Q&A At 5:30 a.m. on Black Friday, Steve Reed already had been at work for hours, overseeing the invasion of Arden Fair mall by thousands of holiday shoppers who began lining up at 10 the night before.
Reed, now in his 13th year as security chief for the mall, runs a multimillion-dollar security system from his basement office that is designed to ensure a safe shopping experience for the 1 million customers expected to visit Arden Fair between now and Dec. 31.
A former Sacramento police official and familiar presence in the region's media reports on shopping and security, Reed took time Friday morning to offer advice to potential shoppers.
How has it gone so far?
This year is the smoothest I've had for a Black Friday in 13 years. There were a couple of arguments between males out there, and that was quickly taken care of by our law enforcement. There was no problem.
Is Black Friday the busiest day of the year?
Not necessarily the busiest because the weekend before Christmas will be busy all through that Saturday and Sunday. But, for one day, it's the busiest, and we would expect 90,000 people.
How many on a non-holiday shopping day?
A normal day could be anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000.
Where do they all park?
We only have 5,300 parking spaces here. We have a lot at Cal Expo (for free overflow parking), and we have tour buses running every 10 to 15 minutes. All of our retailers are required to park over there. That frees up a lot of parking spaces for our customers.
What's your advice for the most pain-free shopping experience this season?
What I would tell them is to come earlier in the day. If you show up early when the mall opens, the first few hours crowds are thin; there aren't lines. You can get all your shopping done and get out.
Is it better to use credit cards, debit cards or cash in holiday shopping?
I think it's better to use credit cards. Credit cards and debt cards are better to use than carrying a lot of cash. And credit is better just from the expediency in getting it resolved.
If they take your debit card and they're taking cash out of your account, I don't know how long it's going to take for you to get your cash back. If they're taking your credit card, that's going to go through the process where it's not out of pocket.
What kind of shopping season are you expecting?
After this weekend? It'll be steady. The National Retail Federation expects a 4.1 percent increase in people this year, in sales.
You have an extremely sophisticated camera and security system here? How extensive is it?
I've got a $2 million camera system here. When I got here in 2000 there were 19 cameras covering 77 acres of property, and they were the old VHS-based cameras.
We started from the ground up, got the ownership to commit to the system; that was really critical. We started out with 128 cameras in 2007, and now we've evolved to where we have 167 cameras. I have plans for 17 more this year, and next year we're going to put 50 more in.
How has it helped cut crime in the area?
I can't measure what we've prevented, but I can tell you that in 2006 we had 77 auto thefts in the mall here for the year. Last year, I had seven. That's a dramatic decrease, and out of those seven we caught four of them because we captured them on camera.
Any idea how the traffic at Arden Fair compares to malls like the Roseville Galleria?
We don't share those things. We have over 10 million customers a year here, but from Black Friday to the 31st of December we'll have over 1 million people here.
So my team will have to deal with a million people, which is a large-sized city.