Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Will Wal-Mart worker death change Black Friday?

December 2, 2008

The chaotic crowds that show up in search of rock bottom prices on Black Friday took a deadly turn this year, when a worker at Wal-Mart, Jdimytai Damour, was trampled and killed by a crowd of frenzied shoppers at one of the discount retailer’s stores in Long Island.

The shocking death made headlines around the world, showing the dark side of American consumerism. A reader identified as Life Faith wrote in to talk Shop Talk to describe the harrowing experience of being caught in the crowd at that Wal-Mart store on Friday morning:

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 do regret going that day, and it just shows me how animalistic humans can be.

In a blog posting on On Faith, Susan Thistlethwaite, a professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, said Black Friday has now taken on a new meaning.

The term ‘Black Friday” traditionally refers to the day after Thanksgiving when shoppers start their holiday shopping and retailers start to see their balance sheets go from red ink to black ink, from deficit to profit. This year, ‘Black Friday’ has come to mean something else to me. Black Friday, I realized today, means death by consumerism.

I have come to believe that we should honor the life of this Wal-Mart worker by thinking far more deeply about our genuinely corrupt relationship with consumerism.

In a letter to the editor on the New York Times website, Michael Pravica from Henderson, Nevada said Corporate America must shoulder some blame for creating the hype surrounding Black Friday “that causes some aggressive and nasty people to do horrible things.”

Having only a few deeply discounted items in stock when more than a thousand people come to purchase this item only abets the desperate hysteria and poisoned, competitive dog-eat-dog atmosphere. All Americans need to reflect on this tragedy as we approach the season of what should be good will toward all humankind and ensure that it never happens again.

David Carr, who writes a column for the Monday Business section of the New York Times, said in a story on Nov 30 that media and retailers built Black Friday.

In partnership with retail advertising clients, the news media have worked steadily and systematically to turn Black Friday into a broad cultural event. A decade ago, it was barely in the top 10 shopping days of the year. But once retailers hit on the formula of offering one or two very-low-priced items as loss leaders, media groups began to cover the post-Thanksgiving outing as a kind of consumer sporting event.

On chicagotribune.com, business columnist Kayce Ataiyero writes that the death should give shoppers pause.

You can’t legislate humanity, and that’s what was lost Friday along with Damour’s life. The shoppers, not the retailers, were the ones who checked their decency at the door. They were the ones who stepped over and around Damour’s body to get to the deals, jostling emergency workers, news reports said. They balked when workers announced that the store was closing due to his death.
 
That these customers were capable of such callousness in what is supposed to be the most generous of all seasons is an indictment of the consumer culture we support. The shame of this sad episode is a shared one.

 What is your reaction to the death? Will it change how you shop on Black Friday?

(Photo: Reuters)

Comments

i think perhaps instead of blaming consumerism and these stores for their marketing which may or may not be evil, but blame these horrible people who were so worried about saving a couple bucks they were literally willing to kill.nice run on sentence.but seriously.
d

Posted by Daniel DiMartino | Report as abusive
 

I cannot beileve that we as americans could be so heartless putting things over human life, Heck this is a season for peace on earth not death! I think that human life is the most valuble thing of all and this disheartens me greatly. I feel that this is a step too far for american consumerism and we should feel more love for our fellow man. They should just stop all wars on christmas day to remember the hope that one day there may be peace on earth.

Posted by nate | Report as abusive
 

I agree with you wholeheartedly. How pathetic, how sad, and how exemplary of why I personally HATE the commercialized observance of the birth of Christ.

Posted by Antigone | Report as abusive
 

How can it be that this nation is so caught up in the material things of the world to not care about a human life? Each year Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier as retailers put up holiday decorations before Halloween has even arrived. I understand people may want to get the best deals possible, but getting up at at the crack of dawn and waiting outside a store to gobble up items just shows where our priorities have gone in this country. Compassion, love, humanity, generosity and respecting one another was checked outside that Wal-Mart door. Shame on those individuals who were upset that their shopping was cut short to due soemething so MINOR as the death of a human being who happened to be employed there. It amazes me that they simply didn’t remove the dead employee and prop him up at the entry with a Santa Hat and sign reading, “Happy Holidays! Welcome to Wal-Mart” In fact, I wonder if anyone would have noticed. May God have mercy on this nation for it has changed so drastically and I don’t know what more it will take for everyone to wake up and focus on what truly matters… and it isn’t a sale on any day, anywhere.

Posted by Lainey Melendez | Report as abusive
 

This entire Black Friday mess has got to stop. We as consumers, the general public, have got to realize that this is not going in the right direction and is not healthy for us as a whole. People are dying because someone else wants a TV or GPS. Garbage. Stay home. Do not support this Black Friday massacre!

 

Christ, and now Damour, died for our sins. The least we can to is make use of the opportunity they provided. If we stop shopping, the Communists have already won.

