The first Costco store in China opened Tuesday in Shanghai, and the enthusiasm from customers was so great that the store had to shut down by the afternoon due to out-of-control crowds, according to the South China Morning Post.
Anticipation was so intense for the store's opening that traffic leading into the store blocked streets and led to a three-hour wait — just to park. Customers who managed to get in were also subjected to two-hour wait times to check out when they were done shopping.
By noon, the store was begging customers not to come to the store via text message.
"The store has been clogged up with crowds. To provide you with a better shopping experience, Costco will suspend business in the afternoon," a text message to members read. "Please don't come."
Shoppers reported that altercations broke out between customers fighting over items as upscale as Hermes Birkin bags and as simple as rotisserie chicken.
Customer chaos as China's first Costco shop opensyoutu.be
Shanghai police asked citizens to behave in a civilized manner, and to avoid rush hour.
"For your safety, we hope citizens who want to go to Costco can maintain a rational attitude about consumption and avoid going out during rush hours," a police statement read. "Those who have already gone there, you must follow orders."
In the future, the store will limit the number of customers allowed in to 2,000.
"We'd like to apologize for the inconvenience caused to our members on our warehouse opening day in Shanghai," a Costco statement read. "Due to security concerns, we decided to close the warehouse early. Our most important concern is the safety and good experience of our members."
The overwhelming success of the Costco opening comes in the midst of a trade war between China and the United States, during which President Donald Trump called for U.S. companies to begin exploring ways to pull out of China.
"Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA," Trump wrote on Twitter last week.
The scene at Costco on Tuesday may serve as an illustration of why many U.S. companies may not want to do that.
"This is a great example that shows how hard it will be for U.S. companies to dump the China market," financial columnist Xiao Lei said. "The Chinese market still has great consumption power, particularly for high-end goods. It will be hard for U.S. corporates to give up this."