Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Black Friday: First Blood Part II

November 27, 2009

hamstersWe were wondering earlier today how much longer it would take until customers shopping for Black Friday deals got rowdy. We told you about one shoving match in Centennial, Colorado, that involved dropping a little old lady. Now we have a “disturbance” at a Walmart store in Upland, California, near Rancho Cucamonga in Southern California’s Inland Empire. What motivates some of these attacks? Toy hamsters! (See our earlier entry on this phenomenon. Also, look toward the bottom of this blog entry.)

The San Bernardino Sun reported details:

“Upland police officers received reports of the disturbance about 2:45 a.m. Friday and sent about four officers to the store at 1540 W. Foothill Boulevard, Lt. Jim Etchason said. ‘A manager at the store called it in to the police department,’ Etchason said. ‘(The manager) said numerous customers were causing a disturbance with each other.’”

The cops told managers to close the store while they cleared out shoppers and made them wait in the parking lot. A few hours later, they were allowed to go back inside, the Sun reported. There were no reports of injuries or damage, the paper said on its website.

A company spokesman confirmed the incident, but said the store was cleared out and closed for 45 minutes.

“We’re hearing positive feedback from customers and associates in our stores across the country today. Our store plans are helping our customers have a safe and enjoyable shopping experience at Walmart,” the spokesman also said.

As long as it’s positive feedback.

Other incidents of retail aggression also surfaced on Friday in Brandon (over GPS systems) and Seminole, Florida — also at Walmart stores. Here’s Florida Today:

“People were gathered at the items they wanted to buy. The customers claim the person at the GPS location started selling the devices before 5 a.m. and they started a brawl. In Seminole County, another fight at a Walmart ended with three law enforcement agencies responding. According to WKMG Local 6, the Seminole County Sheriff’s office, Lake Mary Police Department and the Sanford Police Department were all called out to the Walmart about 5 a.m. Officers secured that store before shoppers were told things were safe again.”

One big cause of aggression in Colorado and, apparently, the Indianapolis region is the Zhu Zhu — fuzzy, electronically operated hamsters (The real ones never seem to spark this much annoyance). The Indianapolis Star reports:

“Despite the lines, several shoppers at the Northeastside Toys “R” Us and the Downtown Mass Ave Toys said this afternoon they’d never even heard of the hamster robots. But when the Toys “R” Us opened its doors at midnight Thursday, a huge line backed up into two adjacent parking lots. People tried to cut the line, not listening or cooperating; and there were reports of people fighting at the back of the line. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department was called after a report of a fight, and dispatched at least three squad cars to the scene, said IMPD Sgt. Paul Thompson. The scuffle was over by the time police arrived, but IMPD stayed in the parking lot for an hour as a precaution.”

UPDATE: We weren’t joking about the Zhu Zhu hamsters. Read this report and especially watch the video. Thanks to Fox’s affiliate TV station in the Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida, area for letting us witness the horror:

“If there was any debate about what this season’s hottest toy might be, a group of Black Friday shoppers in Clearwater seems to have settled it. They descended on Zhu Zhu Pets like a pack of starving wolves, tearing through the entire display in seconds. Employees at the Toys R Us in Clearwater could only watch as the madness unfolded (watch to the left). There were an estimated 1,000 people in line before the store opened, and at one point, store managers asked police to keep an eye on the line, which wrapped around the building.”

(Photo: Reuters)

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