Vancouver---By 7:20 a.m. on a Thursday morning, one hundred and seventy-five people had formed a line around the corner of Cambie and Sixteenth.

At the front of the line, the truly determined, sat on folding chairs and sipped coffee from Starbucks cups. They had risen before six a.m. to get their places. Lured by the promise of a "free bag of groceries" for the first two hundred, bargain-hunting folk continued to line up way past the free bag mark to participate in the grand opening of the new Capers store. Among the crowd also were nine-year-olds and four-year-olds who just liked the idea of winning a prize.

Fairview MLA Gregor Robertson, dressed to the nines in an elegant silvery green suit, surveyed the crowd and said, "I've never seen anything like this."

Then he went to the front of the line to cut the ribbon, and welcome his constituents to the newest community market, at 8 a.m.

A savvy marketer from the Hollyhock Educational Centre which is located on Cortes Island handed out brochures to the centre.

"It helps the time pass," said a woman with a newborn in a carriage, leafing through pages about meditation, leadership training and personal growth.

At seven-thirty a.m., Capers employees bracleted the first lucky two hundred and marked them as winners.

The doors opened at 8 a.m. Once the first two hundred people had entered the stores, more kept coming. It became impossible to move, much less to shop. The back-up to get the free and previously prepared bags became huge. Shopping carts couldn't fit through the ailes.

Nevertheless, with patience, people walked away with bounty.


"We bagged it," said Elsie Jones, who lived in the Cambie in 1924, but moved away to Marpole, and then settled on Granville and thirtieth, straightening her pink rimmed glasses and beaming at her free red cloth bag stuffed with...well, stuff.

Samples, to be exact. A lot of tea, including a bag of Spicey Chai Green Tea, a jar of jelly, a box of soy milk, one piece of fruit gummy bear candy, a box of organic raisin bran cereal, a sample of iron supplement, a small, lovely smelling bar of soap, two organic oreo cookies, various small pacakges of pasta, one Cherry Spritzer, a small container of coconut milk drink, a small water in a plastic container, a tiny shampoo, and equally small body lotion container, a sampler of ginsing supplement and a variety of other samples the ordinary shopper might or might not find useful.

But a lot of marketing happened in a congenial setting on a sunny morning. For Capers, it was a grand and successful marketing caper. The people got stuff and the store got stuffed with people.

There was the lady passing out brochures for the educational centre on Cortes Island, and the politician cutting the ribbon and greeting his constiutents.

And at 9 a.m., the party wasn't over. That night, an employee told shoppers, Capers would be hosting a party. Come one, come all. For free.

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