Human Tragedy: Losing Perspective Over Holiday Shopping

The Insanity Begins

Attention Wal Mart Shoppers: When You Become the Problem

I just read a news story that literally made my stomach do a little flip, and definitely not in a good way: A temporary worker at a Nassau County Wal Mart in suburban New York was trampled to death when the doors opened at 5 a.m. on Black Friday, this past Friday after Thanksgiving. Over 2,000 people rushed the doors, stepping over Jdimytai Damour and knocking down other employees as they tried to rescue the downed employee.

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The Associated Press report states that at least four other people, including a eight-months pregnant woman, were taken to the hospital for their injuries. Damour was a temp employee who was doing maintenance at the store but had been put on the front door for the early opening.

Now I want you to consider this: A man lost his life at a Wal Mart. Throngs of people ran over his body in their rush to buy the bargains advertised at this store, including great prices on a plasma television, an upright vacuum, a digital camera, and great prices on DVDs. These people were unwilling to stop even when it was announced that the store was going to close temporarily because of the death. According to one witness, when the store announced that shoppers had to leave, that an employee got killed, “people were yelling ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ They kept shopping.”

What is one man’s life when I can get four DVD’s, a camera, and a vacuum all for under $150? Yessiree.

Police say that even with the surveillance cameras it will be unlikely that they will be able to prosecute because it was such mayhem. According to his family, Damour was a big man who loved poetry. He was trampled to death for bargains at a Wal Mart. What a completely disheartening and contempitble reflection that is of our society.

Mob Mentality and Stampedes

Which leaves me to ask the obvious question? Was it worth it? If you were one of those people who pushed through that door and over that man or injured one of those people, how are you going to feel when those presents are opened on Christmas Day? Will you feel one inkling of guilt? The sad truth is that if you were one of those individuals caught up in that mass hysteria for bargains, probably not.

What has happened to our society? If what was behind Wal Mart’s doors was food and medicine, and we were hungering for these basic staples, then the need to stampede, the me-first mentality might be more understandable. After all, what would be coming into play would be the “survival of the fittest” instinct, and to survive, we would need to batter down the doors to Wal Mart and whatever else stood in our way.

But there was nothing out there on Black Friday that we absolutely neededwanted yes—but needed, no. Trust me, I know the difference. I’m not so sure that my oldest son does, and probably few of our teenagers do. Small children rarely understand. That’s why it’s so hard to go shopping with them. They have to have this toy now. It’s imperative. Their World Will Absolutely Stop If They Do Not Have It NOW! But I know a lot of adults like that, too. I’ve felt that way about a few pairs of black boots, but never enough to push my way through a crowd for them. As adults, we are supposed to know the differences and to act responsibly.

Unfortunately, what happened in this particular situation at this particular store is far from an isolated incident. We’ve seen it before at concerts, at soccer stadiums, and festivals. For example, in 1979, 11 people were crushed trying to get in to see The Who in concert. In 2003, 21 people were killed in Chicago as they were rushing to flee a nightclub after mace had been used. In 2001 in Johannesburg, South Africa, 43 people were killed as people were trying to push into an overcrowded soccer stadium. In 2005, 300 people were trampled to death in Wai, India at a religious festival.

But one of the worst stampedes on record was the 2005 Baghdad bridge, which occurred when up to 1,000 pilgrims died following a stampede on Al-Aimmah bridge, which crosses the Tigris river. The stampede occurred because of rumors of a suicide bomber.

A herd mentality can occur for lots of reasons. It is usually a fear-based reaction caused by an individual’s subconscious fear of being left out or left behind. A stampede is a sudden rush of people, usually in reaction to fear. Put the two together, and you have a formula for chaos on a mass scale. What happened at Wal Mart was that you had a mass of about 2,000 people who had been waiting for hours, no supervision of that crowd, growing impatience, and then crowd psychology begins to dominate, bringing about mob rule. That is, someone began to push, and then someone else, and then there was that domino effect again. Whatever stood in the way of that crowd did not stand much of a chance because the store was ill-prepared.

