AUTHOR: VTMiller TITLE: This is why I avoid politics- b/c of idiot elected officials who make decisions like this DATE: 8/16/2005 10:17:00 PM ----- BODY:
I wrote to the Henrico board and NBC12, & days before this and told them they needed to tell the elected officials to talk to their Economics professors.  I told them this would happen, and that they should have put up the computers on auction for the world, obeying "supply and demand" laws of this country, and re-purpose the money back into the county - instead of allowing a select few who could afford to take the morning off work, to try to get a $50 laptop.  What a bunch of idiots!

Moths to the Flame

Apple iBook sale at Richmond International Raceway turned insane at times.
Caine O'Rear/ Sheress Blunt holds the Apple iBook that she purchased at the Henrico County laptop sale at Richmond International Raceway. Blunt attended the event with her mother and two children.
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Richmond.comThe scene at Richmond International Raceway on Tuesday morning was a testament to the power of greed. What had been called the sale of a lifetime -used Apple iBooks for $50 a pop - turned out to be a nightmarish ordeal for many of the estimated 5,500 people that showed up for it.

The horror occurred shortly after 7 a.m., when the entrance gates to the raceway sprang open and hordes of iBook-hungry Henrico residents made a mad dash for the building where the laptops would be sold. Many were hysterical after being pushed down and run over. There were even reports of a baby carriage being turned over and elderly women being trampled.

"They bum rushed the gates and I was knocked over, fighting for my life," said an exasperated Alice Jemerson, an elderly lady. "All these people were on top of me."

According to Henrico County Police, four people were taken to the hospital –one for a leg injury and three for heat-related illness- throughout the sale, which ended shortly before 1 p.m.

Many who attended the event used adjectives like "insane" and "unsafe" to describe it. However, Lieutenant Doug Perry, a spokesperson for the Henrico County Police Department, alleged that the problem was not as bad as many made it out to be.

"A few bad apples found their way inside," Perry told reporters at a press conference after the sale. "It looked worse than it was."

Paul Proto, director of the Department of General Services of Henrico County, insisted that the necessary steps were taken in planning for the event.

"If there had been more staff, you still would have had the same issues to deal with," he said at the afternoon press conference. "Some individuals were very courteous, but some segments of the population were not, and that created some issues."

The iBook sale - the computers were used by Henrico County students the last few years - generated a huge amount of public interest shortly after it was announced. It was even reported that folks from as far away as California and Europe were inquiring about the sales. Due to the overwhelming public response, officials moved the sale from the Henrico County school warehouse to the larger confines of RIR.

And the sale was open to anyone at first. But, after a litany of complaints from Henrico taxpayers, the Henrico Board of Supervisors voted to amend the County Code so that only county residents could purchase the laptops. Henrico residents argued that their taxes paid for the iBooks in the first place, thus they had should have the right to buy them back.

Officials had warned prospective buyers beforehand that camping and overnight parking would be prohibited at the raceway, but several people said on Tuesday morning that they had arrived at the scene as early as midnight. The sale officially began at 9 a.m.

By 6 a.m. an enormous crowd had already assembled at the entrance gate. But at that time, there were only six off-duty Henrico police officers there. Originally, only five police officers were scheduled to be present throughout the day. Henrico Police Chief H.W. Stanley, Jr. said it is customary to have five officers on patrol for an event of that size.

Before the gates opened, officials told the crowd gathered at the entrance that vehicles would be allowed to enter first. Heeding their advice, most went to their cars. However, when the gates opened, a new flock of people rushed the gates on foot, bypassing the cars, which were full of the people who had arrived first on the scene. The episode was the source of much of the crowd's anger.

Once people were inside the gate, they were directed to form a line that began at the entrance to a one-storey building in the parking lot. Shortly after the gates had opened, the line was thousands long and snaked around the lot. Guards at the entrance to the raceway closed the gates to the public shortly thereafter.

