Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Wal-Mart shows its strength on Black Friday

November 28, 2008

Wal-Mart flexed its retail muscle on Black Friday to the delight of deal-seeking shoppers who spoke with our reporter Nicole Maestri in Columbia, Maryland.

Early bird buyers with shopping carts stuffed with toys, electronics and clothes stood 10 deep in checkout lines and the parking lot was packed with cars at 7:30 in the morning. In Valley Stream, Long Island, the crush turned tragic when a temp worker was killed by the crowd surging through a Wal-Mart’s doors.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, kicks off the Christmas shopping season and marks what is traditionally the busiest retail day of the year. But what began to emerge from shoppers’ stories was that even if they were willing to look for deals elsewhere, they kept coming back to Wal-Mart.

Marathon shoppers April Richards, 26, and her mom, Diana Eichhorn, 49, started their holiday gift hunt at the Thanksgiving Day sale at Kmart, which was out of the pajamas they hoped to buy. From there they went to Arundel Mills, that features outlet and discount stores, at midnight. They also stopped by Kohl’s at 4 a.m.

But at Wal-Mart they found deals on everything from a sewing machine to $8 jeans and $4 pajamas. The duo said the store’s discounts were so good that they bought jeans and other items that they normally would have purchased elsewhere.

Wal-mart is expected to be one of the few companies to prosper this holiday shopping season, which is feared to be the weakest since the early 1990s as a credit freeze and home price implosion hit consumers’ wallets.

In Oakland, California, shoppers who lined up in the darkness to be first to get their hands on deals when the store opened at 5 a.m. sprinted for the electronics and computer departments.

Back in Maryland, Adel Beshai, 42, said he arrived at a Wal-Mart at 6:30 in the morning knowing that he could get a low price on a flat-screen television. He walked out with a 50-inch Samsung for a little less than $900.

Beshai, who lost his carpentry job about a year ago and now drives a taxi, said he is not trimming his holiday budget. He still plans to take his four children to the stores to pick out what they want for gifts.

“It’s our life,” Beshai said. “We cannot die because the economy is down.”

The scene was more subdued across the street at Target, where the registers were not as busy ringing up sales and few lines had more than two people waiting.

Still, the store’s electronics department was busy.

In the Target parking lot, Alice Hughes, 45, said her purchases included an $89 digital camera.

Hughes said she was expecting to see more people at Target. “They need more people to be out so they will probably lower prices,” she said.

Hughes, a senior contracts administrator for the government, said she and her 25-year-old daughter had already been to Sears, Macy’s and JCPenney.

A treadmill deal at Sears lured Hughes out on Black Friday, when she usually stays home.

In addition to buying the treadmill at Sears, Hughes bought a 32-inch flat screen TV.
At JCPenney, she bought a $60 coat for herself and a $30 leather coat for her daughter.

Still, Hughes said she was not overly impressed with the prices.

“I think they’re playing. They tell you they’re marking down but they’re really not,” said Hughes, who expects prices to fall further as Christmas approaches.

Jamal Bullock, 30, has already learned that lesson.

In the Target parking lot after buying a stand for his new television, Bullock said he was headed to Best Buy later in the afternoon to get a refund after the flat-screen TV he bought last week for $1,499. Its price has already fallen to $1,299.



You all sicken me. Black friday shoppers trample and kill a Walmart worker. That is hideous. Every last person who stormed through those doors should be brought up on murder charges. Hope their children enjoy their bloodstained toys! Even this article is a disgrace. There is one paragraph about the tragedy and then it goes on to talk about special sales. “This is our life”. Shopping on black friday? Thats what you live for? Give me a break.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

I completely agree…it wasnt even a full paragraph. It was a sentence. Americans make me sick.

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive

I am so disgusted that some people are so desperate to buy something on sale that they would trample someone to their death. This whole black friday thing is so stupid anyways. The prices on everything always goes down as christmas gets closer so there is no reason to get all crazy on one stupid day. No one should ever have to die like that. I agree that everyone who trampled that guy should be charged with murder.How could they not notice they was walking on him? Were they in such a hurry that they couldn’t walk around him or at least help him up off the floor. If you ask me not one item in that whole store is worth buying in exchange for someones life.

