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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Black Friday Is "Whack Friday" for Those in Stores Like New Boston Walmart

I'm beginning to think Black Friday sales should be known as Whack Friday sales. All over the nation large frenzied crowds in pursuit of bargains are causing injury and mayhem. In the past few years, retailers have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night. This year, reports of retail assaults, shootings and arrests piled up so fast that by Thursday night, Black Friday already had a trending Twitter hashtag: #WalmartFights.

Scioto County is not immune to the violence. On November 28, an 11-year-old girl was reportedly trampled inside the New Boston Walmart store. Judy Boggs, an Emergency Medical Technician with Portsmouth Ambulance, said, “The first call came in at 7:56 p.m. that a child had been trampled at Walmart. The crew was on scene at 8:01 p.m. She was transported to Southern Ohio Medical Center for treatment and I believe she was later released."

Boggs also reported that a separate crew from Portsmouth Ambulance responded to the New Boston Walmart for another incident shortly after the first. “There was another patient there we transported also, for not necessarily being trampled, but it was something along those lines," Boggs said. This injured shopper was identified as an elderly female. A rescue crew was dispatched at 8:02 p.m. to assist the woman. The description or condition of the elderly patient were not released

(Wayne Allen, "Masses Turn Out for Retailer Deals,  
Portsmouth Daily Times, November 30, 2013)

Here are some summary reports of other 2013 "Whack Friday" incidents around the country.

* At least three people got into a fight in the parking lot of a Walmart in Rialto, California, because shoppers were cutting in line. Two people were taken into custody after the fight, and according to reports, a police officer suffered a broken wrist during the arrest.

* Another shopper was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer after getting into a heated dispute over a television with a New Jersey Walmart store manager, police told NBC New York. After the manager called for help and officers arrived at the scene, angry shopper attacked an officer. The shopper was charged with aggravated assault of a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

(Henry Austin. "Violence Flares as Shoppers Slug It Out for Best Black Friday Deals."
CNBC November 29, 2013)

* A dispute in a southwest Virginia parking lot crowded with holiday shoppers turned violent Thanksgiving night, with one throwing a punch and another responding by cutting him with a knife and brandishing a rifle, officials said.

Both men were charged Thursday after the altercation in the parking lot of a Walmart in Tazewell County that sent panicked shoppers scattering.

Christopher Jackson, 35, was waiting for another shopper to leave a parking space when Ronnie Sharp, 61, began sounding his horn behind Jackson's vehicle, the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office said.

Sheriff Brian Hieatt said Jackson got out of his vehicle and confronted Sharp, punching him, and Sharp responded by severely cutting Jackson on the arm with a knife and pulling out a rifle. The rifle was not loaded.

Sharp was charged with malicious wounding and brandishing a firearm. Jackson was charged with disorderly conduct and assault and battery. 

("Black Friday Live." Associated Press published in Long Island Newsday. November 29.2013)

* A Chicago-area police officer and a suspect he shot in a shoplifting incident outside a Kohl's department store were in the hospital on Friday due to incident began shortly past 10 p.m. on Thursday. Security officers with the store in Romeoville, outside Chicago, called police to report two men who were suspected of shoplifting. Police arrived on scene and tried to apprehend the men in the parking lot, Fox News reported. But the suspects ran to their car and tried to drive off — and one officer followed on foot, grabbing hold of the vehicle.

The driver continued to accelerate, dragging the officer, Fox News reported. Police then fired into the vehicle’s window, injuring the driver.

Fox News reported that the officer and the driver were recovering in a nearby hospital on Friday. Meanwhile, both of those suspected shoplifters — as well as a third suspect who was apprehended in the store — were arrested.

(Cheryl K. Chumley. "Black Friday Dawns with Gunshots, Injuries, Mayhem."  
The Washington Times. November 29, 2013.)

And, how about this oldie, but ugly, deadly, no-goody, from 2008.

That was the year Jdimytai Damour, proclaimed by those who knew him as a "gentle giant" was killed amid throngs of Walmart shoppers seeking Black Friday deals on Long Island.

* According to written accounts, here's what happened at the Valley Stream, New York Walmart in 2008.

The throng of shoppers had been building all night, filling sidewalks and stretching across a vast parking lot at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, New York. By 2:00 a.m., there were 1,000 people. At 3:30 a.m., the Nassau County police had to be called in for crowd control, and an officer with a bullhorn pleaded for order.

But reportedly, police said it wasn't their job to manage the throngs of shoppers, and they eventually left the scene. By 4:55, with no police officers in sight, the crowd of more than 2,000 had become a rabble, and could be held back no longer.

Eight of the store's biggest workers were instructed to stand by the vestibule as the doors opened, including Jdimytai Damour,  a 34-year-old, 480-pound son of Haitian immigrants. Damour was a temporary worker who had only been working in the Walmart stockroom for a week. (It was rumored that the employees had been instructed to make a human chain to slow down the crowds.)

Just five minutes before the store's 5:00 a.m. opening, Damour was hit by a sliding glass door that fell as shoppers outside pressed against it. Then, over 2,000 people rushed into the store. Among others, Damour was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled during the stampede. His eyes had already rolled back in his head by the time his co-workers got to him.  

Emergency workers arrived and tried to revive Damour, but he was pronounced dead an hour later at Franklin Hospital Medical Center in Valley Stream.The cause of death was asphyxia -- he had been suffocated by the crowd.

Four other people, including a 28-year-old woman who was described as eight months pregnant, were treated at the hospital for minor injuries.

