Sunday, November 27, 2011
Black Friday Mayhem: America's Running of the Bulls
I found the video I've posted above at Mashable; it shows a woman being nearly crushed to death as shoppers go wild, knocking down displays and each other at a Wal-Mart in Mesquite, Tex. Similar reports of Black Friday mayhem appeared on CNN's website yesterday, one about a grandfather and a "bloody arrest" at Wal-Mart, and another about a woman pepper spraying people at where? You guessed it! Wal-Mart.
In 2008, I and others reported that shoppers in a New York state Wal-Mart trampled an employee to death. Customers back then started camping out at 10:00 the night before in hopes of getting a $400 TV, some witnesses said. The death caused bloggers, pundits, and mainstream media talking heads to question the ethics of stores that offer steep sales--outrageously slashed prices on big ticket items--to lure customers to stores but then fail to provide adequate security. However, if you look at the video in this post, you may wonder if it's possible to provide security for customers in a materialism-induced frenzy.
We Americans watch and judge customs in other countries, such as Spain's Running of the Bulls, and say smugly, "Those people are insane!" But is our gory Black Friday sport all that different? Spain's Running of the Bulls began as a tradition but evolved into a competitive spectator sport. People get trampled; sometimes killed, and an audience watches. In Spain, they run from the bulls, beasts of burden; in America, we run toward the bulls, the power of capitalism, the burden of debt. American shoppers compete to snatch the the best deals on popular products, and each year the media cover the madness. People get trampled; sometimes killed, and an audience watches.