By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Old Navy will handle crowds differently next year on Black Friday, a manager said after police officers had to intervene last week.
“This year definitely may have been the worst line,” said Sherri Lindsey, general manager of Old Navy in Tupelo.
Lindsey on Wednesday said the Tupelo store will have security working next year in an attempt to prevent the chaos experienced this year. The store didn’t have security personnel this year, Lindsey said, because they called in sick.
“We will have security that will mandate the line starting at 8 p.m.,” she said. “We will make sure everyone follows the line.”
Plus, she said customers next year need to anticipate waiting in line. They need to be more patient, she added.
Old Navy had customers lining up starting at 6 p.m. Thursday for $1 scarves, $15 adult jeans, $2 socks, discounted outerwear and free digital cameras with a $40 purchase.
The store was scheduled to open at midnight.
The line snaked back around the Furniture Center, which previously housed Circuit City. Another line formed around 11:30 p.m. on the other side of the shopping center, Lindsey said, with the second line trying to muscle in on the first line.
“One line was fighting with the other one,” she said. “It was outrageous, and I don’t know what started it.”
The fights were verbal, not physical, police said.
Then, a group of about 30 people walked across the parking lot at 11:55 p.m. and cut both lines off, drawing boos and yells from both lines. At some point, people in line called 911 and reported fighting. Employees didn’t call 911, Lindsey said.
The crowd then began shoving each other, and responding officer Sgt. Doug Mansell said customers were getting shoved into the glass windows. Lindsey delayed the midnight store opening to protect her employees, she said.
Customers in line then began banging on the doors and chanting.
Officers arrived and helped calm the crowd. By 12:30 a.m., four police cars were at the store. No one was arrested or cited, Mansell said.
Mansell’s advice to shoppers: “Keep it in perspective. This is shopping. It’s not food rations.”
By 12:10 a.m. Friday, the entire line – running the length of the shopping center from Shoe Carnival to the Furniture Center – was inside the store.
Lindsey said the employees stopped any more customers from entering then because the store was at capacity. So, another line started forming. It was unruly too, she said, and customers outside started banging on the doors when employees wouldn’t let more people enter.