Kimberly Cribbs of Queens, said the crowd had acted like “savages.” Shoppers behaved badly even as the store was being cleared, she recalled. “When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning!’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”

At 1:00 p.m., Walmart reopened to a steady stream of calmer shoppers who passed through the missing doors and battered door jambs, apparently unaware that anything had happened.

 (Robert D. McFadden and Angela Macropoulos. "Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death."
The New York Times. November 28, 2008)

A 2011 New Yorker story explains the dynamics of mobs like the one formed at the Long Island Walmart. Here's how that story describes "crowd crush":

"Individuals at the back of a crowd, unable to tell what is happening up ahead, push forward, not realizing that they are injuring the people in the front. Unlike ants and fish and birds, humans haven’t evolved the capability to transmit information about the physical dynamics of the crowd across the entire swarm."

After the 2008 tragedy, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that Walmart hadn't properly trained its workers on crowd control. Walmart was fined a mere $7,000.

(Erin Fuchs. "The Grim Story Of A Temporary Wal-Mart Worker Who Died In A Black Friday Stampede." Business Insider. November 29, 2013)

Curbing Whack Friday

What more proof do we need that the love of money is the root of evil? As extended Black Friday sales spill into Thanksgiving Day, the violence continues. Careless people with no regard for human safety rush to retail outlets all over America in search of a bargain, and, because proper precautions are not followed, these single-minded, crazed individuals hurt other innocent shoppers, store employees, security guards, and police.

Consider those players involved in the tragedies. It is evident businesses and security don't prepare with adequate proactive thought to prevent serious injuries. It also appears as if much more of an on site police presence is necessary to keep order. And, of course, the shoppers who convene at the stores must employ more preparation -- mental and physical safeguards -- just in case they fall victim to a mob.

My biggest question is:

"Why do people insist on harboring a material mentality 
that manifests itself in face of saving money 
with the crudest, rudest, most-beastly behaviors?" 

Black Friday has become a satisfying after-Thanksgiving tradition with a social effect. While shopping can be a solitary activity, many people find enjoyment in joining with others in this custom. Add to that the aspect of humans loving the collective hunt for goods. Yet, the sense of urgency in scoring a particular product before it sells out has made Black Friday out to be more of a dangerous experience than a regular shopping excursion.
Humans with little emotion control can and do abuse the rules of the hunt. These folks openly sacrifice all common courtesy for the "Almighty Dollar," and most claim they misbehave because "they want to stretch their money to buy wonderful gifts for their family and friends." Believe me, this "kindness" misses the mark of loving others.

In their rush, inconsiderate shoppers create panic and exhibit mob-like, violent behaviors. Black Friday causes some people to mutate into impatient idiots that gather in hordes and become potentially lethal whacks.

From a psychological point of view, the emptiness that is beneath the violence has its roots in childhood. Although everyone encounters pain and loss in youth, some of us endure even greater insults such as abuse, violence or trauma during the early years.

Adults can also have these negative experiences. If feelings about these experiences are not examined, distilled and integrated into a person's understanding, they grow into emptiness, anger, and fear. The emptiness may be dormant for a long while, but there are triggers that can bring it roaring back to life. What bigger "triggers" to shopaholics than saving money and their lust for material goods?

How does this specifically apply to violent Black Friday shoppers? Dr. Ben Michaelis explains:

"When it seems like everyone around you has the new new thing but you don’t, or can’t get it, you may be transported back to times in your youth when you didn’t receive adequate care or love. This can trigger deep-seated emotions that have the power to overcome you." 

(Dr. Ben Michaelis, PhD. "Black Friday Violence: Where It Comes From and What We Can 
Do about It." Psychology Today. December 1, 2011) 

How do marketers play a role in setting the stage for violence?  They entice consumers to buy goods with the vague promise of contentment and completion, and when the public is given a time limit to obtain this promise of happiness, as in the case of the “one time only” Doorbuster Deals, desperation sets in. Then the environment is right for Whacks to resort to violence to acquire the happiness that they so desperately want.

Dr. Michaelis explains how desperate, envious shoppers do not find contentment in scoring a Black Friday deal:

"Consuming does not make the feelings go away. This is so important that I am going to write it again: Consuming does not make the feelings go away. If this seems strange to you it is because consuming actually does quiet sadness and self-doubt for a brief moment, usually slightly longer than it takes to unwrap a gift, but after the thrill of the consumption fades, the emptiness comes back stronger and deeper."

Michaelis suggests a change in the consumer mindset. This idea reflects the true spirit of the holidays. It also represents a formula for much more love than money can buy. I'll let him explain: 

"If every person who is reading this article can consider making a pact with someone you love, like, or that you can tolerate, to make (instead of buy) something for each other, maybe you can start to refocus on expressing your genuine feeling for someone rather than letting good ol’ Visa do the talking for you. 

"Every single person has the capacity to make something and to share that with someone else, whether it’s baking cookies, writing a poem, building a bookshelf, or knitting a scarf, it is far more meaningful for both the giver and the receiver to exchange items that come from the heart than from a shipping container. If each of you can do that for just one person, perhaps together we can begin to return the holiday season to its roots as a time of sharing instead of overindulgence.

"Taking these suggestions may not necessarily end the Black Friday frenzy, but if we can slow down the mania, perhaps more of us will be able to enjoy the holidays as they were intended to be: a time of connection and sharing that is injury, and pepper-spray free."

(Dr. Ben Michaelis, PhD. "Black Friday Violence: Where It Comes From and What We Can 
Do about It." Psychology Today. December 1, 2011)  

Click here to read Dr. Michaelis' article:

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