Wal-Mart Worker Crushed to Death on Black Friday; Union Responds

A worker at a New York Wal-Mart location was crushed to death this morning, "Black Friday," when hordes of shoppers overwhelmed to get inside for bargain-hunting. Snip from AP account:
At least four other people were injured, and the store in Valley Stream on Long Island was closed. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., called the incident a "tragic situation" and said the employee came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store.

"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," co-worker Jimmy Overby, 43, told the Daily News. "They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too. ... I literally had to fight people off my back."

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, which represented the deceased worker, has called for a investigation by OSHA and the NY State labor department.
Director of Special Projects for Local 1500 Patrick Purcell called Wal-mart's comments in response to the incident both "cold and heartless." "If the safety of their customers and workers was a top priority, then this never would have happened," Purcell stated. "Wal-mart must step up to the plate and ensure that all those injured, as well as the family of the deceased, be financially compensated for their injuries and their losses. Their words are weak. The community demands action," Purcell concluded.

Purcell also suggested that people visit the website walmartcrimereport.com to review other incidents of Wal-mart not providing a safe work and shopping experience.

(Thanks, Derek Bledsoe)


  1. I’ll actually have to thank Erica Brotzman for sending me this story.

    As I was saying to Xeni, what was most telling to me about this piece wasn’t that it happened, but that I wasn’t surprised that it did…

    Derek Bledsoe
    Segment Producer, BBtv

  2. As much as I despise Wal-Mart (conceptually, at least, thankfully I live in Chicago and wouldn’t even know where to find one) it seems a little slanted to me to be passing the blame off on them for what transpired this morning. Granted, they are guilty of creating an arena for mouthbreathers to clamor over one another in the pursuit of rubbish, but that’s the extent of their culpability imho. The scumbags trampling each other to get at the cheap crap are villians here.

  3. To me it was surprising in that its usually other shoppers getting crushed under the crowds, not employees. But I can’t remember a single year where something like this didn’t happen.

  4. Maybe stores/manufacturers should just have reasonable prices for big ticket items year-round instead of having a giant materialist orgy a few times a year. They’d probably make more profit through increased sales (at a lower profit per item) too.

  5. there are also reports of shots fired at toys r us… i’d put money on that being related to some sort of competitive consumerism as well.

    fuck black friday, i’m halfway torn between thinking they should outlaw coordinated sales holidays, and just figuring: fuck it, the people who actually do this shit deserve what they get.

    The issue here, of course, is that now they’re not just killing each other, they’re killing employees, people who probably got pressured into working when they wanted the day off, so it’s getting harder for me to think of it as Darwinism in action.

  6. Wal-Mart’s culpable if this dangerous situation was predictable. Sort of like that McDonald’s serving superheated coffee in paper cups at a drive-through window after repeated warnings, was responsible for the third-degree groin burns that resulted.

  7. I fail to see how WalMart is to blame for anything other than being the kind of store these shoppers are attracted to.

    The fault isn’t with a ‘system’ or a workplace — its with the people who pushed and trampled through those doors.

  8. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those responsible for the death were right up at the checkstands with their Chinese made purchases (blood stained shoes and all).

  9. “I fail to see how WalMart is to blame for anything other than being the kind of store these shoppers are attracted to.”

    How about ‘creating an unsafe work environment’?

    Every time some magical mystical life altering gadget (PS-whatever, Apple iCrap) goes on sale, places like Walmart offer wristbands to the people that camp out, etc. But they didn’t do that here. They didn’t take any apparent action to help regular the crowd. Why? Probably because the throngs look good for the local news.

    Five bucks says that the guy that got trampled was told to open the doors because the store manager took one look at the crowd and said to himself / herself “SWcrew this, they’ll run me over. Hey, Gomer, go open the doors!” Shame on the employee for letting himself get put in a position hat compromised his safety, and shame on the person that put the employee in that position.

    This is the one time where I can fully support the unions. They are fully justified in dragging in OSHA and every other workplace safety related organization they can find along with every scumbag ambulance chaser in America. There’s no excuse for crap like this.

    Somewhere a family got a call that their son / brother / father died for 11 bucks an hour because some other poor schmuck wanted a $49.99. And that’s complete bullshit, all the way across the board.

  10. If it’s illegal to should “fire” in a crowded movie theater, perhaps an analog to shouting “sale” can be made…

  11. @11 Bullshit.

    The person killed was a temporary ’employee’ working to fill-in for the expected high volume. The massive crowd knocked down the door; it wasn’t opened from within.

    And as for unions, your arguments hold about as much water as the rest of what you said.

    (Oh, you owe me Five Bucks.)

  12. @ Alexeck: “Yes, the unions want to fuck up Walmart as badly as they have the American auto industry!”

    Right, riiight. Because the Unions forced GM & Ford to build fuel-inefficient SUVs and Hummers. They also FORCED Americans to buy them (using Marxist mind control techniques mastered during the Stalinist purges). It was all an Evil Socialist Plot to make the US auto industry destroy itself from within. Classic!

