Tuesday, August 16, 2005
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The conundrum of pricing a highly in-demand product at a far below-market price is that sometimes you may actually deter buyers, who may believe the product somehow substandard or defective to be sold so cheaply. Or, in this case, when the publicly perceived value of a product is far greater than its actual value, which is in turn much greater than its asking price, well...you get a seething mob of rabble:
RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) -- A rush to purchase $50 used laptops turned into a violent stampede Tuesday, with people getting thrown to the pavement, beaten with a folding chair and nearly driven over. One woman went so far to wet herself rather than surrender her place in line.

"This is total, total chaos," said Latoya Jones, 19, who lost one of her flip-flops in the ordeal and later limped around on the sizzling blacktop with one foot bare.

More than 1,000 people turned out at the Richmond International Raceway in hopes of getting their hands on one of the 4-year-old Apple iBooks, which retail for between $999 and $1,299. The Henrico County school system was selling 1,000 of the computers to county residents...[w]hen the gates opened, it became a terrifying mob scene. People threw themselves forward, screaming and pushing each other. A little girl's stroller was crushed in the stampede. Witnesses said an elderly man was thrown to the pavement, and someone in a car tried to drive his way through the crowd.
Blandine Alexander, 33, said one woman standing in front of her was so desperate to retain her place in line that she urinated on herself.
Jesse Sandler said he was one of the people pushing forward, using a folding chair he had brought with him to beat back people who tried to cut in front of him. "I took my chair here and I threw it over my shoulder and I went, 'Bam,"' the 20-year-old said nonchalantly..."They were getting in front of me and I was there a lot earlier than them, so I thought that it was just," he said.
Consider this situation. What would you do if a stranger approached you (or placed a classfied ad in the paper) and said, "I've got a used iBook laptop I'll sell you for $50.00." You'd probably think, "Why only fifty dollars? What's wrong with it?"

I also don't understand what the organizers of the sale were thinking, letting a mob like that into the building - they should have taken a lesson from the Tickle Me Elmo days, and either given numbered tickets to the first thousand people, or held a lottery to determine who gets to buy one for $50.00. Of course, this opens up the field for scalping "winning" tickets for more than $50.00, but Henrico County could have avoided a lot of the problem by simply raising the price. Certainly they would have still sold all 1000 if they asked $100.00, or even $200.00 or more.

This does not bode well for the coming apocalypse days, when commodieties like gasoline (or even worse, drinkable water) will be dispensed in soda-can size helpings. Of course, by that time each soda can of gas or tap water will probably cost you $50.00.

For ---k's sake, people...it's only a four year old laptop...that's like, a century in computer years. Would you want to go down in history as the woman who deliberately wet herself in public just so she could get a junky old laptop?