RED HOOK - Commuters and sightseers who take advantage of IKEA's generosity on free water taxi rides will now take a backseat to IKEA shoppers.

The home furnishings giant offers the free ferry service to its Red Hook location, which opened last month. However, it will now stamp the hands of shoppers and offer those individuals boarding priority - and a guaranteed seat - on the water taxi.

"It seems to me that it should be going to the patrons of IKEA, and not be ... everybody else just for commuting and sightseeing," says rider Debbie Field.

The policy began Monday, and a store spokesperson says the free rides are popular, so they needed to find a way to give priority seating to customers. Shoppers agree.

"It's a little unfair for people to use it as mass transportation," says Marcia Giordano.

For Red Hook residents, the ride serves as a more pleasurable shortcut that gets them out of the car and off the subway. However, they say they also use it because the area lacks enough public transportation.

"It's been more difficult to get a public bus to go in and get to work," says Marsha Trattner.