Surviving the rush

Black Friday invokes wide variety of customer behaviors

Black Friday

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Brandon Morgan, 18, helps a line of shoppers looking for a digital camera on sale in the electronics department of K-Mart early in the morning on Black Friday. 

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — As Trisha Horner waited for a manager to help her this morning, she criticized the cashier for the long wait.
Horner, 26, of Groton, said she was justified in her behavior.
“It’s Black Friday,” she said.
Horner was among scores of customers at the Kmart store on Route 13 shopping early today who wanted a deal in a short amount of time. While some complained and expressed frustration like Horner, others said they were willing to wait patiently as they would any other day.
The day after Thanksgiving has earned the name Black Friday because many stores count on this day to bring sales out of the red range into the black, or profit, range.
Horner was accompanied by Jennifer Turner, 19, of Groton. When Turner found out that DVD players cost more than they thought, because of mail in rebates, she let out a sigh of frustration.
“It’s kind of been a little annoying,” she said. “It would have been nice to know that a half hour ago.”
Across the store, in the electronics department, a crowd of eager buyers shouted at the employee behind the counter, telling him that Wal-Mart would never run out of items on Black Friday as Kmart had.
Jane Rawson, of DeRuyter, said she was looking to buy a digital Polaroid camera for her son’s girlfriend that was on sale for $69.99. It was about 6:30 a.m., and the store had already run out of the cameras, she said.
“It doesn’t look like we’re going to get it and it’s Black Friday,” she said, frowning.
The electronics department was the busiest department in the store. Customers loaded $69.99 19-inch flat-screen televisions, MP3 players and cell phones into their carts.
Rita Barber, 57, of Cortlandville, was working in the front of the store in the jewelry section when about a hundred people pushed their way through the store’s doors at 6 a.m., most heading to the electronics section.
The first five people in line sprinted to the back of the store, but Barber said that wasn’t anything compared to the number of people who darted across the store on one Black Friday when she was working.
“One year they came in so fast they almost knocked over the assistant manager,” she said.
Brandon Morgan, 18, of Cortland, kept himself busy as an electronics department employee, taking criticism and answering continuous questions from customers.
Morgan said he handles tough customers by trying to follow Jesus’ example. Jesus always stayed patient and tried his best to help others, he said.
“I try to be like that by explaining, apologizing and trying as hard as I can,” he said.
Susan Allen, 52, of Cortland, witnessed a few angry customers at nearby registers this morning. One woman said she was upset that Bratz dolls had run out.
Allen said when dealing with that type of customer, she tries not to take things personally.
Customers waiting in line Monday said they sympathize with store employees and people in any service-type job who have to deal with difficult customers.
“They’re trying their best,” Pat Ferro, 66, of Cortland, said about the store’s employees.
Gary Parsons, 62, of Cincinnatus, agreed that people can be too demanding of store employees. He said he and his wife, Yvonne, 62, try to be patient when shopping.
“We’re retired so we don’t have to rush,” he said.
Certain Kmart employees recognized the polite customers.
Marlene Loomis, of Cortlandville, said no customers in the toy department — where she was working — treated her with disrespect.
She said she had actually never had problems with customers in the toy department.
“‘Because toys make people happy,” she said. “You have to be happy if you’re looking for toys ‘because you’re shopping for kids.”
After Loomis shared her thoughts, a family asked her about Spiderman walkie-talkies. None remained, yet the family calmly accepted that news.
Danielle Towers, 33, of Virgil, and her husband, Ky, 36, were perusing the toy section shelves after having bought the last $69.99 flat-screen television on stock and two pay-as-you-go cell phones for their kids.
The couple said they understood the need for customer patience, yet stores must do their part, too.
Danielle Towers said earlier on, in the electronics section, an employee didn’t have a key to open a display window to access a product.
“Kmart needs to watch out for these things,” she said.
Employees finishing up their shift before the store’s opening said they were happy to be busy, but glad they didn’t have to deal with some difficult customers.
“It’s just a nice atmosphere for me,” said Denise Doran, 36, of Marathon. “We dress like this,” she said, pointing to her pajamas.
But a number of employees dealing with customers said they wouldn’t trade in their Black Friday experiences.
Becky Little, 29, of Cortland, who works as a department manager, said despite some customers who are difficult, she gets a thrill from the busy day.
“I love it, the excitement,” she said. “It’s very exciting, and the time flies.”


