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November 30, 2008

Okay, we'll talk about Walmart...

We weren't even going to write about the shit that went down at Walmart because what more could we really say besides the "this is really sad and really fucked up" that everyone else is saying? But at the same time, it just feels wrong not to at least mention what happened. That Walmart is pretty close to where I live and while I generally consider the rest of the area to be a nice, safe neighborhood... I'm disgusted that something like this can happen anywhere. At the same time, it's painful to think about the fact that some people are so desperate for a sale.

I don't know if this is indicative of how horrible our consumer culture has become... or of how poorly-run that particular Walmart might be... or of just how self-centered and heartless some people truly are. What I do know, is that I just can't shake what happened. My heart goes out to the family of the poor man that was trampled to death.

We could give you a well-written editorial on how we feel about it... but instead we're just going to show you the conversation we had earlier. Because honestly, we realized that we couldn't wrap this up into a neat blog entry if we wanted to, so we'll just share our process of talking through it. There have been a lot of debates over whether Walmart is responsible for what happened. On the one hand, I know they did up their security for the day and honestly, no one could ever really anticipate that kind of savage behavior, but they definitely made some mistakes...
I read about other stores who had bracelet systems, and had people outside ahead of time talking to the people on line about how it was going to work.

That's a good idea, but I wonder if that crowd would have stood for that sort of thing anyway. If you're the type of person to break down a door and trample a man... are you going to wait in line anyway?

Did you hear about this?

"Augustine, 26, said the melee began right after a Walmart employee told the crowd the store would open early. The employee then said it was a joke. This angered the crowd, leading to people trying to rush the store, Augustine said." [dailymail.com]

This is all that a lawyer needs. I'm sure a good lawyer would be able to make a case that Walmart basically incited a mob situation and then didn't have the proper procedures in place to handle it.

Yeah that's not cool. You also have to know what kind of crowd you're dealing with. You can tell by the crowd's behavior outside what they may be like inside. If they're pressing against the door so hard they're bending it inward... do you a) stand in front of the door, try to hold it back, and form a "human chain" or b) get the fuck out of the way and call the cops?

Well, if you're an employee and you're told to go form a human chain in front of the door, what do you do? I also heard on the radio that this store did call the cops around 3 because the crowd was getting crazy even then. The cops came but then left because they had other stores to deal with.

This is why "Black Friday" is just a stupid idea anyway! Why have the sales only on one big day? It's just asking for trouble.

I know. And the stores generally make no profit on it anyway. It's all about driving volume. It's stupid.

Did you see Walmart's official statement?

"We expected a large crowd this morning and added additional internal security, additional third party security, additional store associates and we worked closely with the Nassau County Police. We also erected barricades. Despite all of our precautions, this unfortunate event occurred. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the deceased. We are continuing to work closely with local law enforcement and we are reaching out to those involved." [walmartstores.com]

That's it. It just seems cold to me. I also think it's backwards. They should start with 'our thoughts and prayers' and then say 'although we tried blah blah blah it still happened'.

Although really what more can they say? "We know we suck and we practically caused this poor man's death by inciting a riot?" I don't know how much responsibility the actual Walmart chain deserves though. I think it's more the individual store managers who were at fault.

Well, that depends on what guidelines they get from 'corporate' about how to handle Black Friday, I guess.

I wonder if this is even in their guidelines. I mean, who predicts a stampede?

They must have some procedures for how to handle it. Or if they don't, they should. I've dealt with Walmart and I've been to their corporate headquarters. The security just to get into their 'model store' layout area where all of the new products are is ridiculous. They check IDs and confiscate cameras and phones. They're perfectly capable of running a tight ship when they want to. I just think there's a lot of evidence that shows that worker safety and security is not high on their list of priorities. Obviously it's not that they don't care at all whether their employees get murdered in the store...

Honestly, I've been to that Walmart exactly once and I swore I'd never step foot in there again. That's how bad the experience was. (I ended up leaving without buying anything, the service was terrible). It was such a bad experience, on a regular day without crazy sales. It was still chaos and rudeness and there weren't enough employees.

Walmart is a very regional experience. I've been in really nice, clean, well-staffed Walmarts. And I've been in the Walmarts on Long Island. Big difference.

I would never imagine that anyone would stampede and kill a guy. But honestly, it's less hard to believe at this store than if it happened at another nearby store. Just based on my experience there (the one time) and my general experiences shopping at that mall.

The other thing that sucks about this is that it's basically going to be open season for racism. Even if the security camera shows that half the people doing the stampeding were white soccer moms from Lynbrook or Astoria or whatever, we're still going to have to hear all about the horrible heathen savage black people who caused this.

To me it's not a race thing. It's the area. For the most part, I don't think the "citizens of Valley Stream" as a whole are the stampede-in-Walmart type. Not that some of them weren't there and joining in.

Well, I also think that it's easier for us to think that, so that we don't have to think that any of our 'neighbors' are the stampeding type.

But I know that the bulk of the people who shop there now are from Queens (and Brooklyn). Maybe most of them are black, but it's not because they're black. It's a poverty thing, not a race thing.

Yeah it's definitely a class issue.

This shit doesn't happen at Roosevelt Field (yet).

I'm sure there was a mob mentality element to this too, especially after standing out there for hours. I also read something about not lumping all of the different Black Friday types together. There's the person who's there to wrestle you to the ground for a cheap xbox and there's the person who's there because they're so poor that the super sale is their only chance to get new winter coats for their kids.

God this is all just so sad.

That's about as far as we got before we were emotionally exhausted thinking about this. There are other issues going on right now... and frankly, we're just stressed about all of it. 


Jen said...

This whole thing, and the similar story from toys r us, it's just so horrible. It is really hard to make sense of it all.

ceirdwenfc said...

I may be getting this mixed up but there was a shooting in Florida and a beating in California over sales.

I wonder, though, what happens at Filene's basement when they do their wedding dress sale. Some would say that that is also inciting to riot when you have all of those women doing the same thing.

They really should have called the police sooner, and the problem is that they have these sales, but there's only ten of the item.

I've waited in line once (for the laptop I'm using right now) and that was at Best Buy and it wasn't Black Friday. There were fewer people (maybe 15 of us), but the Best Buy guys came out and asked who was in line for what and then explained how things would work. I don't know what they'd do for 2000 people who all want the same $400 computer. I happened to get lucky, and the lady behind me was a real go-getter. She kept telling the people behind her who were moving forward that I was the first one in line. For me, it was entertaining.

The only other time I did the Black Friday shopping, we completely avoided Walmart, and that was upstate (north of Albany) and it was 5am, but it was a zoo. We drove on by, and went to Target (who does a two day sale instead of come in at 5am, although they have their own issues.)

SUSPECT DEVICE jane said...

i loved this discussion. I myself stood in disbelief when I heard about the incident. It sometimes brings me to tears when I think of the sweatshop children who shed blood to make WALMART successful. and people are actually shoving each other to get to these dirty products?! just seems like every day the state of humanity is questioned. Lives being lost over petty things. its beyond ridiculous...for this person to have lived their life,all their childhood memories and dreams,hopes of growing older..and for all that to just end because that person got trampled?! I still cant wrap my head around it and how disgusting people behave--and how disgusting I feel for sharing this Earth with humans like that.