What toy, what must-have item is so absolutely, desperately needed in this recessionary economy that can make "hundreds of people" casually and callously trample a human being to his death at 5 a.m.?
Because that's exactly what happened today to Jdimytai Damour, a seasonal overnight stock clerk, in the wee small hours of the morning at a Walmart on Long Island. A seasonal worker. Someone who was previously unemployed, probably, due to this lousy economy, or someone working at Walmart as a second job stocking shelves throughout the night so that he can give his kids a decent Christmas. There's no glory in working retail during the holidays. I never have, but I know people who have, and do, and from the horror stories they tell, it's no walk in the park.
So to try and understand what can't-live-without item was more important than a 34-year old's life, I just went onto Walmart's site (which doesn't even offer the obligatory "we extend our deepest sympathies to the family" corporate PR condolence message) to view their Black Friday circular. I typed in 11580 to get their Unbeatable Prices from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. today at the Valley Stream, NY store.
And I'm at a loss to figure out what was such a matter of life and death.
Was it the Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV for $798 or Samsung's 10.2 MP digital camera for $69? Perhaps the Xbox 360 Arcade Console for $199 or the Wii for $249.24? (Does Walmart really need the .24 freakin' cents, for God's sake?) Maybe the HP computer for $398, the Apple Touch phone for $227, or the High School Musical bicycle for $69? It couldn't have been something practical like the hoodies or jeans, both a steal at $8 each. All good bargains in their own right, to be sure.
Maybe it was the $20 Bratz Big Wild Wild West doll (I kid you not) that caused 2,000 shoppers to literally break down the Walmart doors. According to published reports, the door frame itself was "crumpled like an accordian." The AP reports that "[s]hoppers who surged into the store were asked to leave by Wal-Mart workers, some of them crying and visibly upset." And
"[t]hough rumors circulated among the shoppers that someone had been badly injured, people ignored the Wal-Mart workers’ requests that they stop shopping, move to the front of the store and exit."
It's bad enough that we as a society are all-too-willing to sleep in parking lots to get a coveted place in line for Black Friday. Personally, I never understood the whole Black Friday thing, but I have semi-slept outside for concert tickets. That would be for none other than The Jacksons' Victory Tour in Philly, September 1 (or maybe 2), 1984. My parents, in their infinite wisdom, refused to allow 15 year old me to join my best friend in sleeping overnight on the asphalt at Ticketron outside the Gold Medal Sporting Goods in Northeast Philadelphia for concert tickets. Instead, my mom drove me over there at 3 a.m. (I owe you one, Mom.) I wasn't all that thrilled about the notion of camping out as a 15 year old, so I can't imagine I'd be much more thrilled now that I'm 24 years older.
For all the reports that people are being more cautious in their spending this year, we still have people in line on Thanksgiving night in anticipation of "doorbuster" sales at midnight, at 3, 4, and 5 a.m. At least three major chains were open on Thanksgiving Day in my area. All for the chance to score what, exactly?
But something's wrong - very, very wrong - in our society when we move beyond sleeping in lawn chairs in parking lots or shopping on Thanksgiving Day itself.
What does it say about us when, in the midst of a major economic crisis that has the shelves of food banks completely empty, 2,000 people have the power to decimate a metal doorframe, trample a human being to his death (and nearly do the same to a pregnant woman and several others) and still continue shopping for overpriced crap after being told that someone has been seriously injured?
It says more than enough.