When the sale began, Henrico police opened the glass doors at the entrance of the building to let a few people in to purchase laptops. It was at this point that the crowd surged forward. Soon the yelling and pushing would ensue. "Quit pushing! My kid's in there!" the people shouted.

One observer, who had extricated himself from the mayhem, wisely summed up the scenario. "They're going to see themselves on the news tonight, and see what fools they are."

But, for some, the fight was worth it. Sheress Blunt, a hairstylist in Henrico County, was one of the first hundred to receive an iBook. Blunt, who attended the event with her mother and two of her children, said she arrived at 6:30 a.m., entering the raceway surreptitiously through the side gate. She said she purchased the laptop for her children to use on vacations.

Tonya Vaughan, who arrived at 5:30 a.m., also got her hands on one of the first iBooks. As she was leaving the raceway, three people offered to purchase her iBook, with one offering $200.

" I told them no way! I had worked too hard for it," she said.

Perry said Henrico police officers received several compliments regarding the way they handled the crowd. At one point, Henrico police were seen letting some kids who had been pushed aside into the building to purchase laptops.

After the sale ended, many irate would-be customers lingered around the entrance to the building, demanding an explanation as to why they did not receive an iBook. Some said they had been at the raceway since 5 a.m. and, unlike many others, obeyed the rules.

"Can't we at least get tickets for the next sale?" one gentleman asked.

"Sir, there are no plans right now to have another iBook sale," said Proto.
My original email and rant when I first heard what the county was going to do:

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Miller
Sent: Thursday, August 04, 2005 8:44 PM
To: ''
Subject: RE: Comments on Henrico iBook Sales

Tell them, my first bid is $99, and I (like others) may go higher....

The Board of Supervisors should have spent less time on debating WHO should get to buy the $50 iBooks, and more time talking to the economics teachers in the schools themselves. If it is true that hundreds of people around the U.S. were ready to buy the computers at $50 -simple economics of supply and demand will tell you the board is missing a big opportunity and lesson for it's citizens.

This country is based on free enterprise, and it could have been used to benefit the "all" rather than the few.

...I can see it now, BMW's, Mercedes, and hundreds of SUV's rolling up to get a $50 laptop deal. Taking off work on August 16th, to fight the crowds - whipping out their tax papers to prove they "deserve" a deal - the elite citizens will have their victory. Meanwhile, the rest of the citizens who cannot afford to take time off work (like the school cafeteria worker that is probably making minimum wage) will be stuck at their jobs serving the county and the kids who first used the computers 4 years ago. What a shame.

Instead, imagine these alternative economic options.
1) Post the lot of computers on say eBay for a month or so - in order for a less fortunate school or county to bid on the entire lot for their school program.
2) Post each computer individually on the bidding block with with the minimal bid starting at $50 and let the world compete.

In both instances the computers are likely to bring in more money ultimately. After all - who cares who gets the computers if you could double or triple the actual amount that comes back to the county in the first place. It's the equivalent of giving the first 1,000 people at DMV a pass to pay no property tax - and too bad for those that can't or don't show up.

The simple fact that they ignored the basic principles of supply/demand and were so worried about telling others they don't qualify or deserve a computer - that they forgot what they were trying to accomplish in the first place - recovering funds. It is a sad day in education as far as I'm concerned. It appears to me the board simply saw the small political gain of "protecting an elite few citizens at the sacrifice of the "all" for typical short term gain.

This was a poor business decision made by a political motivated group. So in the end, it appears that the board has taught it's citizens less about economics & business, and more about politics and government. Maybe they should sell all the class books too, and just pull out the county's own case study reports covering their other stupid moves.

PS: I'm ready to write my check today for $99 if given the chance. Should we poll the citizen's of Henrico and ask them if they'd like to use "their money", my idea, and in one single day DOUBLE the amount that goes back into their own schools - or shall we let 4 short sighted board members simply reap the political rewards of acting like they really did what was in the best interest of 1000 citizens instead of the "all"?

Chris Miller
Resident of Richmond City
& Willing Participant To Help Henrico County from Itself
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