Jdimytai Damour was one of the unfortunate things that stood in the way of that crowd. Wal Mart bears the responsibility of placing Mr. Damour in that crowd’s path. 

Holiday Shopping: An Analysis

So what happens to supposedly responsible adults during those weeks between Thanksgiving and December 24? I’ve seen people get in nasty verbal assaults over parking places. I’ve seen people try to defy the basic laws of physics and try to put two cars into the same space at the same time. I’ve seen grown women pull a lovely sweater completely out of shape because it was reduced to an unbelievable price point, making it literally unwearable by either woman. I’ve watched grown men reduced to small boys because they’ve lost their wives in shopping malls.

scary-santa-bwI’ve watched mothers manhandle their children in line to have their pictures taken with Santa to the point that the children are red-faced with tears and completely terrified of the upcoming experience. When I was a retail sales manager, I watched people go into dressing rooms one size and come out three sizes larger, wearing four layers of clothes and had to have them arrested.

I’ve seen women turn into harpies when there are no more gift boxes, and I’ve done battle with a customer who insisted that I reduce the price of an evening gown by 25 percent because of a lipstick stain that I watched the customer carefully place on the garment. Heaven forbid customer service run out of wrapping paper because that is cause for an all-out rebellion.

The holiday shopping season is not for sissies. It can reduce a tired person to tears in a nanosecond. Shoppers who forget to eat, often wind up cranky, standing in line at an Auntie Anne’s pretzel counter, trying to juggle all of their bags, while reaching for $3.12 without dropping their pretzel, their wallet, and their gift card to Dillard’s which may or may not have anything left on it. If you do find a store that gives out give bags, you hoard them, and other people eye them with envy while the heavy, overladen plastic bags cut into their wrists.

There are no good times of the day to go shopping during ths holiday season, except for first thing in the morning, when you can catch the associates off guard and still in a good mood. By one hour after opening, all bets are off. No one has any change, and all of the associates are in countdown mode until their breaks. The parking lots are full, and the food courts are already out of napkins.

Shopping with a friend or family member may or may not help. If you shop with someone like my mother, you may not get out of one store. If you shop with a spouse, you may only be allowed 15 minutes per store, which, as any female knows, isn’t time enough to buy one present. If you shop with a friend, you will be gone for 12 hours, and you must take a change of shoes and whoever owns the largest car between the two of you. If you shop with one of your older children, all bets are off because then the shopping trip becomes about them and their needs.

This is my advice to you: Do your shopping in mid January. It’s easier and it’s cheaper. Everything is on sale because retailers are trying to clear the floors for spring merchandise. You won’t be able to get toys, but you can buy for all of the adults on your list. Just remember where you hide everything. One year, I found a music box that I had bought my mother four years previously and had forgotten about. It made a great Mother’s Day present. January shopping also keeps you from having to shop during the holiday season. Buy small children toys during October, then stay away from stores in the months of November and December.

This is what I used to do when my OCD was in full swing. It worked wonderfully for me. I had everything bought and wrapped by December 1st. My Christmas cards were in the mail, and my house was decorated while everyone else was just getting started. Oh, don’t ask me about now. I haven’t a clue. I’m just tossing out advice for you. Me? I usually finish around December 24 these days and consider myself lucky to be doing so. I do stay out of Wal Mart, though. Just on principle.candle_1

Just remember to keep things in perspective. A sale is just a sale. There is no such thing as the perfect gift. Your life will not be changed in any way by the giving of said gift. We already have ruined an entire generation of children by allowing them to believe that they are entitled to anything that they ask for whenever they request it. We spend more than we have, and we have forgotten about those without. When you go out this season to buy presents for those you love, remember why you are buying them, but also remember that a man who loved poetry spent his final moments gasping for air under the feet of strangers who cared nothing for him because all they cared about were getting the most for their money at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

There will be more later. Peace.

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