    Soon we live in Workers’ Paradise. All haill comrade Putin!

    Now, comrade, please excuse while I drive Prius to Organic food market, and then to drumming circle at local commune. Turnip harvest is good this year. All hail Five Year Plan and Dictatorship of Proletariat!!!

  13. I don’t blame Walmart… this is the fault of the assholes who did the trampling. Don’t pass the blame to the bigger/more visible accomplice… be angry at the people involved… Walmart didn’t force them to act like lunatics.

  14. exactly how did the unions destroy the car industry? Did they force the car companies to design crap cars that no one wanted once gas prices started to rise?

    Were the car companies prevented from participating in contract negotiations, or did they actually participate and sign off on the contracts?

    Are the unions secretly in control of the banks refusing to lend money to the car companies?

  15. Whatever happened to accountability ? While walmart *could’ve* done something for better crowd control, are the Neanderthals who rushed in so guileless ?
    Honestly, the whole damn crowd should be investigated until the inciters are found and indicted for manslaughter.

    As far as I know, riots are still illegal, and that’s pretty much what this amounted to.

  16. I’ve titled this Edifice Rex.

    And I came upon a monstrous edifice made of stone, with streams of light illuminating its every nook and cranny. There were horrible metallic machines arranged in orderly rows surrounding the structure; obviously some type of ceremonial gathering. As I approached the building, I noticed human-like creatures congregating in front, near giant teeth made of glass. I then became terrified by the thought that this throng of creatures was preparing for some type of ritualistic sacrifice. Soon after this idea tore into my mind, the giant glass teeth were pried open and the creatures rushed headlong into the apparent mouth of the building, thrashing and maiming one another along the way. The reverence these beings held for their stone master and what it contained was unwavering.

    After perhaps half an hour of surveillance, I noticed a creature emerge from the edifice. Until this point, I had only witnessed an influx of what I considered sacrificial lambs, but maybe this massive construction’s purpose was not so ominous after all. The creature came forth from the building seemingly the worse for wear and bearing some awful burden. This poor soul was weighted down with numerous sacks of goods to the point where it could barely walk, and its face carried a look of extreme pain that was unmistakable, even from my considerable distance. The creature trudged along for quite some time until it approached one of the horrid machines arranged in orderly fashion. When the creature drew near, the machine awoke with a chirp and flash of light, obviously sensing its master had arrived. The rear of the machine then flung open, revealing a hollow into which the creature placed its considerable burden. The creature then entered the machine through a port in the side. After a few moments, the machine let out a horrifying growl and the creature navigated the rumbling machine away from the giant stone edifice.

    I left this place a few hours later, but not before this strange activity was repeated many times. I still cannot decipher the meaning of this behavior. The creatures seemed to welcome servitude, for they were impelled to collect and distribute whatever that foreboding structure contained. I now feel an uneasy desire to return to that terrifying place and thrust myself into the belly of the beast. Maybe it’s the time of year, where days grow short and boredom grows long, but I will soon discover what that unholy construction contains, and what burden it commands me to bear.

  17. On other reports of this, I heard concerns about lack of security and line organization. That’s a big oversight on Wal-Mart’s part. Also, it doesn’t have to be full blame for Wal-Mart. They likely have video footage of this. See who was pushing and blatantly trampling (you’d think a person would feel flesh squishing underneath their shoes) and punish them in some way.

  18. This is going to come as a shock to some of the posters on this thread, but there are (gasp), LAWS that guarantee workers a thing known as a “safe work environment” – now, I’s no legal expert, Cletus, but to me, that’s an environment where I have a very low chance of getting KILLED.

    Transferring the blame from WalMart (a multi-billion dollar company with the resources to ensure said environment) to the crowd of consumer-droids is almost as rich as old man Sam Walton’s checking account.

    Oh, for a time machine. I’d send the online Wal-Mart PR brigade down the mine-shafts of Appalachia in the 1930s. There, they could defend the working conditions to the non-unionised 15 year old boys crawling though the obsidian depths.

    “Don’t worry, Shorpy – it’s not the fault of the mine-owners that conditions are dangerous down here…blame the geological instability inherent in the seams of coal!”

    Here, I went and looked up the goodies on safe work environments, for those who ain’t smrt ’nuff to do so: http://tinyurl.com/5aos8s


    The Occupational Safety and Health Act states that every working American has the right to a safe and healthy work environment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency created to enforce the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

    Who Is Covered by OSHA?

    All private sector employees and employees of the post office are covered by OSHA under the federal OSHA program or an OSHA program operated by the state. Public sector employees are only covered in states that have adopted a state OSHA program and are not covered under the federal OSHA program. Federal employees are not covered by OSHA, but rather are covered by a presidential executive order that requires federal agencies to maintain a health and safety program that meets the same standards as the private sector. The main difference is that federal agencies cannot be fined for violating the health or safety standards.