Icy roads contribute to morning accidents

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — Icy roads may have resulted in two one-car accidents this morning, one on Route 11 in Virgil and one on Route 41 in Cortlandville.
A purple minivan traveling southbound on Route 11 near Reagan Road crossed into the northbound lane and jumped the guardrail at about 6:52 a.m. The crumpled vehicle came to rest on the driver’s side, wedged between a tree and the shoulder of the road. The first emergency responder on the scene, a Cortlandville assistant chief, arrived five minutes later.
Firefighters from Virgil, Cortlandville and Marathon scrambled to free the two men in the van.
The Cortland County Sheriff’s Department was still attempting to notify the victims’ families as of publication.
Cortlandville Fire Chief Dave Denniston said the minivan was unstable where it was resting. The make and model of the vehicle was uncertain, due to its condition, and the license plate was missing.
Denniston described both of the minivan occupants as in their mid-20s.
According to Virgil fire department assistant chief Dave Teeter, both victims were cut out of the vehicle using the Jaws of Life.
One of the patients was transported by ambulance to Wilson Memorial Regional Medical Center in Binghamton within an hour after the accident.
Emergency personnel cut away the roof of the van using the Jaws of Life, finally freeing the second man at about 8 a.m. A Stat-MediVac helicopter had set down on the shoulder of the road at 7:34 a.m., but Denniston said the man was first being taken to the Cortland Regional Medical Center in order to stabilize him, while the helicopter stood by.
The man was later airlifted to Wilson Memorial Regional Medical Center in critical condition.
A small, white pickup truck traveling on Route 41 near Greenwood Road also hit a patch of black ice, Denniston said, and slid into the guardrail. The initial call was received at 7:07 a.m., and Cortlandville and McGraw fire departments responded, arriving on the scene at 7:14 a.m. The vehicle’s only occupant, an elderly man, was taken by ambulance to the CRMC.
It is believed that slippery road condition may have contributed to the accident.
“It doesn’t look slippery, and then when you hit the brakes, you’re in it,” Denniston said as he stood on Route 11, which was closed to traffic until 10 a.m.



City fire chief says he needs more personnel

Proposed 2007 budget does not include funds to add firefighters to fill jobs cut in 1990s.

