information on employees and shoppers who were involved in litigation with the company. They say "scores" of people were targeted. One couple was investigated by IKEA-hired detectives after they ordered a kitchen at an IKEA outside Paris for their vacation home. Delivery was supposed to happen in December of 2006 but didn't occur until February. The wife complained to the company and asked to be compensated for having to stay in a B&B when they were without a kitchen. They were reimbursed, but then the firm asked their investigators to look into the couple's "morality"—property ownership, phone details, and police records. What were they going to do with that information? Unclear, but it probably didn't involve shipping a bunch of throw pillows and free armchairs to their house.

IKEA France has launched an internal investigation and has already put three staff members on a leave of absence until the findings are made. Meanwhile, IKEA said in a statement,

The company's ethical rules are very clear: we work with honesty and transparency, in whatever country we're present. Respect for people's private lives is among the most strongly held values of the group and we strongly disapprove of any practice which calls that into question.

This seems confined to France. (For the moment, anyway. Dun dun dun…) But just to be safe, let's all rack our brains trying to recall if we've ever tangled with IKEA about anything small—like those metal doohickeys that keep shelves up missing from a package or those wooden pegs not fitting into the pre-drilled holes. Now check behind your Billy bookcases and Hemnes mirrors to make sure you haven't been bugged.

Ikea accused of hiring detectives to spy on dissatisfied customers in France [Guardian]