Monday, October 17, 2011

Flash Mob Scenarios Before Staff Eyes

Two different news flashes:
  • The National Retail Federation definesflash mobs” as “groups of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time then disperse.” Song performances in food courts and mass dancing in train stations are flash mob events many have seen on internet videos.
  • Psychologists studying “life flashed before my eyes” phenomena say it’s activated when a person experiences sudden emotional trauma. Images from the person’s past run very rapidly through the brain, disrupting attention to what is happening around the person. It’s also been reported often that during the flash, no sounds outside the body are perceived.
     Let’s combine those two: When a retail store is confronted by an unexpected flash mob, the shocked staff can go mentally numb and close down their sensory channels. Among other things, this erodes defenses against criminal behavior.
  • Last April, about 20 teens rushed into a G-Star Rack clothing store in Washington, DC and rushed out with $20,000 worth of stolen items.
  • Last June, about 40 people, organized via social media, flash mobbed the Upper Darby Sears in Pennsylvania, and within minutes, left the store with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. This incident was part of a string of assaults and property destruction committed by gangs.
  • The London area riots this year followed the flash mob pattern of mobilizing via social media channels.
     No song and dance in any of these incidents, except in the sense of putting one over on store staff.
     By their nature, flash mobs are difficult to anticipate. Monitoring social media channels might help. So can keeping alert for unusually large congregations of young people or people with mobile devices inside or close outside your store.
     From a psychological standpoint, a most valuable measure is to rehearse staff on how to handle all sorts of situations in managing crowds. This reduces, or can even eliminate, the traumatic shock. In particular, unambiguously designate who to contact for assistance during the incident and then after the incident.
     When staff are clear-headed, they can better avoid injury to themselves, coworkers, and customers. They also can look and listen, making mental notes about the flash mob criminals and about which items are being stolen.
     Even with all these, you’ll want to arrange for your staff and yourself to receive counseling after being victimized by a criminal flash mob.

Click below for more:
Use Psychology for Shopper Crowd Management
Use Shopper Psychology to Curb Shoplifting
Violate Policies If Faced with Violence

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