Update Dec 23: The Sacramento Bee examines the burning question today: Was the Galleria mall incident really a “flash mob”?

Original post: After Monday’s flash-mob fiasco at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville, the mall is now back open for business. The shopping center had to be evacuated due to the density (no I don’t mean it that way) of thousands of Sacramento Choral Society singers who had dropped in to sing “Handel’s Messiah.”

The incident marked the second time in two months that the mall has made headlines unrelated to the joys of shopping.

On Oct 21, the Galleria was set very much ablaze, allegedly by 23-year-old Alexander Pigee. During the fire, a maintenance worker turned off the sprinkler system, something that may or may not have been ordered by police, who were in the middle of a stand-off with Pigee, KCRA reports. Police contend that the maintenance worker shut the system off on his own authority; last week the Sacramento Bee reported that the worker told investigators he shut the sprinklers off because a UPS driver told him police wanted them disabled.

The Sacramento web site From the Capitol writes this about the incident:

“Why was a maintenance worker able to act on his own and shut off a life saving system? This entire incident was a failure by the mall’s management.” The editorial then slams mall management for being unprepared for the flash mob.

The flash mob was a well known event even to the mall’s management. The mall even sent out their own press release before the event. The event was publicized on Twitter, Facebook, as well as several local websites. Why was the mall not prepared for an event they were well aware of? During the last week of shopping before Christmas it is generally not a good time to have your mall evacuated.

A similar criticism comes from a social media consultant on the News10 site:

Expert: Roseville Galleria paid no attention to social media for flash mob

Events dubbed “flash mobs”are usually a surprise to those at the public venue where they take place. But in the one planned by the Sacramento Choral Society for Monday night, the word was out way ahead of time via blogs, Twitter, e-mails and the society’s own Facebook page.

The Roseville Galleria knew the event was taking place, but had no idea how many people would actually show up either to take part or to watch the Choral Society sing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” As the Food Court floor became jammed with people, popping sounds were heard, and the floor itself seemed to shift…

“If (the Galleria) had a social business strategy of some kind,” said Jeff Marmins of the C7group, “then they would have been prepared. They would have had shopping before Christmas happening instead of sending thousands of people home.”

Here’s a post lobbing the same criticism, from the Sacramento Examiner:

Roseville Mall Officials chose to completely ignore Tweets from Twitter and posts on Facebook getting responses from people who said they were coming to the special “Flash Mob” Sacramento Choral Society Event…

The choral society itself sent out Tweets, made posts on it’s own Facebook page, and sent out e-mails to interested people. People became interested all right! They CAME IN DROVES! So many people came, in fact–they almost collapsed the food court floor!

Further illuminating the perils of social — and anti-social — media, are the negative comments on the mall’s Facebook page. So next to a message like, “Buy 3 Get 3 FREE at Bath & Body Works,” sit these:

Hmm… Not answering many questions from Fox40 News about last nights Flash Mob debacle? What’s up with Security there? Take a look at Arden Fair Mall? Night and day difference?
Video i took last night…that snapping sound and floor jolting was scary!
Dear Galleria, hearing about how the 2nd story felt like it was swaying reminds me of my visit just 2 or 3 days ago. I was talking to the guy at the “Clear” (formerly “ClearWire”) booth and I felt the ground shaking — there weren’t very many people around so I thought it was a small earthquake. The guy at “Clear” sa…id that it was normal. So, my question is: is this a design feature (like the natural swaying of super tall buildings) or a design flaw?
I can’t believe people are blaming the Choral Society for the Westfield Galleria at Roseville mayhem. The whole event was organized WITH the Galleria management. No one had any idea 5,000+ people would show up.
Thanks for deleting my comment. Was it because you don’t like being confronted with your poor decisions, or that you truly believe your actions last night had even a drop of real “safety concern”? Anyhow, I’m still waiting for that estimate on the loss of revenue. Thanks!

If you haven’t yet seen video of Monday’s mall madness, watch this:

Roseville Galleria Flash Mob is Another Bad Headline for Mall 23 December,2010Jon Brooks


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of EconomyBeat.org, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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