Linda Brown walked into Burlington Coat Factory in Columbus, Ohio and announced that she had just won the lottery and would pay for everyone’s purchases up to $500. It sounded like a dream come true for shoppers but there was one really big problem. Linda Brown not only did not win the lottery but she had no intention of paying for anyone’s purchases.
Ms. Brown pulled up to Burlington Coat Factory in a rented stretch limo and announced that she had won $1.5 million. Enthusiastic customers immediately called friends and relatives to spread the news and within an hour there were 500 customers at the registers and another 1,000 customers waiting to get into the store.
I have made many purchases at Burlington Coat Factory in Middleburg Hts., Ohio and cannot imagine the pandemonium that ensued with this kind of announcement in the store. The store is lined with racks of coats but the store also sells clothes, household goods, and seasonal items.
Shopper Candace Jordan said she told Brown she didn’t need clothes but she needed help paying her rent.
“And she said, ‘How much is it?'” Jordan told WBNS-TV. “And she promptly wrote out a check.”
Cashiers started ringing up the purchases and Linda Brown left the store to go to the bank to withdraw money but she returned empty-handed. Burlington Coat Factory employees called the Columbus police.
Then the customers started a storewide riot. Brown took off in her rented limo and customers, who were promised free merchandise, started leaving the store with whatever they wanted.
Linda Brown was arrested when the limousine driver turned her in for not paying her $900 limo bill. Ms. Brown had warrants out for her arrest for previous aggravated menacing, misuse of the 911 system, and causing false alarms charges. She has a pattern for this kind of behavior.
But the shoppers at Burlington Coat Factory probably do not have a pattern of rioting and stealing. This kind of mob mentality is criminal, no matter what the shoppers were promised. Police are investigating surveillance tapes to attempt to make arrests of the thieves.
If I had received a call from a friend or relative about the free coats and merchandise I do not think I would have gone to the store. The idea of that many people in one place for the greedy purpose of getting something for free does not appeal to me. However, I am also a person who avoided Denny’s when they were giving away their free Grand Slam breakfasts.
Linda Brown is a criminal for inciting the riot at Burlington Coat Factory but the customers who rioted and stole from the store after it was found out that they weren’t getting their free stuff are just as guilty.