Archive for Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tragedy failed to halt discount hunters

December 4, 2008

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What happened on the day after Thanksgiving at a Long Island Wal-Mart pretty much sums up the wretched pursuit of a deal and a buck that has become the American way.

On Black Friday, when stores lure customers before dawn by promising deep discounts on stuff they most likely don’t need, a mob stomped Jdimytai Damour to death. Damour was a healthy 34-year-old man working temporarily for Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer. He was killed when a crowd of shoppers estimated at 2,000 stormed through the doors he was manning.

Increasingly, these door-busting sales attract crazy crowds. And why are they crazy?

Because they know the retailers often carry only a limited number of the sale items.

Still, there’s no question the people in that New York crowd lost their humanity in the quest for a bargain.

What happened after that man died says even more about our culture and corporate greed.

Even after hearing that the worker was trampled, some shoppers complained that they were forced to leave the store while the incident was being investigated.

News reports quote store employees who said some shoppers didn’t want to leave for fear they would miss out on the sales for which they had stood in line for hours.

What that says to me: Even tragedy can’t stop bargain hunters.

Immediately following the crushing death of the worker, news crews interviewed people who, with scowling faces, wondered how others could want a bargain so badly that they would run over a man.

A pregnant woman and several others had to receive medical attention.

But what wasn’t lost on me was that the people the reporters were interviewing were standing outside the very store where the man had died that morning.

The people, who were so indignant at what had happened before they arrived, nevertheless, continued their plans to shop, having to walk past where Damour died.

A Wal-Mart senior vice president issued a statement expressing management’s deep regret for the Black Friday tragedy.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the deceased,” said Hank Mullany, head of Wal-Mart’s Northeast Division. “We are continuing to work closely with local law enforcement, and we are reaching out to those involved.”

That sounds so sensitive. It’s what you say, right?

“Nothing is more important to us than providing a safe and secure shopping environment for our customers and associates,” Mullany said after Damour’s death.

Nothing except the opportunity to rake in more sales, that is.

The company was so concerned, it reopened the store by early afternoon.

A corporation that was thinking about its workers and that man’s family, and not just about its bottom line, would have closed the store, at least for the rest of the day.

Oh, but I must not forget. Bargain shopping can’t be stopped, even by a tragic death in your store’s aisle.

No time to mourn. They’ve got to make that money from fools shopping for things they don’t need.

What about the employees who had to stay on the job, knowing someone they had worked with had died? What about those who were nearly run over themselves?

What am I thinking? It’s not the capitalist way to allow people time to reflect on what just happened to a co-worker. Sales must go on. Shoppers have to have their items rung up. Bargains must be had.

It’s not as if Wal-Mart is one of the retailers gasping for financial air. Despite a severe retail slump, it isn’t suffering.

For the third quarter of fiscal year 2009, Wal-Mart Stores reported profit that exceeded expectations.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based company said it had net income, including a gain from discontinued operations, of $3.14 billion, up from $2.86 billion in the previous year.

The company’s same-store sales in the third quarter rose 3 percent, compared with a 1.5 percent gain for the same period a year earlier. Net sales increased 7.5 percent to $97.6 billion from $90.8 billion.

“We are very pleased with our results this quarter,” Lee Scott, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores said in a statement about the company’s earnings. “At a time when our customer is feeling the pressure of a tough economy, Wal-Mart’s price leadership is more important than ever.”

Sadly, it appears that statement is true. For those shoppers, even a death didn’t get in the way of the pursuit of a discount.

What happened at that store is an analogy for why we’re in the recession that has finally been declared a recession.

Consumers and corporations tragically stampeded into deals they couldn’t afford.

There’s no doubt in my mind that many of those shoppers who ended up crushing a man to death could ill afford to be holiday shopping, even at a store with bargain prices.

Comments

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

Pathetic article, Ms. Singletary. Columnist or not, when the writer reverts to the use of 'me' and/or 'I' that many times in the body, best to trash it and start anew. And a colonic and a nap are definitely in order.The incident was a tragedy and a disgusting reflection on the humanity of some of our fellow citizens. It was reported that the EMT's and police attending to the victim were also jostled by stampeding idiots. Very sad. Almost as sad: the victim's family filing a wrongful death suit against Wal-Mart. Nothing says grief like a money grab. If a crowd of crazies takes down the doors, a curious and unsettling development considering their steel and glass make-up, how the hell is that preventable? If successful, what will stores have to do? Enlist crowd control, a line of riot gear-clad cops, installation of vault quality doors? How 'bout an electric fence, barbed wire, and a moat? I'm gettin' that oh so familiar holiday nausea again.

zzgoeb 6 years, 5 months ago

Such behavior simply confirms that many Americans are obsessed consumers. Marketing and our "winner takes all" culture have dehumanized most aspects of society. How could someone become so possessed over something to buy at a store? Why aren't we more interested in each other than the "stuff" we buy, use up and throw into the landfill. This problem can only be fixed by a wholesale change in our economy and lifestyle.

