This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
At the risk – nay, the certainty – of stating the obvious, Black Friday is giving American consumerism a Black Eye.
What can the rest of the world be thinking? Again, we provided the planet with its chief entertainment after Thanksgiving as shoppers camped in parking lots through the holiday and whole armies of them mustered at the big retailers in the wee hours of Friday morning.
No, make that midnight. No, make that 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day at some stores – a sacred hour once dedicated to nailing the leftover pumpkin pie and ice cream.
And after the vigils, the stampedes. There’s little Americans won’t do for staggeringly discounted Play Station 3s, Sharp 42-inch, XBox 360s, Dyson dog-hair-capable vacuum cleaners and whatnot.
So far, it appears that no shoppers were actually killed on Friday, but the occasion ignited the usual lunacy, especially at some Walmarts. Some of the lowlights:
• In Arizona, a grandfather was knocked to the ground, bloodied and jailed by police after trying to prevent his grandson from being trampled by other shoppers. (A big misunderstanding, it seems.)
• There were multiple shootings, mostly by very bad shots. But one Walmart shopper in Northern California was wounded and hospitalized after robbers demanded that he and his family hand over their door-busters.
(Criminals have had an epiphany: The deals are even better – with no waiting in line – if you mug the customers on their way to the cars.)
• This year’s Crazy Shopper trophy went to the instantly notorious California woman who pepper-sprayed her way through the aisles to the hot deals, leaving her competitors choking.
The story was best told by a witness:
“People started screaming, pulling and pushing each other, and then the whole area filled up with pepper spray … I guess what triggered it was people started pulling the plastic off the pallets and then shoving and bombarding the display of games. It started with people pushing and screaming because they were getting shoved onto the boxes.
“I did not want to get involved. I was too scared. I just stayed in the toy aisle.”
Everyone who enjoys shopping as a blood sport, raise your hands.
Our guess is that most shoppers would rather not be in a retail mosh pit at 1 a.m., that they don’t enjoy customer-on-customer violence, that employees would rather have normal hours, that security guards would rather not serve as riot police, that the store-owners themselves would as soon open at 8 a.m. if the competition weren’t going to get the jump on them by starting earlier.
Suggestion: Let the CEOs hold a summit meeting, like the presidents and the Soviet bosses did during the Cold War, and agree to start the clock together at a reasonable hour. If that takes an amendment to the Sherman Antitrust Act, so be it.