Nov. 12 looked like just another peaceful fall day inside the Orange Bubble. Squirrels scampered harmoniously across green courtyards as smiling students strolled to class, coffee in hand. All seemed well, and yet inside the J.Crew store in Palmer Square, a storm was brewing. The offer of a special, exclusive sale extended to Princeton students had incited a fervor among undergrads anxious to try their hand at shopping discounted, cold-weather apparel from this Ivy’s unofficial mascot. The Facebook event advertising the occasion had been accumulating RVSPs for weeks; all were prepared for the crusade. When the clock finally struck 5 o’clock on that fateful day, Princeton students turned out in droves, charging into the store en masse. The battle commenced.
As “Price Tag” by Jessie J played ironically in the background — “Ain’t about the cha-ching cha-ching/Ain’t about the ba-bling ba-bling” — students ferociously divided and conquered. Pastel-clad Princetonians ransacked the store for every last marked-down sweater, scarf and necklace. Initially, students waged war against the store; Princetonians teamed up to take advantage of the sale in groups. However, an internal fight within Princeton’s ranks soon emerged, as individual students took notice of the limited quantity of certain items, particularly the more highly discounted ones. Conflict broke out quickly as several Princetonians, all brandishing hangers in one hand and fists in the other, circled viciously around the one remaining winter-weight cardigan in size medium.
The first floor of J.Crew, where most of the store’s regular-priced merchandise is located, was fairly tame. The mere 20 percent off was not enough to entice most Princetonians into battle. However, the store’s upper level, home to the sale section, became the site of fierce consumer combat. The opportunity to take an extra 20 percent off these sale items, already on sale for 40 percent off their original price became a modern-day Helen of Troy. The Student Sale of J. Crew was the discount that launched 1,000 cashmere conflicts. Hangers strewn across the floor and students with elbows extended fought their way to the front of the racks to have their go at the choices hanging there, waiting for the victor. Time was of the essence, and most students had mere moments to peruse before succumbing to fiercer and stronger competitors.
As the night went on, some battle-weary students attempted to escape the tumult by forging their way toward the safety of the dressing rooms, using their backpacks as shields and holding their hard-won garments close to their hearts. At that point, much of the bounty was claimed and in the possession of merchandise mercenaries. The open fighting slowed, and a round of smaller scuffles proliferated as students devised ambushes in the dressing rooms and aerial attacks from the racks. Eventually, even these tactics died down, and the fighting approached a stalemate. The subsequent arrival of a new battalion of wallet-clutching soldiers reinvigorated the battle, and it started anew.
As the event approached its end, the few remaining survivors scurried downstairs toward the cash register, where they hastily made their purchases and escaped out onto Nassau Street with big bags and bigger smiles. The number of casualties of the Battle of J.Crew was steep, but for those who made it out alive, the rewards were certainly substantial.