 

I believe that we us Americans give other countries the right to laugh, and criticize us, based on our behavior. Things like this only happen in America.
It is sad that someone lost their life of pieces of disposable, replaceable plastic. My prayers go to the family and God bless them.

Posted by No King | Report as abusive
 

It is really sad what this world has come to. Black Friday is not he only time this takes place it takes place anytime people loss the lack of respect for the others around them and only think me me me. That very same weekend I was with my family in Disney World and people would shove elders and mothers with small children just to get in the doors of the shows. No show, sale or event is worth hurting or in this event taking anothers life. How do you live with yourself was the sale worth did you get the item you went crazy for. Remember treat others as you would like to be treated

Posted by chelli | Report as abusive
 

I believe that the American culture of consumerism has led our country to a sad and tragic place. Every year there is an incident on Black Friday. I blame the media, the retailers, and all Americans who have lost sight of what is morally right and decent in this world. My heart goes out to Mr. Damour’s family in their time of sorrow.

Shame on Walmart for reopening the store only a few hours later. Have you no decency? Walmart continues to prove that their business is based solely on the bottom line. Nothing more. Walmart is a corporation with repeated injustice toward employees which is why I refuse to shop there.

PS. While it may seem to only happen in America, I do recall a similar trampling death when an IKEA opened in India. Consumerism and herd mentality is not isolated to America.

Posted by joanne | Report as abusive
 

I am a Walmart associate. going on 8 years now. The first thing is I just visted a site that had a video of the cops trying to revive this associate and it makes me sick. Total disregard for the privacy of the family. Black Friday has always brought out the bad side of people but to take it to this level is insane. The humanity of people is gone all for a good deal. I am very thankful that the store I work at is a 24 hour store. The doors are open all night, so the customers come in and wait by the product taht they want. We do have fights break out but never to the degree.

To the Damour family you are all in our thoughts and prayers. we are so sorry for your loss. To the people of LI I hope the deals were worth the life you took.

 

they should be prosecuted and sent to prison. every last one of them.

Posted by jack | Report as abusive
 

I have not stopped thinking baout this since the momemt I heard about it. How can people be so cruel and evil to say the list.. i’m still teary-eyed over it. I thonk the idiots that trambled this man to his death should go to prison and why has Walmart in valley stream publicly spoke out about the loss of this young man. I used to go to this Walmart every single week and now I don’t want to be anywhere near it because it brings back painful memory. I was there at the walmart probably an hour after it happened. I saw helicopter and a couple of cops walking because the traffic was ridiculously packed and as my family and I began to walk out he parking lot we were told what happen and it just took a deep sadness over me. I will not go out on Black friday again.. i truly regret going that day.. truly! I would have preferred to pay regular price. it was my first time going out on that day and it will be my last.

 

this was the american public who want to have the nerve to go to the neighborhood stores and give a bad rap to the neighborhood and to walmart. walmart is not responsible for the outbreak on black friday it was done by the barbaric savages that went to a neighborhood store and wanted to save a dollar but greed got in the way and they killed an inocent working man trying to work to just pay his bills .the workers there were not prepared for such animalistic behaviors. they are working people they are not ESU prepared for this behavior. I feel walmart should respect the man’s family and make restituion and close the store in valley stream so the taxes that defrayed from the mall to the nassau county residents will be raised and a more civilized community would be living there

 

this was sad that this happen i dont think anyone knows the meaning of black friday anymore. that was sad what happen to to the guy that got killed im sorry for his family because thats a really bad way for anyone to die. im so glad i didnt go shopping that day……

Posted by wendy | Report as abusive
 

It’s sad that this happened. It’s sadder still to see people point fingers at the next guy. You’re greedy, and they’re greedy, and together, you’re awful.

Marketeers can hype it however they want but in the end, my decisions are my own and I don’t buy things that I don’t need, even at half off. It’s just a simple matter of deciding to be honest with yourself about the way the world really works, and what’s important, and then just deciding to do better. That’s it. It’s not something you hope for; it’s something you just DO.

Posted by thaumata | Report as abusive
 

Black Friday should be outlawed. The only thing these retailers care about is how much money they are going to make. People are not important just their money and how much can they spend. Shame on the retailers as well as the people who are up at the crack of dawn to shove and hit people to get to a good deal. A man died and for what? So people could save some money. My prayers are with his family.

Posted by Stacey Hertz | Report as abusive
 

Today there are so many options and alternatives to shopping in unruly mobs. We have the internet and overnight shipping. While not everyone can partake in online commerce and people will still need to shop in person for many things, I don’t see why Walmart and other retailers can’t offer more of these discounts online on Black Friday or whenever, and achieve the same affect.
There was simply no reason for this death. The fact that an employee was killed, rather than a crazed shopper, makes it worse.
So many relatively inexpensive changes could have prevented this– I’m appalled that Walmart didn’t have basic crowd control set up for such a huge day.

Posted by Jenni Wieland | Report as abusive
 

it is a sad day when selfishness and greed overpower the quality of a human life

Posted by teacher | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •