I Think We’re Parked in Alaska

Mall of America uses SMS to aid stranded Black Friday shoppers

With Black Friday nigh upon us, mall-based retailers everywhere—not least of them the 520 or so stores inside Bloomington, Minnesota’s Mall of America—have visions of packed parking lots dancing in their heads. But the mother of all shopping centers has a problem that many retail settings do not: 12,550 parking spaces. According to the mall’s management, some 1,500 shoppers each year end up appealing to the mall’s security office for help finding their cars. In view of this problem, Mall of America’s management has prepared an SMS-based solution, which goes active today.

It works like this. Each parking section now bears its own color and the name of one of the 50 states, along with a sign containing instructions for texting in those two identifying details. In the course of their shopping day, the guest will receive a text message with a reminder of where she left the car. “Better yet,” said senior public-relations manager Bridget Jewell, “guests can respond to the reminder with any question they may have and will receive a real-time response from an on-site guest service representative.”

No word on what this service (which is being run by SMS-driven customer service firm Kipsu) is costing the management, but it’s probably a small price to pay to keep shoppers happy—and Mall of America is expecting 200,000 of those to show up on Friday. (That’s well over double the population of Bloomington itself.)

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