Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Truly Black Friday

I made a vow a long time ago that I would never, ever go shopping on "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, which has long been considered the busiest shopping day of the year.

I enjoy shopping almost as much as I enjoy trips to the dentist and doing my taxes, so it's not like that vow has required much discipline on my part over the years to keep. The thought of getting up at three or four o'clock in the morning in order to venture into the dark and cold of late-November in New England, strangely enough, doesn't strike me as all that tempting.

Who knows why?

Maybe it's just a personality quirk on my part, but I can give you two very good reasons right off the top of my head:
1) I hate crowds, and
2) I hate crowds.

My family, though, is another story. This year, my wife and oldest daughter, and even my fifteen year old son took part in the dubious tradition of Black Friday, all returning unscathed later in the day, something not to be taken for granted, apparently.

Undoubtedly you've seen the reports about the situation in Valley Stream, N.Y., where a crowd of jolly holiday shoppers celebrated the beginning of the season of giving by trampling to death the poor unlucky soul who drew the short stick and got the assignment of opening the doors of the Wal-Mart to let in the unruly mob waiting outside, some of whom had been camped in the parking lot since the night before.

Far be it from me to question the way anyone else spends his or her free time, but staying out all night in New York in November? To be the first one into the Wal-Mart? For the privilege of spending your hard-earned and increasingly hard-to-come-by money? Are you kidding me?

Anyway, the man who got killed in the line of duty, a 34 year old immigrant named Jdimytai Damour, wasn't even a full-time employee of Wal-Mart, he was a temp, not that that should make a damned bit of difference, but seems to add an even greater element of tragedy to the whole situation, if that's even possible.

Making the scene even more bizarre was the reaction of the joyous holiday revelers, who according to witnesses became irate when store officials announced they were going to close the store due to the tragedy. Some of them screamed they had been waiting in line since ten the previous night and weren't about to let a little thing like some guy getting trampled slow down their bargain-hunting.

Unbelievable. Supposedly law enforcement authorities are reviewing store security tapes in an attempt to identify any or all of the offending people, but good luck with that. Anyone identified on the video can simply claim, probably with complete accuracy, that they were being pushed into Damour by the surging crowd. No one will serve a minute in jail for this man's death.

Maybe it's time to rethink the whole "Black Friday" thing. I'm no retail sales expert, but isn't it usually considered bad for business when people get killed at your establishment? Isn't there a better way to draw people into your store than to advertise outrageous discounts on products that are going to sell out within a few minutes, leaving all the overpriced stuff for the people who didn't trample a worker to death to pick over?

Or maybe it's just me.

I know this much, though. "Black Friday" is supposed to signify the day during the year that retailers begin to make money. In Valley Stream, New York, though, at least for this year, it means something completely different.

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