Alabama businesses try to catch all customers as Pokémon goes beyond the game

Alabama businesses try to catch all customers as Pokémon goes beyond the game
Amber Kirtland, 25, left, and Emily Griffin, 26, play Pokémon Go in Mobile (Mike Kittrell/Alabama NewsCenter)

Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm with gamers of all ages. It is giving people a reason to leave the house while reminiscing on childhood.

Using a cellphone’s camera and a GPS locator, Pokémon gamers can walk around watching their devices in hopes of a virtual character popping up on the screen. Pokémon characters have been placed all over the globe, where gamers must catch them to earn points.

With Pokémon characters being scattered randomly, there could be one in your own backyard. Characters are being found in restaurants, parking lots and even corporate buildings. Some businesses are using this as a positive marketing tactic, while others are finding it highly hazardous.

Alabama businesses go for Pokemon fans from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Pokémon Go has surpassed Twitter in the number of mobile users since its release. It broke the Apple App Store record, reaching 75 million downloads in less than one month, and companies are beginning to see the game as a marketing tool.

Businesses capitalize

Mobile recently held a Pokémon Go Facebook event for gamers to capture characters along Dauphin Street. The restaurants and bars in the area saw this as a time to promote themselves while promoting Pokémon. They held specials at the restaurants and announced which characters were hidden in their shops. Many areas across the globe plan to host similar Pokémon days.

Other restaurants, like Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in Hoover, have been found throwing lure modules for Pokémon Go.

Any Pokémon player can purchase a “lure.” When a lure is deployed at a particular location, it allows Pokémon characters to gravitate toward that location, allowing players in the area to benefit if they stop by. This marketing tactic brings Pokémon-hungry customers to a business where they might purchase something.

Companies like the Lee County Humane Society have found having the characters near their businesses to be beneficial. The shelter has used the Pokémon Go app to promote its dogs as professional Pokémon catchers. Visitors can stop by the shelter to take a dog on a walk while catching Pokémon. “It’s a great way to get publicity out about our dogs,” said employee Bailey Ray. “I think it’s just crazy not to promote Pokémon Go.”

Not every business can promote the characters, though. With the disruption of privacy and potential danger zones, gamers must be aware where they are playing.

Children’s of Alabama hospital and some Alabama cemeteries have placed restrictions on gamers to prevent violations of privacy. Pokémon Go players have been found roaming hospitals and disrupting funerals in search of Pokémon characters.

Alabama Power has placed restrictions on gamers due to the danger of playing near power lines and power facilities. The company has generating plants that are potentially dangerous even to trained workers.

“It is hazardous even to the employees who work there and adds more stress when kids come through playing Pokémon,” said Bill McGough, Alabama Power Safety and Training supervisor.

The Pelham Police Department sent a request to the Pokémon Go app hoping to have all of the characters near the police station removed. “What would have happened if we had a hot call and needed to speed out of the parking lot, but kids were catching Pokémon behind our cars?” asked officer Patrick McGill.

The primary danger occurs when users focus their eyes on the cellphone camera, using that as their guide rather than looking at the ground.

To ensure safety, players should be careful where they decide to play and “drivers (should) refrain from playing the game behind the wheel,” said the National Safety Council. Safe Pokémon stops can be found in parks and restaurants, but large areas of water, power plants, corporate buildings and streets can place gamers in danger.

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