Customers Flock To Store For Dirt-cheap Turkey Sale

November 21, 1991|By Arthur Hirsch and Lorraine Mirabella | Arthur Hirsch and Lorraine Mirabella,Staff writers

You see this sort of thing every day in Warsaw, Poland, people standing by the hundreds for hours in a food line. But this wasn't Warsaw,it was Leedmark, and the turkeys were dirt cheap.

"Twenty-eight cents a pound, I don't remember when they've been 28 cents a pound," said Dale Loyd of Brooklyn Park, one of the multitude that stood in line yesterday morning outside the giant department store on New Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie.

She would get her turkey, all right, about 20 pounds' worth. She would get hers and thousands more would get theirs, pushing the Leedmark sale up over the 30,000 turkey total recorded on Tuesday. Turkeyswere flying out of the place like swallows, all at 28 cents a pound.And the madness was to continue for another week.

"You can't go wrong at 28 cents a pound," said Gary Beyer of Glen Burnie.

Elsewhere, turkeys have been selling for 69, 79 and 89 cents a pound. The turkey deal that started Friday might prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

And Beyer wasn't about to let it slip by. He was first in line at seven in the morning, waiting for the doors to open at nine. Not another soul stirred in the lot. Inside, thousands of turkeys cooled in storage, including a 20.29-pounder with Beyer's name on it, a bargain at $5.68.

"They were saying yesterday on the news that people were coming an hour early," said Beyer. "I figured if they were coming at eight, I'll come here at seven."

Wait a minute, the news? That's right, a Baltimore television station sent its people down to get it all on tape, capture the emotion behind the story. The medium was hot, the turkeys were frozen and the feelings ran high. There wasmuch joy for the thousands who bagged a bird at the reduced price. But there was some frustration, too.

The gush of turkeys that flowed so abundantly from Leedmark slowed to a trickle by Tuesday afternoon. A handful of customers were left birdless. Alas, they arrived in the mood for fowl and left in a foul mood.

"We did run short of turkeys because people were buying more than the two-per-family (limit)," said Edward Segal, spokesman for Leedmark, the European-style "hypermarket" that opened here in May. "We want every family to have an opportunity to buy one turkey at these low prices."

To avert furthershortages, Leedmark officials imposed a one-turkey-per-family limit Tuesday and urged customers to stick to it. And to avoid a turkey riot, the store set up a system where customers get a ticket, then line up at out tickets and turkeys, while the regular crew of security guards stood by to maintain law and order. The store is guaranteeing a supply of 5,000 turkeys each day through Tuesday.

Some ugly storiescirculated through the crowd of people hording turkeys before management imposed the new rules. One family was said to have grabbed eightbirds. Others were said to have bought turkeys, locked them in theircars and returned for more.

"People are terrible," said one woman, who claimed to have seen

the eight-turkey family make off with its brood of birds. Another shopper said she saw two women come to blows over turkeys on Saturday. That story could not be confirmed.

It's the sort of thing they've come to expect in Eastern Europe, where fresh meat can be rare as hen's teeth. But what of Glen Burnie, whereabundance rejoices? Why this turkey madness?

"These are rough times," said Segal, offering a theory about the turkey run. "People are looking for ways to get more bang for their buck. People are trying to stock up as much as they can. I don't know what people are doing, storing them, putting them in the freezer. They're having a lot of turkey."

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