6 min read

Black Friday: deals cause total carnage

When I was younger I worked retail, and I remember dreading the holiday season; we’d be completely busy, and customers were never ruder.  I’ve seen ads poking fun at rabid crowds trying to break down doors before stores open to get the latest deals around the holidays, and it’s always some comment about how the store’s prices left the customers chomping at the bit to save that 15%.  Of course when parody becomes reality, it’s always ugly, and today had to be worst, aptly named, Black Friday ever.  The reports of people getting violent in an effort to secure a cheap blue-ray dvd player, or flatscreen TV is enough to tell you things have gotten out of hand, but today there’s plenty of examples that show that this kind of frenzied shopping needs to end.  I’ve compiled as many as I can stand just to point out that is a systemic problem, and our consumerism culture has once again gone too far.

Many people were fighting over kids’ clothes and other essentials […] “It was a sea of people,” said Rathburn, who hoped to buy a Nintendo Wii game system but went home empty-handed. He wasn’t impressed by the behavior of fellow customers. He said a woman accidentally bumped his back as she tried to compete with him while he examined $1.50 towels. He also said he watched as a customer swooped in to take a 42-inch TV and the unattended cart in which it was sitting. “I’m guessing that the spirit of giving for Christmas starts tomorrow,” he said.

From San Diego, the Mercury News reports:

Navigation was difficult because unlike a normal day at Wal-Mart, everyone had a cart. “The worst part is there are carts,” said Sharon Hauck. Backs of heels get clipped from carts following too closely, hips get bumped from people moving around corner and not looking first and people can get fingers smashed when trying to squeeze past someone standing in the middle of the aisle. There have been national reports of shopping cart violence and fist fights over parking stalls in regard to Black Friday shopping.

Next up, The New York Times:

Shortly after midnight yesterday, an estimated 15,000 shoppers pushed and shoved their way into the Fashion Place mall in Murray, Utah. Police soon joined them, responding to reports of nine skirmishes. Once inside, shoppers ransacked stores, overturning piles of clothes as they looked for bargains. A retailer’s dream — too many customers! — quickly turned into a nightmare, forcing store clerks to shut their doors, and only let people in after others left. The mall even briefly closed its outside doors to avoid a fire hazard.

At the Wal-Mart outside Columbus, customers dashing toward 5 a.m. deals pinned employees against stacks of merchandise. “Oh, my god, stop pushing me, oh, my god,” screamed Linda Tuttle, a 47-year-old employee at the store.

Virginia TV newscast reports:

The rush at Roanoke’s Best Buy turned violent, just seconds after the doors opened at 5 a.m. NewsChannel 10 caught a man on video hitting someone over and over. Watching in slow motion you can see him hit someone at least 5 times.

The Scranton newspaper reports:

The scene at many stores was part Woodstock, part Lord of the Flies, as hundreds hunkered for hours bundled in clothes, wrapped in blankets and holding coffee cups and crumbled newspaper inserts. As the 5 a.m. opening at Best Buy approached, latecomers crashed the line marked by yellow tape, jockeying for pole position with people who stood in the cold for hours. Attempting to quell the crowd, a store manager jumped on a garbage can and threatened to call police. Store employees handed out tickets, entitling the bearer to one of the limited number of so-called “doorbuster” items. Many of those in the line circling the building had no idea that the front of the store was on the brink of chaos, or that items they waited for were already claimed.

In Torrance, California, again The Mercury News reports:

An elderly woman and nine other bargain hunters were injured Friday in a rush for gift certificates dropped from the ceiling of a local mall. Some 2,000 shoppers rushed for 500 falling prize-filled balloons at the Del Amo Fashion Center, leaving nine with minor wounds and sending an elderly woman to the hospital.

And finally, the most well known incident from black Friday, is the death of a Wal-Mart employee:

[At 4:55 a.m., just five minutes before the doors were set to open, a crowd of 2,000 anxious shoppers started pushing, shoving and piling against the locked sliding glass doors of the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, New York, Nassau County police said. The shoppers broke the doors off their hinges and surged in, toppling a 34-year-old temporary employee who had been waiting with other workers in the store’s entryway.

People did not stop to help the employee as he lay on the ground, and they pushed against other Wal-Mart workers who were trying to aid the man. The crowd kept running into the store even after the police arrived, jostling and pushing officers who were trying to perform CPR, the police said.

“They were like a stampede,” said Nassau Det. Lieutenant Michael Fleming. “Hundreds of people walked past him, over him or around him.”

The employee, who was not identified, was taken from the Wal-Mart to nearby Franklin Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m., the police said. His exact cause of death has not been determined. The police said that three other shoppers were injured and a 28-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant was taken to the hospital for observation.

Can you imagine going to work, not getting paid much being a temporary worker and having this happen to you, or someone you worked with?  This is outrageous, and now we’re learning more about the behavior of some of those excited ‘bargain hunters’, WNYC reports on the initial findings of the police investigation:

Police say it may prove difficult to identify individual shoppers who trampled on a Wal-Mart worker killed at a Long Island store during Black Friday’s buying frenzy.

REPORTER: Nassau County police are reviewing surveillance video from the Valley Stream store. A crowd smashed down the doors just after 5 a.m. Police say other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue Jdimytai Damour of Queens. Detective Seargent Anthony Repalone was a witness.

REPALONE: While he was on the ground, he was certainly stomped upon by hundreds of people either stepping on him directly or stepping around him.

REPORTER: A woman who is eight months pregnant, and three other people, suffered minor injuries. Police say there was not enough security at the store. Arkansas-based Wal-Mart says it had tried to prepare for Black Friday by adding staff and outside security workers. But the company won’t say how many staffers it had on hand in Valley Stream.

The Black Friday rush at the big box door is a symbol of an era that is ending. It is a ritual when speedy greed is a kind of fun, and the violence of these doorbustings in years’ past got media comments like, “Well that’s our America… but that’s the economy!” No, it is Consumerism, a system of money and products that is now crashing down. We are returning to local and more compassionate economies.

He’s right, it’s (past) time to shop locally, and leave all the deals on the big name brand items to the savages.