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Malls prepare for iPad debut

A man looks at monitors displaying the Apple iPad Web site at a computer store.

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KAI RYSSDAL: All right, let's see, what's going on this weekend. Well, there's college basketball. There's a new 3-D movie out "Clash of the Titans," although I hear the 3-D is not really very good. Sunday's Easter. Oh, and then there's the iPad thing tomorrow.

'Course, you know what that means. Thousands of the faithful lined up at Apple stores waiting for the doors to open. If past really is prologue, they're probably lining up right now in shopping malls all over the country.

Sally Herships reports those malls have plans of their own for the big day.


Sally Herships: Ian Meyer is 25. He lives in Raleigh , N.C. And here's what he has planned for his vacation in Washington D.C. this weekend: Waking up at 6 a.m. and heading to the nearest mall to pick up his new Apple iPad.

Ian Meyer: And I found out we're going to be traveling. It's the first thing I did was find the store that would be closest to where we're going to be and reserve one there.

Meyer is a huge Apple fan. Not only did he work in one of the stores for a while, but when New York City's Fifth Avenue location opened in 2006, Meyer camped out for 33 hours. In the rain. Just so that he could be one of the first people through the door. Malls know the Meyers of the world will be descending on them this weekend and they're prepared.

Mike McAvinue: It involves security, it involves housekeeping, it involves giving an update to all the stores that may be affected, especially the restaurants.

Mike McAvinue is the general manager at New Jersey's upscale Mall at Short Hills. He says this weekend the mall is expecting 2,000 customers to show up for iPads. The mall can handle a line of about 300 people inside, but there still will be lots of overflow onto the sidewalk.

McAvinue: For customer convenience, we actually put in some very high-end Porta Potties.

With mirrors and fresh flowers. The Porta Potties will run the mall a few hundred dollars a day. When you add in the other costs, like extra security, the tab climbs to about $2,000. McAvinue says it's worth it. Especially, if it gets shoppers out of the Apple store and into the mall faster.

McAvinue: And that customer will come here, and they will visit restaurants that day. They may visit another shop that particular day. It's a win-win.

There are more than 200 Apples stores in the U.S., and the vast majority are in malls. Most of them, including Short Hills, are planning to open early to accommodate the iPad crowds. But one mall that doesn't need to make any special preparations is the Mall of America in Minnesota. It's the country's biggest mall, with 4.2 million square feet. Big events are routine there.

Erica Dao: The Jonas Brothers have come out and they drew a huge crowd, especially all the teeny boppers.

Erica Dao is spokesperson for the Mall. I told her the Mall at Short Hills would be giving free coffee to waiting customers and about the fancy Porta Potties.

Dao: Really?

Herships: Yeah.

Dao: Oh wow. They're trumping us for what we're doing for the iPad launch then.

Dao says Mall of America has over 40 million visitors a year. They're all set with security and bathrooms. But their Apple store will be opening an hour early on Saturday.

I'm Sally Herships for Marketplace.

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