Buy Nothing Day and Black Friday Shopping Deaths

In the midst of a so-called recession, when people are expected to be afraid and postpone shopping, crazy shoppers trample a Walmart employee to death. We take another look at adbusters and their Buy Nothing Day campaign.

The following playlist shows clips related to the Black Friday shopping death as well as adbusters Buy Nothing Day.

Black Friday is traditionally the day when retailers turn profitable for the year (or are Back in Black). This year is different:

“I think it ties into a sort of fear and panic of not having enough,” said Joe Priester, a professor at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California and a former president of the Society for Consumer Psychology. A herd mentality, he said, can lead individuals to feel anonymous — so much so that they are quite capable of trampling someone. “Fear combined with the group mentality?” he said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Walter Loeb, president of Loeb Associates, a retail consultancy, said there was shopping mania at Wal-Mart every year. But this year, he said, it seems “people are becoming irrational in their actions.”

At a Wal-Mart store in Columbus, Ohio, Nikki Nicely, 19, jumped onto a man’s back and pounded his shoulders when he tried to take a 40-inch Samsung flat-screen television to which she had laid claim. “That’s my TV!” Ms. Nicely shouted. “That’s my TV!”

A police officer and security guard intervened, but not before Ms. Nicely took an elbow in the face. In the end, she was the one with the $798 television, marked down from $1,000. “That’s right,” she cried as her adversary walked away. “This here is my TV!”

Charisma Booker, also on the hunt for a television, said she had been shopping at Wal-Mart every Black Friday for nearly a decade. “There are fewer people here this year, but they’re more aggressive,” she said. “I’ve never seen anybody fight like this. This is crazy.”

At a Wal-Mart in Niles, Ill., a mother fought back tears when she discovered someone had taken her shopping cart filled with toys.

In a statement about the death in a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., Hank Mullany, of the company’s northeast division, said the store had expected a large crowd on Friday morning and had added security staff, among other measures. “Despite all of our precautions,” he said, “this unfortunate event occurred.”

It seems however that only Wal-Mart had this kind of trouble due to poor organization, while the shooting deaths at Toys R Us were not Black Friday related. Best Buy, for instance, gave tickets for items on customers’ shopping lists, reducing the need to elbow out. Furthermore, some pundits claim that sales were lower not just because of the economy, but mostly because these days the best deals can be found online.

One of the best-known features of Wal-Mart corporate culture is their aversion to unions. The company has a stated policy of closing down stores that unionize.

“They have problems with crowds every year, and inevitab[ly], people get hurt,” said David Nassar of Wal-Mart Watch, a union-financed group. “They should expect to plan properly for this kind of a problem and have adequate security in place, and they don’t.”

Although retailers prefer the “black ink” explanation for the name of the shopping celebration, in reality the name was given by the Philadelphia police in anticipation of the chaos caused by bargain hunters:

The term Black Friday began to get wider exposure around 1975, as shown by two newspaper articles from November 29, 1975, both datelined Philadelphia. The first reference is in an article entitled "Army vs. Navy: A Dimming Splendor," in The New York Times:

Philadelphia police and bus drivers call it "Black Friday" - that day each year between Thanksgiving Day and the Army-Navy game. It is the busiest shopping and traffic day of the year in the Bicentennial City as the Christmas list is checked off and the Eastern college football season nears conclusion.

The derivation is also clear in an Associated Press article entitled "Folks on Buying Spree Despite Down Economy," which ran in the Titusville Herald on the same day:

Store aisles were jammed. Escalators were nonstop people. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season and despite the economy, folks here went on a buying spree. ... "That's why the bus drivers and cab drivers call today 'Black Friday,'" a sales manager at Gimbels said as she watched a traffic cop trying to control a crowd of jaywalkers. "They think in terms of headaches it gives them."

A similarly misguided name exists for the starting of the online shopping season, CyberMonday, which refers to the Monday immediately following Black Friday. Just like Cyber Monday is not the busiest day for online retailers, Black Friday is not the busiest for brick & mortar ones (it was only in 2003 and 2005).

Is there a way out of this madness? Why sure there is, glad you asked!

Since the early 90s and starting with Vancouver artist Ted Dave, Adbusters, an anticonsumerist group, is running a Buy Nothing Day. This is set on November 28 for North America and 29th for the rest of the world. A group of culturejammers, Adbusters are trying to get you to think about your overspending ways, and do so primarily through a magazine and a website. Not to be outdone, the even more socialist Montreal gave birth to the Steal Something Day campaign:

The geniuses at Adbusters have managed to create the perfect feel-good, liberal, middle-class activist non-happening. A day when the more money you make, the more influence you have (like every other day). A day which, by definition, is insulting to the millions of people worldwide who are too poor or marginalized to be considered "consumers.

In the meantime, other than consumers trampling on each other, 150 whales died in Tasmania stranded on a beach.

We would’ve covered this earlier, but we were too busy shopping Money EyesHee hee

Sources

Buy Nothing Day: Adbusters, wp, bndwiki, StealSD, td, tchb, grd

Black Friday: wp, CNNm, CTV, nyt, CNNunion, CNNdeaths, CNNwhales, CNNbf, wp:CM

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