CARLIE KOLLATH: Bad shopping behavior abounds

By Carlie Kollath | NEMS Daily Journal

Old Navy, once again, takes home my award for the worst behaved Black Friday line. Congrats, shoppers. I hope the $1 scarves were worth the attention you got from four police units.
Old Navy’s qualifications for the award:
Customers cut the line repeatedly. A second line formed about 30 minutes before the store opened and tried to muscle in on the line that had been waiting for several hours. As the midnight opening approached, I watched customers shoving to get closer to the door. Customers by the doors were getting smashed into the glass windows and employees didn’t have enough space to open the doors.
People in line – not employees – called the police for help.
I blame the crowd and the store for the chaos. A similar situation happened in 2009 at Old Navy when I covered Black Friday. I was almost caught in the middle of a stampede when customers started running for the doors. I had hoped the store would have learned and taken precautions.
I interviewed the Old Navy manager after last month’s melee and she said security called in sick.
But, other precautions should have been taken besides security, in my opinion.
Let’s learn from two good examples:
• Best Buy consistently has the best behaved line in Tupelo. The store management sets the tone and the crowd follows suit. This year, the line wrapped around three sides of the building.
Best Buy knows it will have a lot of people so it gets portable bathrooms.
Plus, this year, the store manager, Josh Harris, bought pizza Wednesday night for people who were sleeping on the sidewalk. Thursday, Harris bought customers in line Starbucks coffee.
The store also handed out tickets – a key difference from the free-for-all at Old Navy. Employees started at the beginning of the line and asked each person if they want the right to buy a hot item, say a $200 42-inch TV. If so, they got a ticket that gave them access to the item, thus eliminating the mad dash to a display of TVs inside the store.
• Toys R Us also had an abundance of people. The line for the 9 p.m. Thursday opening stretched to Hobby Lobby.
General Manager Missy Thomas prepared for the crowd. In the past, people have tried to cut. In 2009, customers even called 911 when a woman cut. This year, TPD was there before the store opened to help.
Thomas and her crew passed out shopping carts to people in line. They cleaned the bathrooms and made sure the women had access to extra stalls.
Toys R Us also handed out tickets to people in line, which helped eliminate some of the running inside the store.
And when the store opened, only 50 people went in at a time. Thomas had her crew spaced throughout the store with walkie talkies to help her pace the amount of people inside.
Both store were insanely busy Thursday night and Friday morning, but I haven’t heard any reports of people being fearful. I only heard that about Old Navy and Walmart, where shoppers reported name-calling and verbal fights over merchandise and cutting in line.
Old Navy General Manager Sherri Lindsey said they’ll handle things differently, namely through security that will enforce the line. She said other changes may come from corporate.
I hope they do because what happened Black Friday was uncalled for and dangerous. We’re lucky no one got hurt.
Carlie Kollath is a business reporter at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. Contact her at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@journalinc.com.