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

I wouldn't go so far as to bring her down to your level, bozo. Just thought the article stunk and might have been brought on by a lack of high fiber and insomnia.

BigPrune 6 years, 5 months ago

I heard the pregnant lady interviewed on the radio the day of the stampede and she said she lost the baby. I wonder why the story has changed and no report about the pregnant lady losing the baby?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

Given the childishness that pervades all your posts, jaywalker, your perspective on the quality of her writing is worthless.

David Omar 6 years, 5 months ago

Lets not reduce to personal attacks on the writer or the observers, but firmly take note in what the writer said. She is right, whether we like it or not. How can we accept the fact that a man was trampled to DEATH because shoppers raced into the store like a bunch of children? How can this not be the biggest wake up call for our consumerism and the way we hold so dearly a discount on things we don't really need? I never venture forth on this day to shop for anything, not even groceries, because of the immaturity and the bragging rights to say I got this toy for only 99 cents instead of $1.10. Really the culprit here isn't shopping it is the extent we have taken gift giving to be the crux of the Holidays. Nothing is so important. We have certainly forgotten the meaning of it and now a family can't enjoy it with their brother, father or son. Personally, I am outraged.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

The responsibility lies with Wal-Mart. The behavior of large crowds trying to fit through limited entrances is well known, and they failed to have proper security on hand to deal with it.The family has every right to get a very big settlement from Wal-Mart over this, and there should be criminal charges filed against the local store manager, and corporate officers as well if there are no corporate policies designed to prevent such occurrences.

jonas_opines 6 years, 5 months ago

"How can we accept the fact that a man was trampled to DEATH because shoppers raced into the store like a bunch of children? How can this not be the biggest wake up call for our consumerism and the way we hold so dearly a discount on things we don't really need?"Because it's not limited to consumerism. You hear about this occasionally at rallys, at concerts, and soccer games in Europe, etc. Maybe the real problem is that people in groups behave as a lower class of animal than people on their own.

supertrampofkansas 6 years, 5 months ago

People are still the same. They'll do anything to get what they need. And they need SOYLENT GREEN. Solyent Green is people!Solyent Green is people!

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

"Given the childishness that pervades all your posts, jaywalker, your perspective on the quality of her writing is worthless."That might actually mean something if it came from someone I respected, bozo. And if I discounted my professional writing experience. And if you weren't playing 'Pot' here.Jonas' summation at 9:57 is exactly how I feel about this. 'Consumerism' is not the prime suspect, that's short sighted at the least. Pack mentality is dangerous and the lack of humanity is disturbing, but the fact people like to save a buck has nothing to do with what actually happened here.Logicsound,My intention was not to ridicule the victim's family for the suit, but maybe my sentiment is petty. I would think that Wal-Mart would be more than happy to help or fully cover the funeral expenses in an instance like this, and without a suit hanging over them. I'm just sick and tired of accidents and tragedies being excuses for lawsuits no matter the case. There were hundreds of thousands of stores and malls dealing with the same issues across the nation. Didn't happen anywhere else. A friend of mine stood in line in a Tampa mall for a tiny Disney store to open at midnight, 1500 people stretching through the halls. Nothin'. Even you say it wasn't Wal-Mart's fault these people turned animal, so holding them accountable for something unforeseeable is petty and frivolous. Let's say just one shopper in line decided to turn psycho, ran full force and dove through the glass door and a shard of glass cut the guy's jugular..... Wal-Mart's fault? There are many different ways to look at it and we may simply disagree. I'm just tired of hearing of wrongful death suit's against universities because their son on scholarship had an undetectable heart defect and collapsed on the field, a suit brought 'cuz a woman was raped by an employee with no criminal history, a suit brought 'cuz a man opened his Culligan water jug and had a fly stuck on the rim and he claims he suffered PTSD and erectile disfunction because of it.

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

Logic,Like I said, we'll just agree to disagree on this, not that I don't see your points. I just don't see a trampling death due to a 'line cutting' riot where the doors were torn down as 'foreseeable'. I'm not one for protecting corporations when they're negligent. Maybe some sort of crowd control is warranted, but where does it stop? We can't protect everyone from everything. And I find that it's this type of "blame game" that has such a corrosive effect on our society as a whole. In fact, there's a strong correlation between the threat of these types of suits and the high cost of health care (that's a different discussion, lest we digress!). Somewhere along the line it became the norm to pin the blame on someone, anyone, for every accident and tragedy and misfortune. You might see this as foreseeable, but I can't. My guess is this poor guy was right in front of the doors when they came down. Poor judgement? I mean, if I see that kind of commotion I'm gettin' the heck out of the way. Maybe just wrong place, wrong time. Tragedy in any case. And I appreciate your opinion.And FYI, don't know what happened with the football player (Northwestern U.), the girl's family won the suit against MARTA here in the ATL, and the fly guy was awarded $400k by the jury (can you believe it?!!) but the verdict was overturned on appeal and I don't know where it stands now.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

"And if I discounted my professional writing experience."That discount better be pretty steep if you expect to be paid for it.

