Virginia Laptop Sale Turns Into a Stampede

A sale of cheap used laptop computers by a Richmond, Virginia school district turned into a stampede yesterday, as 5,500 people fought for one of 1,000 computers.

Va. Laptop Sale Turns Into a Stampede (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 as 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.

An estimated 5,500 people turned out at the Richmond International Raceway in hopes of getting their hands on one of the 4-year-old Apple iBooks. The Henrico County school system was selling 1,000 of the computers to county residents. New iBooks cost between $999 and $1,299. Officials opened the gates at 7 a.m., but some already had been waiting since 1:30 a.m. When 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.
Seventeen people suffered minor injuries, with four requiring hospital treatment, Henrico County Battalion Chief Steve Wood said. There were no arrests and the iBooks sold out by 1 p.m. “It’s rather strange that we would have such a tremendous response for the purchase of a laptop computer — and laptop computers that probably have less-than- desirable attributes,” said Paul Proto, director of general services for Henrico County. “But I think that people tend to get caught up in the excitement of the event — it almost has an entertainment value.”

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. “I’ve never been in something like that before, and I never again will,” said Alexander, who brought her 14-year-old twin boys to the complex at 4:30 a.m. to wait in line. “No matter what the kids want, I already told them I’m not doing that again.”

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, his eyes glued to the screen of his new iBook, as he tapped away on the keyboard at a testing station. “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.

Lovely. I don’t know who’s dumber, the people who organized this event or those who attended. Regardless, I’m guessing no future Nobel Prize recipients were involved in this incident.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    (mumble, mumble) Apple Devotees(mumble)

  2. denise says:

    How cynical have I become? My first thought was: The school district clearly could have charged a lot more.

    It really is terrible what people will do sometimes, especially for a pretty trivial benefit.

  3. Alan Kellogg says:

    School district made an erroneous assumption. I attribute it to a profound ignorance of the PC business.

    At the same time, the fact there were so many people showing up for the sale so early should’ve given somebody a clue. So many people so eager to get in would, I should think, tell anybody with a functioning forebrain to call in crowd control. Or even cancel the sale until proper security measures could be set in place for a later sale.

    The crowd? Think of them as numerous predators after a limited supply of prey. When it comes to the opportunity to feed reason and manners go right out the window.

  4. Alan Kellogg says:


    Most any PC at that price would’ve gotten the same response. Maybe not Dell, but any PC besides that.

  5. Debra Hoyle says:

    There were so many things wrong with this entire process but for Paul Proto to say there was a level of “entertainment value” associated with such utter chaos and lack of planning and foresight on the part of Henrico County, I believe was a statement totally out of line. The folks who were trampled in the crowd and hurt would not tell you it was an entertaining experience! Mr. Proto’s remarks have gone nationwide; again bringing unnecessary and embarrassing attention to the Richmond area.