Boycott Black Friday in general, for its hype and fraud; but definitely boycott Wal-Mart.
A year ago, on Black Friday 2008, a man named Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death by a crowd at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart on Long Island. Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters immediately responded by announcing that Damour was a temp worker employed by a subcontractor. They also called it a “tragic situation,” but they didn’t mean anything by that. “Tragic” is just the word corporate PR people automatically use when someone’s been killed.
Xeni Jardin wrote about it in Boing Boing:
Wal-Mart Worker Crushed to Death on Black Friday; Union RespondsAfter the comment thread broke a hundred, I wrote and posted the comment/article that follows. It was motivated by a number of things, one of them being the amount of astroturfing Wal-Mart had thrown at Boing Boing since comments recommenced there. Still, I might very well have written and posted the article if I’d never worked for Boing Boing at all. Wal-Mart is an appalling organization.
Posted by Xeni Jardin, November 28, 2008 1:19 PM
A worker at a New York Wal-Mart location was crushed to death this morning, “Black Friday,” when hordes of shoppers overwhelmed to get inside for bargain-hunting. Snip from AP account:At least four other people were injured, and the store in Valley Stream on Long Island was closed. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., called the incident a “tragic situation” and said the employee came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store.The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, which represented the deceased worker, has called for a investigation by OSHA and the NY State labor department.
“He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” co-worker Jimmy Overby, 43, told the Daily News. “They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too. … I literally had to fight people off my back.”Director of Special Projects for Local 1500 Patrick Purcell called Wal-mart’s comments in response to the incident both “cold and heartless.” “If the safety of their customers and workers was a top priority, then this never would have happened,” Purcell stated. “Wal-mart must step up to the plate and ensure that all those injured, as well as the family of the deceased, be financially compensated for their injuries and their losses. Their words are weak. The community demands action,” Purcell concluded.
Purcell also suggested that people visit the website walmartcrimereport.com to review other incidents of Wal-mart not providing a safe work and shopping experience.
Some of the links may be broken. I’m sure there are plenty of others that could take their place.
Why Wal-Mart Is to Blame for the Death of Jdimytai Damour
Comment #128, November 30, 2008 11:13 PM
Wal-Mart holds these Black Friday sales every year—and every year, there are reports from all over the country of injuries when customers get trampled in the rush, or when fights break out due to inadequate stocks of merchandise and poor crowd control. There have been some very ugly incidents.
In spite of the obvious danger, Wal-Mart continues to put a lot of effort into creating mobs of shoppers charged with an artificial sense of urgency. Over the years, they’ve pushed their Black Friday starting times further and further back. They do stunt pricing—advertising a new laptop or Xbox or plasma TV for a fraction of its usual price—then stocking only twenty or thirty of each those items, when they know they can expect a thousand shoppers at their door.
Wal-Mart also appears to have decided not to require crowd-calming measures at their stores, like handing out numbered chits to the people waiting in line to buy big-ticket items, or stationing enough security at the front of the line to force people to enter in a well-regulated stream rather than a mob.
Game behavior is always conditioned by the rules, and the entire emphasis of Wal-Mart’s Black Friday game is that the first person with their hands on the package wins. (See above, “creating an artificial sense of urgency.”) Where there’s no regulation or crowd control, people who are first in line and have been waiting longest will still have to scramble if they’re going to get anything, since otherwise they’ll be beaten out by more aggressive shoppers.
Therefore, that mob at the door of the Green Acres/Valley Stream Wal-Mart didn’t just happen. There’s a mob at the door of every Wal-Mart Black Friday sale. It was engineered, and Wal-Mart did the engineering.
Every year, Wal-Mart’s had ugly incidents, scuffles, and injuries at Black Friday sales. It was a foregone conclusion that sooner or later, one of these stunt sales would result in serious injury or death. Wal-Mart has known that. They’ve done nothing to avert it, and much to encourage it. They’re responsible for Jdimytai Damour’s death.