Staff Reporter

The city’s firefighters are well-trained and dedicated to their profession, but their ability to do their jobs is seriously hampered by a lack of paid personnel, an issue the department hopes the city will resolve by adding another position.
Although Baron has made the request, the additional firefighter is not figured into the fire department’s 2007 proposed budget, which is set at $2,385,876.
“Firefighters are, by nature, a can-do group of people, and they will do the best that they can on every fire to get the job done,” Fire Chief Dennis Baron said during an interview in his office at the Court Street station Wednesday.
Although the city of Cortland certainly hasn’t shrunk, and the job of firefighter has become more complex as the years have passed, the fire department actually fields fewer — six, on most shifts — paid staff than it did 20 years ago, Baron said. The total department includes about 35 members, virtually all of whom are emergency medical services-certified.
“It’s always a question of, ‘Do we have enough resources to handle the problem that’s in front of us?’ One of the major factors involved is the combination of numbers of people available to do mandatory tasks in an appropriate time period. That’s where the question of manpower becomes most important,” Baron said. “Where we run into a problem is that you’d expect that in a normal structure fire that involved one or two rooms … that your first arriving firefighters have enough resources to stop a fire at that point. We don’t have the numbers of firefighters available to do all of the necessary tasks in the first five to 10 minutes.”
Firefighters from other area departments will respond when requested under the mutual aid system, but Baron pointed out that any assistance would arrive after that critical first stage of a fire.
Four vehicles are guaranteed to respond to any fire — a “pumper” engine from the Court Street station, an engine from the Franklin Street station, a ladder truck, and a rescue truck, which is like a “toolbox,” that transports equipment.
The two engines each carry a firefighter driving and a captain, while the ladder truck and rescue truck each are manned by one firefighter.
The nationally recognized standard for an engine company is four firefighters including a foreman, Baron said.
“There is some concern as of what we can accomplish with the number of people we have. The numbers that it takes to do the job are not numbers that the local fire chief has made up. They are known in the business, and they are understood,” Baron said. “Over the years, we have lost, through personnel reductions, the firefighters that were assigned to ride an engine and to be the hose men.”
While the driver prepares the engine to pump the water, hose men would get the hose off the truck and run the hose up to the building with the captain, and then advance the hose into the building.
Meanwhile, the driver of the second engine would connect the first one to a fire hydrant to ensure a continuous flow of water.
During working hours in the week, the three firefighters from the city’s code enforcement office man a third engine.
“My third engine, that I need very badly, is located here. I should be sending three pumpers,” Baron said. “Nights and weekends, that engine is unmanned. It does not respond unless no one is on vacation or ill — which is rarely the case, and in which case, that extra person mans the engine.”
The third engine would either help lay the supply lines for the first two, or relocate to another strategic location such as the other side of the building. Or, Baron said, if the third engine wasn’t needed, it would be available for other calls.
Baron said that in one year, there are about 400 occasions when the department receives multiple emergency calls at once.




State to prosecute drug case

Cincy business owner was charged Nov. 10 with drug sale police say occurred in July.

Staff Reporter

The state Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting a Cincinnatus businessman being held in Cortland County Jail on $250,000 cash bail, according to documents filed Wednesday in Cortland County Court.
According to court documents, and comments from Solon Town Justice Royal B. Stevens, the state Attorney General’s Office is handling the prosecution of Vasilios K. Pothos, known by many Cincinnatus residents as “Billy the Greek.”
Pothos, 56, of 292 North End Road, German, was arraigned without a lawyer at 2:15 a.m. Nov. 10 in front of Justice Stevens after the county Sheriff’s Department arrested him on one count of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, a felony.
Stevens said District Attorney David Hartnett advised him that the Attorney General’s Office will be handling the case. According to Stevens, Assistant Deputy Attorney General James Mindell asked for the high bail during the early morning court proceedings, but did not explain why he felt it should be so high.
Stevens added that he knows very little about the case. He said that in his seven years as a judge he has never had a representative from the Attorney General’s Office in his court, or been asked to set a bail so high.
The only details about the arrest are found in a felony complaint filed with the County Court, alleging that Pothos sold an unspecified amount of cocaine to an unidentified person on July 7. There were no supporting depositions filed.


Judge will not reconsider BB case

Staff Reporter

A week after charges were dropped against two teens accused of assaulting classmates with an airsoft BB gun, District Attorney David Hartnett wrote a letter to Cortland County Judge Julie Campbell asking her to reconsider her decision.
Although the Cortland Standard was made aware of the first letter the week it was received by the judge and the two defense attorneys, neither letter was filed publicly at the County Court Clerk’s Office. The judge sealed the case files, a routine development, after the charges were dismissed.
Both Harnett’s letter and Campbell’s response were obtained Wednesday through the father of one of the teens indicted.
Hartnett did not return phone messages seeking comment about the letter. Campbell could not be reached by phone.
In a letter dated Nov. 9, Hartnett asks Campbell to consider a lesser charge than second-degree assault, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, after she dismissed felony charges Zachary Walter and Terry Elwood, both 17 years old. State Police arrested the two teens in May for shooting five classmates in the parking lot of Homer High School with an airsoft BB gun, which fires soft plastic BBs.
The boys were later indicted on 20 combined assault counts, while Walter was also indicted on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. The endangering charge is still pending.
Campbell dismissed the assault charges on Nov. 2, stating there was no evidence that any of the victims were injured.