Retailers, consumers and prices
Will Wal-Mart worker death change Black Friday?
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?