Why would they set up a system like that? Simple: they’re raking it in. People who come to Black Friday sales spend freely once they’re inside. (If they’ve stood in line for that long, they’re damned well going to get something.) They tend to have a rough amount in mind they’ve budgeted for Christmas, and Wal-Mart gets first crack at it.
The mob rush at the Green Acres/Valley Stream store could just as easily have killed customers as Jdimytai Darnour. Crush incidents can form surprisingly quickly and kill a lot of people fast. All it takes is a chokepoint, an approach to the chokepoint that doesn’t let the crowd in the back see what’s happening in front, and a crowd with a strong motivation to get through that chokepoint. At its simplest, that’s a locked door, a dogleg corridor, a crowd of protesters or sports fans, and one tear gas grenade.
The Black Friday opening rush is a natural occasion for such events, but it’s not the only point of vulnerability. There’ve already been a couple of incidents of pepper-spray being used on crowds of Black Friday shoppers. You could readily come up with lots of further scenarios. The death of Jdimytai Darnour was awful, but it was just one death. We may see incidents with more.
Connie H. @82:
Human-chain formation in front of the doors was a supremely dangerous maneuver - it was an incipient stampede at a choke point. People moving from the back of the crowd couldn’t see what they were getting into … There seem to be disparate reports as to what went on with the doors—it’s quite possible that the crowd movement pushed people into them, then they gave way.That is: the surge of the crowd—an annual event which Wal-Mart has engineered—was pushing forward against the doors. If the doors had not given way, there might well have been crush injuries among the customers outside the doors. If the doors did give way, the human chain of Wal-Mart employees were going to be in the direct path of the stampede. One way or another, there were going to be injuries.
Why Wal-Mart knew this was going to happen:
Note: I started researching at 2005, and found far more material than I expected, so 2005 is overrepresented and 2006-2007 are underrepresented. I’m sure you’ll still get the picture.
Raking it in:In summary: Wal-Mart makes Black Friday happen. Wal-Mart knew something like this death-by-trampling would eventually happen. The blood’s on Wal-Mart’s hands.
2003: Bentonville, AK: Wal-Mart reported a single-day sales record for sales of $1.52 billion the Friday after Thanksgiving at its domestic stores. This represented a 6.3 percent gain over last year’s single-day sales record, also on Black Friday, of $1.43 billion.
2006: El Cajon CA: Footage taken “about five minutes” after the start of the 2006 Black Friday sale in El Cajon. Note the amount of merchandise already in carts.
2005 Incidents - compilations:
Nationwide Black Eye Friday wrap-up. Of 23 news reports about Black Friday violence, 16 involved Wal-Mart stores. Locations included Mountain View CA, Orlando FL, Oak Grove KY, Elkton MD, Cascade Township MI, Grandville MI, Hamilton Township NJ, Mays Landing NJ, Wallkill NY, Atlantic County PA, Warwick R.I., Kingsport TN, Beaumont TX, Lynchburg VA, Renton WA, and Puyallup WA.
ConsumerAffairs.com compiles shopper complaints and reports from all over the country, including inadequate or nonexistent supplies of advertised merchandise; store managers refusing to honor advertised offers of rain checks; customers trampled in the opening rush; and poor organization and crowd control inside stores, leading to shouting matches, pushing and shoving, fights, and a pepper-spray incident. Locations included Tigard OR, Chicago IL, Beaumont TX, Wilton, IA, and Gilroy, CA.
More complaints logged by ConsumerAffairs.com, plus some repeats in more detail. Lots of complaints about inadequate or nonexistent merchandise that had been advertised, and flyers offering rain checks which store managers refused to issue. Locations included Montgomery County MD, Chicago IL, Gulf Shores AL, Lincoln NE, Wilton IA, Memphis TN, Hinesville GA, and Gilroy CA.
A Democratic Underground reader posts a compilation of the full texts of news stories about violent incidents during Black Friday 2005 at Wal-Marts in Orlando FL, Cascade Township MI, Hamilton Township NJ, Puyallup WA, and Oak Grove KY.
