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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Walmartology: Crime in Consumerland 4

     So-called "serious" writers of literary fiction, in hundreds of pretentious, unreadable award-winning novels, have for decades portrayed Americans as frenzied consumers who mindlessly eat, polute, and shop until obesity, pharmaceuticals, boredom, and booze puts them in their pre-purchased, overpriced graves.

     After nine-eleven, President Bush told us to dust ourselves off and shop. Today, retail consumers line-up around the block to buy the latest high-tech gizmo. Customers camp out overnight in the vast spaces of box store parking lots. A fake doctor is caught injecting cement into the butts of women who have exercised their asses off. (Sorry, I dropped that in because I might not find another place to use it.)

     Black Friday has become, like Superbowl Sunday, a defacto holiday. On Black Friday we spend money we don't have, and on Superbowl Sunday we eat bad food and get drunk. All of this plays into the above novelistic theme that might be becoming more than a literary stereotype.

     At four in the morning on Black Friday 2008, two thousand bargain hunters were pressed against the sliding glass doors of a Long Island Walmart. As opening time neared, six brave Walmart employees lined up against the quivering glass doors in an effort to hold back the mob. Eventually, under the weight of the pulsating retail mass, the doors snapped loose and the crowd stampeded into the store. The frenzied bargain hounds knocked a 34-year-old Walmart employee to the ground and trampled him to death. Several other shoppers and employees were bowled over, but survived the onslaught.

     On Thanksgiving 2011, a Black Friday early-bird shopper at a Los Angeles area Walmart, pepper-sprayed several customers to keep them from getting their sweaty hands on merchandise the spritzer fancied. One shopper landed in the hospital while the other casualities were treated on the retail battlefield. The pepper-spray combatant escaped capture by disappearing into the mob with the spoils of battle.

     In Walmart and other stores across the country, several Black Friday shoppers were robbed and shot. Also, in-store fights broke out causing injuries, knocked over displays, and trampled merchandise. In Phoenix, police slammed a grandfather to the ground on suspicion he had shoplifted a game. The shopper had stuck the item into his waistband to free up his hands to lift his grandson above the mob.

     Shopping on Black Friday is not for the faint of heart, or even the moderately courageous. This Black Friday, 152 million shoppers hit the stores.  Americans need their stuff, and some of us are willing to stand in line, camp out, and even fight for our things while muggers lurk between the cars, SUVs and trucks waiting to ambush us as we come out of the stores. There's got to be a better way. Wait, there is, the internet! And that's called Cyber Monday.


  1. Okay, I confess. I am a seasoned black Friday shopper. I also shop the internet. Walmart had a very good buy on an Xbox 360 starting at 10:00 at night. My kids have wanted one for a while now. I checked the internet to see if I could get a better deal and couldn't so I went to my Walmart at 8:30 that night. The store was open Thanksgiving so that meant no standing outside and freezing. I asked where the Xboxs were located and was directed to a line and handed a ticket for the item. You couldn't get one without a ticket. I stood in an orderly line with very nice people and passed the time in conversation. At 10:00 they started handing the game consoles out. The line moved quickly and as soon as I received mine, I went to the checkout and was home by 11:00. My Walmart did the lines and tickets for all the big electronic items. The person who thought of this deserves an award. I have been in wild out of control stores and dreaded going again this year. I actually had a good experience and plan on letting the store manager know that this ticket idea is the way to go. Now, some of my other shopping was done on the internet. I also plan on shopping some privately owned small business stores. These stores are locally owned and I can find unique items at these. The bonus is that when I do this, I am helping the local economy.

  2. What in the alignment of the stars caused pepper spray to suddenly be everywhere in the news?

    Teresa, it is amazing what a little planning can do for encouraging orderly behavior-- and, conversely, how a lack of planning can help bring out the worst in people (although the pepper spray sounded like a premeditated attack).

  3. I couldn't believe it when I heard about the pepper spray. I hope that they catch this woman and arrest her for assault. Several years ago, I was at the only Walmart we had in town. (We now have 4). I stood in line outside for three hours to get a scooter for my child. This was when scooters were very expensive. Just before opening, people from the parking lot started swarming toward the doors, pushing aside those of us who were in line. Insults and fists started flying and I was terrified. There was almost a riot. I swore that was the last time I would ever stand in a line outside a store again. Later, I did speak to the store manager and suggested security of some sort for the next black Friday. On the bright side, I did get the scooter for my daughter and she passed it down to the younger siblings.