Jackpot hunters cramming into Miss-Lou stores

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 24, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – With an estimated jackpot of $280 million at stake, Powerball fever is hitting the Miss-Lou, with customers jamming into Concordia Parish convenience stores to buy the tickets.

Lynnette Moser, owner of Vidalia’s Top Speed convenience store, formerly RaceTrac, said that about 3,000 customers bought tickets Thursday and more than that were expected Friday.

&uot;It’s the most (customers) I’ve ever seen&uot; for Powerball tickets, Moser said. She added that customers are spending up to $500 apiece on tickets.

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When asked if the store has been busy the last couple of days, Melinda Nations, manager at Wag-A-Sack, just lets out a weary laugh. And she knew that Friday’s lines were just the beginning.

&uot;Tomorrow evening, it’ll be standing room only in the store,&uot;&160;Nations said. &uot;We’ll have one person working the (ticket)&160;machine and two more working the registers.&uot;

Nations would not give out specific numbers of the tickets sold as of Friday afternoon, but agreed that the number would run well into the thousands.

While no lines had formed for Powerball tickets as of Friday afternoon at the Papa T’s convenience store, also in Vidalia, business was steady, said cashier Stephanie Timmons.

&uot;Everybody comes in to get their Cokes or a six-pack, but they get Powerball tickets, too,&uot; Timmons said. &uot;We get lots of regulars here, but we’re starting to see people we’ve never seen before. I&160;think this jackpot getting so high is bringing a lot of business in.&uot;

There are downsides to the high volume of business, however.

Moser said that, for the first time since she’s been with the store, clerks agree having to ask customers to pre-pay for gas. That is because employees are too busy to monitor the pumps.

&uot;The worst part is that you can’t give customers the customer service they should be getting,&uot;&160;she said. &uot;Normally, you’d help them key in the numbers (for Powerball tickets) and help them fill out the slip, but we just can’t now.&uot;

But most customers buy tickets with machine-selected numbers, or &uot;quick pick&uot;&160;tickets.

On Friday, Top Speed employees even printed out hundreds of quick pick tickets with five sets of numbers each and were selling them for $5 per ticket at the store’s night window.

Nations said that at her store, customers had gone pretty smoothly as of Friday afternoon.

&uot;They’re being patient – and we’re patient with them,&uot;&160;she said.

Today, customers can only buy Powerball tickets until 9 p.m., since the drawing will be held at 10 p.m.