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An Onslaught at PriceSmart on New Year's Eve 2016


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Marcelyn and I have been traveling, and returned home to Boquete late yesterday evening. Without thinking through things, we went to PriceSmart today to stock up on perishables, etc. Our plan was to go early just after opening, and then get back home. We arrived in the PriceSmart area about 10:45'ish.

Going to PriceSmart today was a major mistake. We have NEVER seen PriceSmart so congested. The cars were queued up on the InterAmerican Highway for more than 1/2 KM just to get into the parking area. We opted to bypass the main entrance, and bogey on down to the Chiriqui Mall entrance and come in via the back route. Had to park on that back route and walk in.

Cars were parked even on the entrance side road. Here is a picture of part of the congestion, but this picture does not come close to conveying the real situation.

2016-12-31 11.13.04.jpg

There were no empty parking places, tons of people in the parking lot, no shopping baskets were available outside the store, and so I thought I would be real smart and ask someone who was loading their goods into their car if I could have their basket when they were finished. However, it turned into a queue of five people wanting that one basket.

Okay, being the clever dude that I am I got one of the few remaining large flatbed carts, and then faced another gauntlet -- that of getting into the store. We almost turned around at that point, but decided that we had driven all the way from Boquete so we were going to stick it out. We were queued up into a single line waiting to get into the warehouse itself. Once in, we could hardly walk it was soooooooo crowded. People everywhere.

The queues for checking out, every one of them, were full, and backed up all the way to the opposite end of the store. I am not kidding here. Every line was at least 75 people with their carts.

Movement within the store was very difficult. We decided after getting about fifty feet into the building and spending 30 minutes to get there that it simply was not worth it. We abandoned the flatbed cart, and exited, which was itself a gauntlet.

Again, we have never seen PriceSmart so congested. I am sure that the employees are going to drop in exhaustion at the end of the day, assuming they make it that long.

I bet PriceSmart is going to have a banner sales day today. We ended up getting some eggs at the Canasta Basica store at Plaza San Francisco, and then calling it an end to our shopping spree. We had a big laugh on the way home.

BTW, forgot to mention that getting fuel in David was also an adventure. Our normal station in David (a Terpel station) had no fuel. None, Nada. Zip.

Obviously the economy here in Panama is booming.

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Dang.  I drove my wife to the airport this morning and strongly considered a PriceSmart stop on the way back.  I wish I could say that I had a hunch it would be  a mistake. Instead, I decided I was just too lazy to do it.

If there is a moral to this story, I'm too lazy to articulate it.

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Adding a postscript to my above posting: there is an underlying public safety issue that needs to be pondered: Had there been a fire in the PriceSmart warehouse, it would have been a major disaster.

My opinion here, not scientific data, but it would have been extremely difficult to evacuate the building given only two doors and the hordes of people inside. There likely could (would?) be injuries from the exiting hordes. And more importantly, the Bomberos would have found it incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to get their firetrucks to the site given the massive number of people and cars at that facility; there were simply too many cars that were parked in areas and in ways that significantly reduced vehicular access and maneuverability.

I am thankful that none of that happened.

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