The greatest value on Black Friday should be life
If you were still wondering whether Black Friday has all but sucked the last bit of joy out of the holiday season, let’s let Jdimytai Damour do the talking.
Unfortunately, Damour is dead, and has been for five years — so it’s probably just best to recount how he faced his life’s last moments.
In 2008, Damour was inside a Wal-Mart, wearing his pressed blue polo as all employees do. The doors opened at 5 a.m., and Wal-Mart employees nervously formed a human chain just beyond the store’s entryway, in an effort to slow down the frenzied mob of 2,000 that had gathered outside the store.
When 5 a.m. struck, a stampede of deal-mongering shoppers blasted through Wal-Mart’s front doors. The employees’ chain was effortlessly splintered as shoppers leapt over police barricades and attempted to break the front door. Some employees were immediately knocked to the ground. Others found refuge from the horde atop vending machines.
By the time the dust settled and the PS4s began flying off the shelves, maintenance employee Damour, 34, was already dead. He was seen gasping for air while being continually trampled by shoppers. EMT personnel who arrived for Damour were trampled, too, according to a police officer at the scene.
“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been in line since Friday morning!'” said Kim Cribbs, a witness to the crime. “They kept shopping.”
“His body was a stepping bag with so much disregard for human life,” said Damour’s cousin Ernest, 37, according to New York Daily News. “There has to be some accountability.”
The store closed shortly after Damour’s death. It reopened its doors at 1 p.m. later that day and was met with a comparably frenzied crowd. New York Daily News reported the store as having been “packed within minutes.”
There was no candlelight vigil or modest assortment of flowers laid out in Damour’s memory, but there were plenty of signs advertising the new $798 Samsung 50-inch plasma HDTV, though. Shoppers didn’t have to look far to see flyers for the $8 men’s Wrangler jeans or the Bissel compact upright vacuum for $28.
It’d be less revolting if we could say that Damour’s death was the only tragedy that’s happened on a Black Friday. It’s 2013, though, and things seem to have only gotten worse in the five years since Damour’s demise. We live in an age where having the latest and greatest electronic isn’t outweighed by much, and Damour’s fatality is only one in a string of havoc-related injuries.
This year, there’s the cop and theft suspect who were both hospitalized in Chicago, as reported by The Washington Times. The cop latched himself onto the driver’s side of the suspect’s car when he tried to make his getaway from Kohl’s. The suspect was then shot by the police officer, who sustained injuries from being dragged throughout the store’s parking lot.
Then there’s the guy in Las Vegas who was shot in the leg at a Target when he left the store carrying a big-screen TV. Three separate fights broke out on Black Friday in a California Wal-Mart, and a slew of suspects were arrested and taken into custody.
Heck, there’s even a website called blackfridaydeathcount.com, which tracks any and all deaths and injuries incurred on Black Friday. Since the site’s inception in 2006, it’s reported seven deaths and 90 injuries.
These patterns are disgusting, and their roots are far more despicable — risking life and limb to save a couple hundred bucks on, well, anything. Thanksgiving night spent huddled around the entryway of your local Target has become the new normal, even if you’ve got nothing to buy. It’s just something we’re all expected to do nowadays, because you’d be a fool to miss out on a Samsung TV that’s marked down that much.
For all of the protests and threats of boycotting stores that opened their doors on Thanksgiving, Americans surprised nobody by turning up at their local Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Macy’s and Toys R Us with their bellies full of stuffing. Black Friday has grown into a euphemism referring to the 96-hour void of moderation that incurs Thanksgiving night and winds down on Cyber Monday. What was once a single day has now snowballed into a nationwide pop culture event.
Whether you spent your Black Friday as an employee, a packed sardine at Kmart or in the comfort of your own home, most of us participated in one way or another. Within hours of stores having opened, Twitter trends like #WalmartFights and #Brawlmart began trending nationwide. Fights were uploaded to YouTube, which showed store employees screaming at the shoppers to stop recording the pandemonium on their cell phones.
Then again, it’s not like we can blame the stores for opening that early if we’re just going to blow smoke on Twitter about the inhumanity of making employees spend Thanksgiving dinner with their managers. We’re all talk and all spend, and I’m betting Wal-Mart couldn’t care less if the guy buying a discounted Samsung Galaxy protested their policies on social media earlier that week.
Forbes recently published the findings from a survey conducted by MasterCard, revealing that 70 percent of consumers’ Black Friday spending occurs at the first two stores visited, explaining the fiscal significance of being the first store to open.
Further, a study conducted by the Georgetown Institute for Consumer Research found that the average shopper spends 50.7 percent of their gift budget between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Retail behemoths have a lot of factors keeping them from staying afloat, most notably their clientele’s dwindling funds and an endless sea of near-identical competition. They’re in the business to make money. If we choose to take time out of our day to give them more of our money, they’ll take time out of their day to take that money.
We can oppose these infringements on our holiday season all we want, but words ring hollow when they’re only backed up until stores open their doors.
Damour’s hand has already been dealt. He’s one of a handful of Americans who have lost their lives in the chaos of Black Friday that only seems to be increasing. It would be nice to say that things have gotten better since Damour’s death, but the behavior that left him dead seems to be only increasing. ‘Tis the season, and ‘tis the victory of American consumerism surrounding a basic regard for human life.
“I look at these people’s faces, and I keep thinking one of them could have stepped on him,” said one Long Island Wal-Mart employee who worked with Damour. “How could you take a man’s life to save $20 on a TV?”
Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]