by Felicia Donovan
In these financially trying times, it is understandable that everyone wants to get the best deal for their hard-earned money. I happen to have been one of the crazy people who roused myself out of bed at 4AM to be at the major chain retailer by 5AM to scoop up a 6-hour pre-holiday bargain.
Imagine my shock when I rolled into the parking lot by 4:50AM only to discover at least 200 folks, some of whom had been there for over an hour, lined up and wrapped all the way around the parking lot to the back of the store. I joined the surge of folks just arriving and was politely told by a group of employees who had formed a human barricade, to get to the back of the line. No problem. The others were there first. More employees nourished the cold and sleepy crowd with offerings of free hot coffee and fresh donuts. It was calm. People laughed and chatted with each other about what they were there to buy.
At 5AM, the doors opened and the crowd was allowed in slowly. By 5:05, I was in and headed towards the very mobbed electronics department. Still, people were polite. I quickly located my target - a large gift for a family member. Despite everyone trying to grab their desired prize before it ran out, I had no less than four offers of assistance in getting the unweildly gift into my cart.
I snatched up a couple of discounted video games as well, and made my way towards the front of the store to the registers. The crowd politely gave me room to steer the large box around, sometimes backing up to give me right of way. It was crowded. It was crazy, but it was controlled and calm. Extra workers stood at the front of the store helping customers and checking their register receipts. I received even more offers of assistance in getting the item into my car.
Imagine my shock and disbelief when I read the account of Jdimytai Damour, a 34-year old seasonal Wal-Mart worker who was trampled to death at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, NY. According to news reports, the police had to be called around 3AM because the crowd was out of control. A police officer with a bullhorn pleaded for calm.
Tension grew as the 5 a.m. opening neared. By 4:55, with no police officers in sight, the crowd of more than 2,000 became unruly. Fists banged and shoulders pressed on the sliding-glass double doors, which bowed in as a result. The crowd surged forward and Damour was thrown to the tile floor. Fellow Wal-Mart employees desperately tried to get to Damour but could not keep back the surging crowd. Four other people, including a 28-year old woman who was eight-months pregnant, had to be taken to the hospital.
I'm all for finding a bargain and I'll admit I saved a substantial chunk of change by going out on Black Friday, but somewhere we have to draw the line between finding bargains and behaving like a bunch of bulls stampeding in the streets of Pamplona.
What in heaven's name has gotten into people?
Kudos to the employees and shoppers of my local Wal-Mart, the same chain involved in the trampling, who maintained order and acted like decent human beings. There's no bargain, ever, worth the cost of a human life.