AUBURN — A New York Walmart worker was trampled to death on Black Friday last year, so early-bird shopping this Friday will be different.
The chain hired Super Bowl crowd-control experts to make safety changes during door-buster sales, Auburn store manager Dale Brann said Wednesday.
Walmart will open its doors at midnight Thursday.
Lines will be designated for certain sale items; shoppers will have to pick an item,
get in that line, receive a ticket and wait until the Black Friday
deals begin at 5 a.m.
The deep-discounted items will be spread throughout the store. Walmart will have a map for each store. At the Auburn store, a 32-inch high-definition television will be in the lawn and garden department; a Blu-ray Disc player will be in the food section; a laptop in clothing.
Staff will be on hand to monitor crowds. Lines will be roped off. There will be barricades at the front entrance to direct foot
traffic coming and going, Brann said. "We want to keep it as smooth as possible."
The changes are being made to allow for a smoother transition and safer shopping, and to keep people from pushing up against the doors, Brann said. "And the poor souls won't have to be outside in the rain or snow."
Last year in New York, a Walmart worker was trampled to death when the doors opened and the crowd stormed in.
When the Auburn store opened, between 1,000 are 1,500 people were waiting. What had been a long line for hours broke down as people rushed toward the door. People waiting in warm cars came running out of their cars, cutting in front of shoppers who had waited in line for hours.
The store had no crowd control, no barricade. One Auburn beat cop
Stores putting on sales that they know will attract crowds don't have a legal responsibility to provide crowd control but should have a plan that ensures safety, Auburn police Chief Phil Crowell said. When people are asked to stay in line, they comply, he said.
He said he was pleased with the changes Walmart is making. "It will help eliminate any potential harm of folks when waiting in line. ... I like that they have a plan."
Police have checked with other retailers about their early-morning door-buster sales, and several have plans to ensure safety, Crowell said.
Best Buy is one. According to that store's Web page, beginning at 3:30 a.m. Friday, customers standing outside will be given maps showing where sale items will be located, and 40 people will be allowed in to begin forming lines. As the lines form, another 40 people will be let in. The changes will ensure a safe environment, General Manager Darrin Porter said.
Auburn police will have extra patrols and the city's volunteer citizen patrol teams will assist, Crowell said.