A New York Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death on Friday morning as he opened the doors to let shoppers into the store. Reports are saying that even the EMS people who were doing CPR on the guy were getting knocked around as shoppers continued to surge into the place. When the guy died, and they closed the store, people complained about having to leave, arguing that they had been waiting in line for hours.
I work part-time at Target, and had to be there at 6 a.m. when the doors opened.
It was absolute chaos. I knew, of course, that there are hardcore shoppers who want to get up in the middle of the night to go save a few dollars on a piece of cheap plastic, but I had no idea of what the sheer volume of those people would be.
When I arrived at 6 a.m., our entire parking lot (which is reasonably large) was already completely full, including the overflow lot across the main road that I have never seen a car in previously. There were cars parked all along the curbs, up in the grass, and down behind the building where the trucking lanes are.
I had to park at a neighboring strip mall and walk across to the store.
By 6:20 or 6:30, the line at the check-out lanes was stretching from one corner of the store all the way to the opposite corner of the store in the rear. There were probably 200 people just waiting to check out from one of the 14 check lanes. The doesn't count the ones who were still shopping.
There wasn't necessarily any violence or anything like that, but plenty of frustrated people, people pushing their way through the crowds, people cutting in front of you, etc., etc. No one seemed particularly festive or pleasant. Which, of course, simply begs the question of why the FUCK they are there in the wee hours of the morning in the first place.
It's a strange mob-like mentality. I wouldn't be out at a place like that even if everything on the shelves was 100% free. It's just not worth the headache and hassle. And it certainly isn't worth it to save 20 or 30 bucks on some item.
But when you look at it from a sociological perspective, I don't think it's really about the cost savings. It's simply some sort of mob mentality that causes people to go out to shop in the wee hours of the morning simply because that's what you're SUPPOSED to do. No one knows why they are so compelled to go through all that hassle just to save a few dollars, but they just do it anyway.
When gas prices were 3 and 4 bucks a gallon, local gas stations would occasionally run a special where they'd drop their prices to 1.99 or even 2.50 for a few hours. Invariably, they would have lines stretching well out into the main road, causing enormous traffic problems. People would be in line for this gas for an hour. And for what? So they could save 10 or 12 bucks on a tank of gas? Is that really going to make a difference in whether you are able to pay your bills that month? But it's not about the savings, it's just mob mentality.
That's what Black Friday is too. And this Wal-Mart fiasco illustrates it perfectly.
The world is broken.