Black Friday Sales: Worth Dying For?

As I was grinding away on the elliptical trainer, one of the local TV Talking Heads opined that there wasn’t much going on this morning trafficwise. Not much going on newswise either. The big story: the Senate voted Saturday night to begin the debate over health-care reform. Ah, what have they been doing for the past nine months? Sheesh. At this rate someone will have to wheel me in for my death panel review.

But it’s the beginning of the holiday week. And for many this is the best holiday of the year. Unless you’re cooking (and admittedly, that’s a big unless), all you have to do is eat and try not to get too shitfaced and say something during dinner that will get you in life’s penalty box for the rest of the year or beyond. Woot.

It’s also a holiday with a practical purpose. Thanksgiving allows you to carbo load to prepare for the great American sporting event of shopping early and often on Black Friday. I wish I had the guts and stamina to participate in this mayhem, but as with the offering of sweet potatoes, I’ll pass again this year.

Many won’t. And that’s a good thing for our economy. But Black Friday really has become the equivalent of a blood sport. It’s the American version of the Running of the Bulls. And I’ll admit it, if I’m going to get trampled, it’s going to be for more than a wide-screen TV.

OK, c’mon. This really is serious — and to a certain extent dangerous.

Last year a Wal-Mart employee was killed and 11 customers were injured at a story in New York during the shopping crunch. And like most of these incidents, it called attention to the problem and has led to some modifications in security and procedures at stores everywhere to try to reduce the danger. Here’s from a post by Eve Tahmincloghu on MSNBC.com, “Cloud from trampling hangs over Black Friday“:

Ogera Charles, the father of the 34-year old temporary Wal-Mart worker who died last year, said he hoped the company and shoppers will do whatever is needed to prevent a repeat of last year’s disaster.

“No one wants to die so young,” he said of his son, Jdimytai Damour.

Concerns about crowd control do not seem to have dampened enthusiasm among shoppers.

A holiday shopping survey from Accenture found that 52 percent of consumers polled said they planned to shop on Black Friday this year, up from 42 percent last year, when the financial crisis and resulting economic jitters were at their height.

“I actually think what happened last year may give more of mystique and cache to Black Friday this year,” said Richard Divine, expert in buyer behavior and chairman of the marketing department at Central Michigan University. People may think, he said, “If there’s that good a deal that people are getting killed over it, then maybe I have to check it out.”

“If there’s that good a deal that people are getting killed over it, then maybe I have to check it out.” Oh mama. Don’t let your babies grow up to be shoppers — on Black Friday.

I guess I could argue for civility here as a way to solve this problem — and ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to return home and enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers after the merchandise has been picked apart. But I’m becoming a realist in my dotage. Shoppers intent on getting a bargain will elbow Mother Teresa to the ground. Just sayin’.

So enjoy the Thanksgiving food and festivities. And enjoy the shopping if you must.

But as Sgt. Phil Esterhaus so aptly opined on Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there.”

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