Posted by Destiny | Report as abusive

i waited on line at walmart since 2am last night and the line was pretty long when i got there. everything seemed okay then, only a few people were starting to act up but there are always those clowns who are bored with nothing else better to do. at about 4 oclock more and more people started crowding the door like madmen. groups started screaming at each other and the police tried to settle them down. they would move them but only did so for a few moments all of them left after that. the only “security” was two men out side who worked at walmart telling people to not bring in carts, and that was all. this was my first and last time i would ever go to any black friday ever again. once 5 came about the doors opened and the uncontrollable massive amount of people just jolted into the doors. the employees closed the doors only after a few seconds which i’m guessing angered everyone in the front to the point that they had to break down the doors. i couldn’t see from where i was standing, but as soon as the doors reopened i was squiched almost to the point i couldn’t breathe. i went with two other family members and all of us just wanted to leave at that piont, but we couldn’t the crowd had a strong wave-like effect and grabbed us in. i almost broke my arm trying to hold my family together. People just kept pushing and grabbing, everyone was for themselves basically, some even punching just to get through. i felt sorry for the little kids who could barely breathe and all the pregnant women who stood in the so called line next to me. We were all dragged into it. i never knew that people could be so cruel, so disgusting as to trample a worker like that. as i got to the door i saw the dead man on the floor, yet the thousands of people behind me didnt care they kept on pushing more and more. i screamed for people to stop pushing and i almost tripped on top of him but thankfully a worker pushed me the opposite way. there was no way of controlling these people. i’ve never seen a dead man before, his body just laying there i was is just pure shock. his body underwent thousands of people. he was a big man, and just because he looked strong the workers thought he could hold the crowd like superman or something and what really aggravates me is that the other walmart workers themselves were too busy standing on ladders taking pictures and recording vidoes on their cellphones laughing not realizing they have one of their own on the ground being pounded to death. this death was not and is not just the crowd’s fault. there wasnt enough to security to regulate such a riot. the few police that were there either left or watch the the crowd grow wilder minute after minute. i have heard of pushing but this was past pushing it was a life or death rally. a moshpit looked civilized compared to this. thank god my family was okay my mother fell as well and lost her shoes, but she was helped by someone, to think that she could’ve lost her life as well. my body is sore from yesterday but i cant complain because i’m grateful i am alive. i do regret going that day, and it just shows me how animalistic humans can be.

Posted by Life Faith | Report as abusive

What a remarkable lack of taste on Lisa Baertlein’s part to even write this article in the vein it’s presented. A person lost their life being trampled by a pack of greedy materialistic vultures and it’s a passing bynote.

Walmart and all other stores that participate in this ridiculous annual event should seriously rethink their policies and frankly, as many people as they can criminally convict on the video tapes wouldn’t even begin to rectify this situation. My heart goes out to the victim’s family which is more than I can say for Ms. Baertlein or any parties involved who contributed to this crime.

Posted by candy blackmail | Report as abusive

This is one of the saddest stories I have ever heard. I wonder if this is what Jesus feels like every Christmas? Trampled underfoot by the bargain-hunting savage shoppers. I pray to God that the Church will stand against this and take steps to reduce the sick materialism in our country.

Posted by RMC | Report as abusive

I agree that the trampling was a disgrace, but I feel that if we focus on the minutiae of consumerism, we are going to blind ourselves to that which threatens us much, which is the government. Wal-Mart and governments are best friends, because Wal-Mart has so much lobbying power. Thus, because of this nasty relationship, we have to ask questions like “I wonder how many Iraqis and Afghans were killed today as a result of government power?”

It is certainly more than the one worker who was killed as a result of consumers. I’m not saying that that man’s death is not tragic, but if you are going to accept the premise that a group of people can be held up for murder charges, then certainly every single American who has paid their taxes should be brought up on charges for murder since those taxes funded the deaths of hundreds of thousands over seas.

Of course, taxes are compulsory, hence why it should not be the citizens that are held accountable, but the government itself. We need to wake up the reality that the government is at the root of problems like consumerism, not freedom. I don’t have to shop at Wal-Mart…but I do have to fund war whether I like it or not. Which is the bigger problem?


Posted by Phil | Report as abusive

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