A question I often ask myself: Would people be willing to risk severe bodily injury for a discounted jar of creamy cocoa hazelnut spread?
Surprisingly enough, the answer arrived on 1-25-18.
I have a confession. A guilty pleasure if you will. Every day, I google the word “stampede.” I’ll admit, this compulsion is a tad askew. But what if you studied tsunamis? Wouldn’t you search on the word “earthquake?” Hey, it comes with the territory.
So today, when I googled stampede, a slew of “Nutella” entries quickly surfaced. It turns out, for over a half century, the French have had an ongoing, passionate love affair with this chocolate substitute. For them, it’s bigger than french fries at McDonald’s. Who would’ve known?
As part of a one-time, tantalizing sales promotion, Intermarche, the biggest grocery chain in France made a unilateral decision to suddenly discount the product by 70%. Intermarche has roughly 1,800 grocery stores in France. They dropped the price of Nutella from $5.75 to $1.75 at every retail outlet. Now I’m not a big follower of deals on synthetic choco-hummus, but it doesn’t take a coupon-clipping savant to realize that that’s one helluva bargain.
What transpired next was the French equivalent of Black Friday. Shoppers formed lines like heroin addicts seeking methadone. When the doors opened, crowd surges were reported all over France. Everyone was simultaneously looking to stock up and get their Nutella fix. Well, this left consumers floored. Literally knocked to the ground. Pushing, shoving, scuffles and even reports of fist fights. In some cases, managers imposed limitations on the number of jars per customer. Others, sensing the prospect of imminent danger, refused to stock their point of purchase displays. And in a few situations the police had to be called in to restore order. If you require visual evidence, just do an aforementioned Google search.
Disbelief and disgust followed. Widespread complaints of shoppers behaving like animals emerged.
Now would I label any of these incidents as full-fledged stampedes? Should we declare a “National Nutella State of Emergency?” Well, probably not.
But this incident does speak to my larger concerns about artificially generated stampedes, particularly ones that are economically driven. Alas, the fundamental laws of supply and demand. They’re here to stay. It’s called Econ 101.
In the aftermath of the fiasco, Ferrero, the manufacturer of Nutella, released a statement:
“We wish to specify that this promotion was decided unilaterally by the brand Intermarché. We deplore the consequences of this operation, which create confusion and disappointment in the minds of customers.”
Well said! A more sophisticated declaration than we’re accustomed to.
I’ve been using some Led Zeppelin analogies lately. Let’s just say, that somewhere in this crowded mess, there was a communication breakdown. And it resulted in people getting trampled under foot.
Go-it-alone decisions can often have wide-ranging consequences. Remember, this was not an isolated incident. Reports of chaos occurred in multiple retail outlets, in different towns, different cities. One individual’s decision impacted real-world events all over France.
It might seem like a far-fetched extrapolation but this here Nutella incident could very well be a portent for the next 9/11.
Now please don’t call me nutella. Nuts is okay. Crazy is fine. Warped is a lil’ bit, well… warped.
But yes, I’m worried about the prospect of simultaneous stampedes in multiple NFL stadiums. Most likely manifesting itself during the 1 o’clock slate of games. It’s a phenomenon I’ve come to refer to as a dominipede (domino stampede).
Try to bear with me. Instead of Nutella, imagine a scenario where fans started receiving information about steep discounts on officially licensed NFL jerseys. Those things are cheap to produce, ridiculously marked up, and sell for big bucks. They’re immensely popular. Just take a look around any venue on game day. Other than holding a cell phone, it’s the one thing every fan has in common.
Now let’s speculate that some NFL marketing genius wanted to purge their existing supplies across the board. And decided to simultaneously engage NFL.com’s social media outlets (twitter, facebook, snapchat, instagram, etc.). Information about drastic price reductions must be successfully disseminated. $100 down to $19.99. Sounds like something just on the border of plausibility, eh? Get ’em while they last. The deal of a century. The opportunity of a lifetime.
Now you might think I’m reaching a bit. But my instincts tell me that plenty of people would get up and run toward fixed spots in the stadium. I’m talking about the locations where they sell NFL gear and miscellaneous merchandise. The larger question — How might other fans mentally and physically react when they see people behaving “irrationally” and rushing the concourses for no apparent reason?
While we’re at it, let’s add a nefarious element into the equation. What if Roger Goodell’s twitter account was hacked? Yeah, I know. Stuff like that never happens.
These are just two random possibilities. Trust me, the hypothetical scenarios are endless.
But what if something like this happened? Even if there was no discernible panic. No demonstrable stampede. What if it was attempted?
Where do we go from there? Would anybody ask any questions? Would anybody be concerned? Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be a dearth of intellectual curiosity these days.
Sometimes It takes effort to speculate. It’s challenging to think outside the box. In this day and age of impulsive fake news accusations and harsh, simplistic social media rhetoric, it’s increasingly difficult to keep an open mind. Being receptive to alternative viewpoints is a challenge. It requires contemplation and analysis. Not knee-jerk responses and ad hominem attacks. So if you have the time, and more importantly the patience, I’ll refer you to a few articles I wrote a while back.
Nutella and the National Football League? I wouldn’t normally equate the two, but they might have more in common than you think!