It wasn’t a banner day for Consumerism.
Black Friday — the retail kickoff of the holiday season — is always a bit of a nuthouse. Marketers spend months devising ways to get you in front of a cashier, and early morning “doorbuster” specials have become an after-Thanksgiving tradition. All it takes is an advertising budget and a few loss leader markdowns to get shoppers queued up before dawn.
Or, in the case one Long Island Wal-Mart, lined up twenty four hours in advance. As you’ve probably heard by now, things went terribly wrong at a 5 a.m. sale event when crowds literally pushed down the door and surged inside, trampling 34-year-old store employee Jdimytai Damour. He was pronounced dead an hour later.
It gets worse. Witnesses say that when horrified Wal-Mart managers attempted to clear the store for rescue workers, bargain-hungry patrons complained and kept on shopping.
There’s no point moralizing about this: the incident speaks for itself. But people being trampled to death is the sort of thing you might expect from a panic in a rice line — not from consumers trying to snag a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for only $28, or an “The Incredible Hulk” DVD for the low, low price of just $9.
Over at Lighter Footstep, I took a moderate line on Black Friday this year. Counter-events — such as the well-intended, but more symbolic than effective Buy Nothing Day –aren’t likely to make much of an impression on someone who would queue up at Wal-Mart a day in advance for the honor of maxing out their credit card.
But perhaps a little futile symbolism is just what we need. It certainly trumps the events of Friday morning: a symbol of the consume-at-all-costs spirit which denudes our forests, poisons our cities, and pushes our planet toward exhaustion.