mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

About that Wal-Mart Black Friday trampling death...

I've been meaning to blog about this for the last week, but I've been tied up with work and stuff. But I figured better late than never.

On Black Friday, a temp working for Wal-Mart was trampled to death at a Long Island Wal-Mart after a mob of shoppers tore down the front door and stormed the store.

There is quite a bit of debate on sites like Fatwallet and Consumerist over who is to blame for this.

Now, obviously the mob is at fault in this - they did trample the guy to death, and the people who broke down the door are responsible. But it's hard to tell how responsible each person was - mobs tend to surge, and it's quite possible that people didn't know they were stepping on the guy, or that they couldn't do anything to stop because they couldn't try to stop without being knocked down themselves by the mob.

But even though I usually tend to be very pro-business, and even though I think Wal-Mart is a good company, I think they bear some responsibility in this.

I've stopped going to Black Friday and other events that involve standing in long lines - the number of people who go keeps getting bigger, the deals keep getting smaller, to the point I don't find it worth it anymore. But I've done my share of Black Friday lines, lines for other sales like CompUSA's old midnight madness sales, and once spent the night outside of the White Marsh Ikea to get a free $200 leather Poang chair.

The thing that all of these lines have in common is that the stores did nothing to organize or deal with all the customers standing outside their stores for hours. While most people in line are generally pleasant - I've had conversations, shared food and beverages, and otherwise met some cool people waiting in lines - there are always people who want to jump in line. And then there are gray areas - people who bring grandma and grandpa and 8 kids, each trying to get an item, people who have one person save spaces for 10 of their friends, people who leave and come back. Stores generally don't have any rules for these situations, and that causes problems and hurt feelings.

My thought is that if stores are going to have events where people are going to wait in line for 5+ hours, they should be ready to deal with it. They should have ground rules. They should have employees outside. They should be having people sign in. They should pass out tickets for desirable items, and they should do it several hours before the store opens to to discourage line-jumpers. They should have staff outside watching the customers.

Wal-Mart of course isn't the only store guilty of not doing these things, but there have been incidents at Wal-Marts in the past, and it doesn't seem like they have learned. Hopefully, now they and other stores have, and they'll make spending the night outside a little more fair.


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