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

As nonsensical as ever, bozo. Keep up the...um..work.

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

Your suggestions are relatively minor 'tweaks', and I'd be willing to bet that some semblance will be instituted in the future, particularly if this suit is successful. And in that aspect, it couldn't be a bad thing.As always, logic, a pleasure bouncin' back and forth with you.

MeAndFannieLou 6 years, 5 months ago

What about the shameful way Americans - all across the country - behaved on 9/11/01? 3,000 people die tragically in a terrorist attack on our soil, and people go punching each other out at filling stations because they're determined to get the last gallon of gas and all others be damned. Greed seems to override our better natures even in the most tragic circumstances (not all of us, of course, but far too many of us). Oh, I realize that some gas retailers were price-gauging on 9/11, and that Walmart can take a more responsible approach to promoting its sales and controlling its crowds, but does that excuse people for turning on each other?

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

Liberty,I'm not sure which case you're referring to with your opening point or if you're just speaking in generalities. If in general, I would say that while I believe in our system of law I've seen numerous instances where juries' awards in lawsuits are laughable and misguided. Honestly, in the "Case of the Water Bottle Fly" - claiming post traumatic stress and erectile disfunction - and winning? And those weren't the only claims, just the most ridiculous of the ridiculous. And as such it was overturned by the State Court of Appeals. Thank the Lord.Point is, juries in lawsuits are often led by emotion. And too many of these suits are frivolous, costly to the taxpayer, and responsible for jamming up our system as well. For the record, I'm not heaping this Wal-Mart suit with those. But this is why numerous types of lawsuits pertaining to transportation and pharmaceuticals have been remanded to federal court; to keep the emotion of ordinary citizens out of the verdicts.As for your stance on the 'foreseeability' in this instance, I'll respectfully disagree as I did with logic. I will admit that the possibility of unruly crowds might be expected, but not a death by stampede. And I'm not aware of or familiar with yearly reports of mayhem on Black Friday, let alone a death resulting from it. Perhaps there have been and I've just pushed it out of my mind, but when I heard about this I was shocked as if it was the first time I'd heard of this in our country in these circumstances. Like I said above, we can't protect everyone from everything. If a plane crashes into the roof of that store and kills dozens, is Wal-Mart liable because they were in the flight path for landing? Or how 'bout the scenario of the lone psycho shopper I posited above? Wal-Mart liable there too? Extreme examples, I know. But the edge keeps getting pushed. And that's what concerns me. All that being said, after going over this with logic and now yourself, the validity of your positions can not be discounted whatsoever. It's tricky any way you slice it.

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, Liberty. Doesn't change my opinion 180 degrees. As for marketing plans, just saw an ad for Toys R Us calling their current Xmas sale "Doorbuster Deals". As I said, hundreds of thousands of stores, millions upon millions of shoppers, and this happened in one place. Wal-Mart doesn't invite shoppers to tear down their doors and run over their employees. You, me, noone outside of a large police presence can prevent mass hysteria. Everyone has 'deep discounted items' on this day; hence, Black Friday. Few others set up ticket systems. Noone 'foresaw' the doors coming down, and as I said, sounds like this poor guy was right behind them. Wrong place at the wrong time. Tragic. Accidental. Noone's fault but the animals that started the whole thing. But you're more than welcome to scream 'lack of clairvoyance'. I respectfully disagree.

denak 6 years, 5 months ago

Big Prune, from what I heard the woman lost her baby although I haven't seen anything confirming or denying that. It's just what I heard also.As for Wal-Mart not knowing, well, they must have had some idea that there was the potential for chaos. The man who died was apparently well over 6 feet tall and roughly 240lbs from what I read. You don't hire a big guy like that if you don't think you need to keep people in line. I doubt Wal-Mart could have foreseen the depth of this tragedy but they obviously knew that there was the potential for problems.As for a ticket system, I think that is a good idea. From what I understand, this all started because shoppers who stayed in their cars or arrived late, tried to cut in front of those who had been there since Thursday. I think the store should hand out tickets in different colors. If you get there on Thursday, you get a red card and can then come in first, green tickets second, and then down the line. Only when all the reds are in, can the subsequent colors enter. I think with most tragedies, this will lead to an improve system but it is a shame that this man and possibly an unborn child had to die in order for things to change.Dena

RobertMarble 6 years, 5 months ago

idiot says "and a buck that has become the American way".... Speak for yourself, jackass. I'm far more of an American than you. If you've got a problem that's one thing, but don't take it upon yourself to include an entire nation of people in your stupidity and desire to bash this country. There are people with similar mental deficiencies to yours everywhere, in every country. You display supreme arrogance and lack of intellect by attempting to categorie everyone is such a weak manner.

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