Thursday, May 11, 2006

life can be so entertaining...

Is it social engineering? performance art? civil disobedience? I don't know - but what I do know is that it is damn funny.

You may have already read on Slashdot or Gizmodo or about the roughly 80 people who one at a time entered a Best Buy wearing blue polo shirts and khaki pants (similar to the employee uniforms), dispersed through the store, and then stood around "waiting for my girl/boy friend". Of course the reason this is getting attention is that the organizers were smart enough to plan it well and documented the whole stunt here. Its creative. Its amusing. Its something people can rally around. And its something to stick it to the man, to thumb your nose at the establishment and say "I can wear whatever I want wherever I want and I can bring all my friends along dressed just like me, and you can't really do anything about it". The only leg the store had to stand on was that the participants weren't shopping and therefore could technically be considered loitering. Had the 80 people all had legitimate purchases to make, would Best Buy have still kicked them out? It would be an interesting twist on the social experiment if you are thinkng of trying something similar.

The best reactions from the Best Buy employees described in the article are:

"Security guards and managers started talking to each other frantically on their walkie-talkies and headsets. 'Thomas Crown Affair! Thomas Crown Affair!,' one employee shouted. They were worried that were using our fake uniforms to stage some type of elaborate heist.


Both security guards loudly advanced their own theories about what was going on. One security guard didn't know who the group was, but suspected that it was some cult, because, "They all have that zombie look in their eyes. They just stand there staring at nothing." They also argued about if the prank was funny or not. One did not think it was funny at all and the other said he thought it was "kinda funny," and tried to explain the humor, "What if you went into Home Depot and there were all these people wearing orange aprons all over the store?"

What if indeed. PLEASE NOTE: I am in no way advocating impersonation of police officers, firefighers, lifeguards, doctors, or any other uniform which could lead to human injury or suffering if mistaken for the genuine article. But what really is the harm if everyone wore red shirts and khaki pants to Target? Green aprons in Starbucks? Rented Roman Centurion costumes and wandered around Caesar's Palace?

I understand why security guards and management would freak out at any of these establishments. They feel out of control, they have no idea what is going on, they fear theft and manipulation, or acts by the imposters that will reflect on their establishment. I suspect Caesar's Palace would have the least tolerance and have the best organized and professional response. But all the same, what can they really do? What if you were just so freaking excited about the hotel theme and all the money you won at the craps table you decided to wear a toga and celebrate Caesar with the 30 guys there for your bachelor party? Would they really ask you all to leave? What if it were Halloween?

As usual, I have no answers or great insight. I just find the entire situation to be fascinating and thought I'd point it out to Hideaway readers. The reactions of customers, of employees, of management - fun stuff to observe for any student of human nature.


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