First of all, a brief history lesson. Over the last several years, the day after Christmas (December 26th) has become mall mayhem day.
Why? Several reasons:
- Kids home from school. Time on their hands. Maybe they have “cabin fever”, cooped up in houses, especially if the weather is inclement.
- Kids are flush with cash and gift cards fresh from Christmas Day.
- Social media messaging directs them to malls to raise hell.
- Cameras and video footage amps up participants from far and wide with everyone trying to capture and create the most outrageous film. Chaos is cool and contagious thanks to selfies and Twitter.
- Loss of supervision by parents and eroded moral compass among kids. Permissive and passive parenting looks the other way or worse yet condones misbehavior. When kids get in trouble because of THEIR behavior, those who call them out and make them accountable (be they the teachers, mall cops or regular cops) get chewed out by parents accusing the authority figures for picking on their little darlings who can do no wrong.
So what can be done to prevent mall mayhem on the day after Christmas (and any other day at the mall for that matter)?
Old School Solution……Ramp up enforcement of rules
- More mall cops
- More regular cops
- Institute a curfew requiring an adult (i.e., parent, guardian, etc.) to accompany anybody entering the mall who is under age 18. This includes requiring that the responsible adult be present with the youngster while inside the mall. No letting the kids run amuck in the food court while the adult shops.
- Cops (mall and regular) are authorized to require proof of age for anyone attempting to enter the mall for if there is a question as to whether they are age 18 or older. Drivers licenses and state ID cars will verify dates of birth. No ID, no parent, no entry. Just like at bars that require proof of age to be served. It’s private property and malls are allowed to include this as part of their Code of Conduct requirements.
- All mall entry points have video surveillance so any issues at the entrance will be documented.
- Side benefit to the above described measures would be a deterrent to anyone of any age intent on criminal activity (shoplifters, etc.).
- All above described requirements would be well publicized throughout the community and on the property well in advance of The Day After Christmas (aka, mall mayhem day).
The aforementioned beefing up of enforcement is a stop-gap, short-termed, traditional approach to the problem. It’s comparable to putting a bandage on a wound to stop the bleeding.
New School Solution……creative, innovative, longer-term tactics to tackle systemic mall problems
Malls are experiencing a decline in foot traffic because of online shopping and shifting socio-cultural trends. Anchor stores are shrinking and malls as single use retail sites are struggling to maintain their dominance as destinations.
The afore-mentioned security/safety procedures are an essential first and fundamental step. A mall with out a sense of safety will not be a mall for very long. That’s why it’s recommended that these measures be instituted on the Day After Christmas and continue every day thereafter. Without year-round implementation of safety measures, the mayhem of the Day After Christmas might just be postponed to the following day with the same effect…..declining sales and increasing sense of insecurity. For those who might claim that enforcement of these measures is draconian and restricts the free roam of youngsters, give these well intentioned persons the opportunity to become volunteer Guardian/Mentors. They could be like a mall blockwatch or mall guardian angels with appropriate clothing designation. With some basic screening, training/orientation and signing appropriate waivers, they could commit to walk the mall with mall cops acting as peacekeepers intervening at the first sight of fighting and disorderly conduct. This could give them an opportunity to demonstrate their concern for youngsters while appreciating the challenges that mall cops face. Their presence representing persons of all ages, backgrounds and cultures while accompanying mall cops might also improve the interactive dynamic between the mall cops and youngsters. As a side benefit, these volunteers would get plenty of exercise walking laps throughout the mall.
So what’s the longer term solution?
How about changing Mall Mayhem Day to a day of “Peace-Progress-Profit”.
Since the day after Christmas is leading up to New Years…maybe the theme could be….
New Year/New Me (the following listing of kiosks and activity stations coincide nicely with New Years Resolutions).
Kiosks could be set up and unoccupied tenant spaces (of which there are an increasing number) could include exhibits and activities that foster “peace and progress”. A sample of such informational, interactive and inspirational activity stations could include the following:
- Mindfulness and meditation sponsored by professionals from the mental health/therapeutic fields (peace).
- Healthy eating (samples, information, menus, etc.) sponsored by nutritionists and organic/health food businesses (Progress)
- Healthy lifestyle and Life Long Exercisers. Sponsored by health/fitness professionals and an opportunity for exercise equipment suppliers to market their products and patrons to sample. (progress)
- School recruiters (Magnet Schools, Private Schools, Colleges especially local community colleges). This could include STEM related kiosks since there is an urgent need to entice youth to pursue careers in the STEM fields. This could also include explanation of the FAFSA process and deadline for financial aid since the FAFSA needs to be completed at this time for persons seeking to attend college in the upcoming semester. (Progress)
- Career Fairs: Have rotating exhibits of businesses who are recruiting employees and encouraging career explorations (Progress)
- Volunteer recruitment kiosk on rotating basis increasing visibility for local non-profits and community building, community improvement initiatives (peace and progress)
- Larger underutilized commercial spaces could be dedicated (possibly on a rotating basis to keep the venue fresh) for opportunities for persons of all ages to experience any of the following: art, music, writing, acting, debating, public speaking, virtual reality experiences, 3-D printing/creating (progress)
In sum, the mall could be transformed into a multi-use, multi-functional destination point which in turn would augment its original, primary function…..profits!
The mall could launch “peace-progress-profits” on the Day After Christmas as a source of enrichment and inspiration rather than becoming a place to be avoided on Mall Mayhem Day.
If this proposal was successfully launched on the Day After Christmas, there is the potential that the mall would receive positive national recognition and become a role model for other malls. Now that would be good for PROFITS!
Why is this so important?
Short term and immediately adverse consequences:
- Mall reputations are at stake.
- Profits will plunge on the day after Christmas in malls that are already struggling to remain economically viable.
- If mall mayhem expands beyond the day after Christmas, malls are likely to close up. Shoppers must feel safe or else they will not shop.
Longer term adverse community impacts:
- Minority youth (largely Hispanic and African American) who go to malls for the sole purpose of fighting and their disruptive behavior is documented on the local news, facebook and various social media platforms basically creates White Supremacy recruitment films. Their antics when on full display play right into the poisonous narrative that society needs to suppress and eradicate them. If these youngsters could be enlightened concerning the broader societal impact of their actions, they would immediately cease this activity if they have any sense of decency and destiny.
- It is only a matter of time when chaotic events at malls on the day after Christmas spin completely out of control. In such a “fog of war” type environment, the chances of a Ferguson Missouri type incident increase exponentially. If this occurs, the negative ramifications for the mall and the greater community could become so severe that economic and reputational damage and sadly human tragedy could become irreparable.
Do we need to change the mindset of malls on the day after Christmas (and every day thererafter). The answer is a resounding YES.