Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday Fatality

I literally grew up in the land of retail. My father was a drug store manager and my mom usually worked on and off with him. Waaaay back in those days, child labor was a given. Rather than hire a sitter, my parents set me up on a box pricing items when I was 5 years old. By 11, I knew how to run a register, count change and “Paper Moon” was a quick study against flim-flam artists. I didn’t whine and generally enjoyed the feeling of being helpful. Customer service was priority and when on duty, I called dad “Mr. Carter.”
At the same time, I learned how frustrating and aggressive the shopping public can be.
Today’s events at a Long Island Wal-Mart proved to me that shoppers have gotten to a point of literally killing someone over a bargain. Retail work is grueling, underpaid, and thankless. No one appreciates a well-stocked shelf or an uncluttered toy aisle, but the minute an item is off the shelf, John Q. Public is annoyed and griping. Today, some poor clerk got in the way of an obnoxious stampede and people literally trampled him to death. Several others were injured and police were telling folks to back off from the scene.
Is a $15 blender or a $5 Hannah Montana doll worth a person’s life? People have evacuated disaster zones with less chaos. Even the 9/11 Commission reports, “Despite these obstacles, the evacuation was relatively calm and orderly.42
My father used to complain about opening the store doors on sale days, noting the skill it took to unlock the door and literally jump out of harm’s way. Making the challenge more difficult was the store safe that sat by the entrance. When fully opened at a 90-degree angle, the door and its handle touched the safe.
One young clerk wanted to be the one in charge of opening the door for the after-Christmas sale. With persistent begging, dad handed over the keys. The young man strutted up to the door with a self-important gait, unlocked the door and woosh, he was captured between the door and the safe like a specimen under glass. Thankfully he was thin and it gave my dad and other employees a good laugh.
Today, no one laughed when the crowd ripped the doors off the frame and sent a young stock clerk to his holiday grave.
Photo credit: Augustine for News
Published: 11/28/2008 12:03:07


  1. It's just so sad to see so little regard for other human beings: no civility, no remorse. I cannot believe someone was killed in a shopping stampede today, but I guess that's what we've come to. (Mad Max here we come.)

  2. There is something else about which I wonder Iris, and that is whether there is some non-arithmetic, exponential increase in emotion and the extent to which the 'survival instinct' portion of the brain takes over, the larger the number of people around one. not dramatically different than stampeding animals. I just saw a program on how difficult it was for cowboys on a cattle drive to control the cattle once they started to run crazy, and how many trail cowboys died. There are probably some similarities in behavior.

  3. I agree with the "mob mentality" though it is disheartening that people can't control themselves better than a herd of cattle (or sheep as my blog insinuates). I have been in throngs where people feed off others' emotions and while it is easy to fall into that state, I personally prefer to know I am moving in a direction of my own accordance and do not like giving control of my being to an unruly crowd. I suppose one of my pet peeves is seeing people that succumb to acting like those around them instead of thinking for themselves. I despise seeing large groups of people rush at a stage, a celebrity, or through doors for a sale. It literally reduces them to the mentality of animals. Mooooooooo or baaaaa as the case may be :)