I successfully navigated Black Friday. I stayed home. Every year I think, “Oh, maybe this year will be a shopping year,” but for the past 8 years I’ve been able to resist the darker side of my nature. I didn’t actually stay home, either. I worked out. So I drove past lines at Ace Hardware and Tuesday Morning while having the gym virtually to myself: just a few hard-core sweaters working off the mashed potatoes.
I came away from Black Friday in better shape. Not everyone did. You heard about the man in New Jersey, the Wal-Mart employee? He was trampled to death by the rush of crazed shoppers who took the doors off the hinges and knocked down at least 5 people in the first onslaught. One of the those people, a temp. hired to do some maintenance, died within the hour.
This is the ugly side of humanity. You can picture them, right? That particular blend of eagerness and ferocity on their faces, purses held as weapons in front of them, getting ready to run to electronics or hardware or toys or wherever their flier told them to go. So they got Candyland for $4.98 instead of $7.00. They got a Playstation bundle for $469 instead of $532. The employee can rest in peace knowing he helped America’s families save so much money.
The other evil side to all of this is Wal-Mart’s programmed voice on the tragedy. Under advice from a lawyer, I’m sure, they called the “incident” a “tragic situation”. Gee, ya think? They’re “working closely with police,” and their “thoughts and prayers are with [the customers and workers] and their families at this time.” Let me guess how those prayers go: “Please, please, please make them spend lots of money so our stock prices rise.”
Now, the good side of my nature, the part that wants to see everything all rosy, says that the higher-ups at Wal-Mart do cry over the death. I want to think that they’re taking a good look at how they run their stores in order to avoid another black Black Friday. But the part of me that says that corporations only see things in shades of Wall Street, the part of me that remembers Wal-Mart’s forced unpaid overtime and blackballing of Union members, says that Wal-Mart will let this sweep by. They’ll advertise lower prices, longer shopping hours and better return policies. And next year, if it’s mentioned at all, the tragedy will only inform policies meant to make shoppers feel better, not actually keep people safe, sort of like duct tape and plastic sheeting. “Take your shoes off, ladies and gentlemen,” but meanwhile the larger picture will remain the same: we’ll pander to your greed, your selfishness, your ugliness, and we’ll get rich doing it.