The Scotsman on Wal-Mart Black Friday violence in Orlando FL, North East MD, and Cascade Township MI.Wal-Mart Black Friday Trampling is here to stay! I was able to track down a Wal-Mart trampling account in nearly every one of the fifty states, and the lack of any class-action lawsuits speaks volumes about the corporate influence of everyones favorite corporation.Locations included Cascade Township MI, Hamilton Township NJ, Kingsport TN, and Orlando FL. My favorite:CNN Money - Calls made to several Wal-Marts around the country revealed that one of the hottest items on the holiday sale list, a $378 Hewlett-Packard laptop, sold out within the first hour the stores were open. “They trampled each other for ‘em,” said one Wal-Mart employee at a Maryland store. “It was great.”
2005: single incidents
Footage: Stampede in Cascade Township, Michigan (near Grand Rapids), with shoppers (mostly women and children) falling and getting trampled. There were several injuries.
Orlando FL: shopper gets into fight with plainclothes security officers.Security guards wrestled a man to the ground and handcuffed him, this morning at an Orlando Wal-Mart. Eyewitnesses told Channel Nine that the man cut in line to get laptop computers that were on sale.Oak Grove, KY: A woman is trampled and hospitalized when a crowd waiting for laptops goes out of control.
The man started arguing with people inside the store, and then scuffled with plain-clothed security guards.
One man told reporters that the laptops were being thrown into the air and people rushed toward them, collapsing on each other. Another man described the scene as crazy.
“It was absolutely pandemonium in there. They were throwing laptops twenty feet in the air, and people were collapsing on each other to grab them. It was ridiculous,” said shopper Brian Horwitz.
“A guy came on top of me and hit my head,” said Wal-Mart shopper, Jennifer Harris. “When he did it bounced against the other two people. I got hit on both of my ears.”
Some people weren’t fazed in the least. Many customers simply carted their stuff out of the store and passed right by the man in handcuffs, without any reaction.
When a Sheriff’s deputy arrived, he gave the man a trespassing warning and let him go. It turns out, in the confusion, he fought off the plain-clothes security guards, when they grabbed him, because he thought they were other customers.
Hamilton Township, NJ: a fracas breaks out in a Wal-Mart over inadequate stocks of desirable items. Police have to call for backup.
Lincoln, Nebraska: a scrimmage over laptop computers turns ugly.
Renton WA: Police have to be called in to deal with a crowd in the electronics department.
Footage: Chokepoint stampede at Wal-Mart in South Philadelphia. Two shoppers go down and can’t get up. A policeman wades in and rescues them.
Footage: A West Bend, WI store manager makes a crowd of waiting customers race to a row of chairs to determine who gets xbox systems. By report, people in the crowd were begging him to use some other system, like a simple lottery. Many people are hurt in the race. One is seriously hurt, and is hospitalized. See also: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on the West Bend Wal-Mart footrace fiasco.
Another bad system for allocating scarce goods is to let the shoppers in early to take up positions near the items they want, but not allow them to lay claim to those items until the clock strikes. The results are predictable. Footage: A fight breaks out over six computers.at the Wal-Mart outside Columbus, customers dashing toward 5 a.m. deals pinned employees against stacks of merchandise.
“Oh, my god, stop pushing me, oh, my god,” screamed Linda Tuttle, a 47-year-old employee at the store.
Grace Smith, a 22-year-old customer in the store, was stunned by the scene. “I heard it would be crazy but I never thought I’d see anything like this,” she said.
Lafayette LA: Man suffers broken leg in the Black Friday rush.
Footage: opening rush, Wal-Mart Store 5450, North East Maryland. I suspect this “informal YouTube video” was made by Wal-Mart. All is sweetness and light. You’d never guess that two years earlier, on Black Friday 2005, this same store was the site of a melee that took ten policemen to settle, caused by atrociously bad crowd control measures on the part of the manager.
Rapid City, SD: A teenage girl was holding an Xbox 360 was struck in the throat by a man who was yelling and pushing his way through a line of shoppers. He may face assault charges.
Secaucus NJ: a woman’s leg was injured in the scrum, and she had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance.
The Consumerist bingo card, which predicts everything but the killing.