Last Thanksgiving, Jdimytai Damour visited his half-sister’s home in Queens, N.Y., finished dinner and headed for work. He was pronounced dead at a hospital around 6 a.m. the following day. It wasn’t a car accident or even an undiagnosed heart condition which claimed the life of the 34-year-old, but the weight of overzealous shoppers as they stepped over the man in a crazed rush to save money on what they evidently thought were necessary items.
Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, has increased in scope and insanity for years, turning a time of year meant to pause and give thanks for what people have into an opportunity to acquire more. Last year it reached a fever pitch and people traded in common sense and decency for the chance to get a cheaper iPod.
The fact this annual celebration of avarice caused a death is obviously the most unsettling aspect, but Black Friday is darkened by other factors than companies entering the black on the books.
Damour was trampled just before 5 a.m., but the line to enter the store started forming at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, according to The New York Times. At 3:30 a.m., 90 minutes before the store’s opening, police arrived to control the crowd.
In order to spend what may be rare time together, family members use vacation hours from work and some even brave the busy airport to travel. Why then, do so many people throw a handful of turkey in their mouth, take a shot of gravy and then grab a slice of pumpkin pie along with their car keys and rush to the malls and retail stores? Evidently the call of aisle 5 is too strong to resist, but it’s disheartening how it changes not only the sleep habits of shoppers, but also their consciences. According to an Associated Press report, when shoppers at the Queens Walmart were told to leave the store because a death occurred, some lamented how long they’d waited for the doors to open.
Every year in the days surrounding Black Friday, the media disseminates stories about the sales projections companies make, the most difficult items to keep in stock and the comparison of sales figures to those of last year. In the ailing economy, stories are printed detailing how fewer people are expected to shop and how much less revenue is expected to be generated.
With the national unemployment rate at 10.2 percent and more people becoming homeless, the emphasis should be on providing for others and not gathering more for ourselves. Instead of standing in line outside an electronics store in borderline freezing temperatures, what if we stood in line at a food bank to make a donation so everyone could stock their pantry for winter? For those without pantries or a home to go to, imagine the difference it would make if people joined as a community to serve food at a homeless shelter instead of competing against each other to see who is the fastest to the last Rock Band package.
We would all be naïve and even pompous to assume we couldn’t end up in need someday, but the reason to lend a hand is not because we ourselves may be affected, but because we can affect others. Each year volunteers make a Thanksgiving meal possible for people who otherwise would go hungry, but there is a shortage of donations at many food banks this year and the need is greater. We are all busy, but if we’re out shopping at bizarre hours, it’s possible to pack a box of food from our homes and pass it on to someone who would hold it just as important as others would their Coach bag.
For people who do visit the stores on Black Friday, please be sure not only to avoid literally stepping on the workers, but also to be friendly and courteous to them. They have families too, and would most likely rather be gathered around a table with them enjoying some stuffing, rather than listening to the throngs of people clamoring for a BlackBerry Storm 2.
For every story about the fiscal year figures of a company, there are hundreds which could be written about the employees who helped make it possible.