    You could always look up “safe work environment law” on google, but where’s the fun in that, ye Wal-Mart astroturf brigade?

    Shame on you.

    Oh – almost forgot:

    Happy Holidays.

  19. The photos in the various news reports showed a huge mass of people outside the doors. You have hundreds of people standing out in the pre-dawn cold, clammering to RUSH into a store you’re asking employees, with little or no crowd control experience, to handle it? The training at these big box stores is heavy on preventing shrinkage, not handling huge masses of people.

    There should have been security personnel managing the crowd outside, the management should have had the cops come by at opening as well.

    And anyone bashing unions should feel free to give back their weekends, benefits and the bulk of their salary to their employers as a statement against the “evils” of unionization.

  20. WARNING! Faith in humanity barometer steadily falling. Proceed to ted.com/talks to stave off complete and utter misanthropy.

    Alright, while I agree that Walmart could have worked out a better crowd control scenario, I personally think that the crowd itself should take the lion’s share of the blame. SRSLY. They could have just as easily NOT trampled this guy, but they decided to go for a ‘nothing shall stand in the way of savings and useless bullshit!’ mentality. They chose their action and they should be held accountable for that action.

    Of course this whole thing could have been avoided. These days most retailers use this new fangled thing called the internet, where you can be goods ***ONLINE***. One can sit at home naked and covered in chocolate sauce and still get those awesome savings that are such an integral part of meaningful human existence. The worst one could do would be destroying a mouse during a bout of frantic clicking, or crash a server as part of a collective consumer swarm.

    SRSLY, WTF r we Dew’in?


  21. Sales stampedes are hardly a new or recent phenomenon. If old movies are any indication this was also a common event back in the days of b/w film, enough so that it became a common shtick in comedy movies and television. The fatality of the employee may be a new feature of the perennial event, however.

  22. Happy Holidays, everybody.

    Now get out there and shop. It’s your duty. Jebus would have wanted it that way.

  23. Am I the only one who is confused by the fact that a Walmart employee (temporary or not) is represented by a union? I thought Walmart closes entire stores to break unions up.

    And I agree with Takuan, if this were a rock concert, there would already be arrests. The manager of the store and perhaps a few inciters should have been taken into custody for starters.

  24. I think wal-mart should be blamed some what but those dumbass people who rushed the store should be charged with MURDER!!!!!!!!!! They should go back and look at the security taped and arrest these moron who act like kids. If any of you were there today at that store I hope your proud of yourselves. You killed someone trying to work for there family now someone is without a dad tonight all because you wanted a M f-u-c-k-i-n TV. I hope you are brought up on murder charges and have to spend the rest of your life in prison. This madness needs to stop. Lets start making examples of these morons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Jesus Christ on a crutch.*

    a) The Japanese auto industry is also unionized over here in America. And those guys are doing just fine. The unions are not the problem here.

    b) Prosecute the people who are shown to be trampling an innocent employee on the security cameras. People need to know there are consequences for acting like animals.

    c) Prosecute the manager who sent him in there.

    d) Prosecute Walmart. This tragedy was predictable considering it happens every year. It was preventable, considering there are crowd control techniques which are documented and work. The aforementioned wrist bracelets are only one such. And it is Walmart’s responsibility to predict and prevent such incidents.

    * For once, this is an appropriate epithet. If anything is going to maim Jesus, it’s going to be the way his birthday is celebrated by modern people.

  26. So who in the crowd could have avoided trampling people? Not the people in the front – if they slow down, they’ll either be propelled forward by those behind them or else knocked down and trampled themselves. Not the people in the middle – they’re in the same boat, plus they don’t even know that anyone is being trampled.

    So it must be the people in the back then. But of course they don’t know anyone is being trampled; they’re just trying to make sure the jerk next to them doesn’t cut in line. They’re just trying to stay in line.

    I’m not saying there aren’t people who act like jerks, and that they’re jerkiness doesn’t contribute to the pandemonium, but the people putting all the blame on the crowd haven’t really thought through how it is that a crowd could come to trample someone.

  27. Sirdook has a point. Its hard to put the blame on a crowd. But it is really difficult to sympathize with why these people became a part of the crowd in the first place. Personally, I am dead broke right now. None of my family or friends are expecting a holiday gift from me this year.

    I can’t understand the idea behind lining up at some crappy store at 5am or whenever to get a hundred bucks off on a tv. There are more important things in life.

    Fuck consumerism.

  28. It’s the fault of the folks who did the trampling. I hope there was a camera trained on the door so they can be identified and punished via the law.

    It’s also Wal-Mart’s fault. Every year they, and many other chains, whip people up into a frenzy and play manipulative ads that suggest that if you don’t buy ‘X’ your kids will hate you and you’re destroying the country by not being a good patriotic consumer. They have poor security measures in place, not enough employees to handle the rush and misleading ads. How many times have you stood in line to get ‘X’ because it was advertised at half price and you show up and they say ‘Sorry, we only had 5 of those at that price.’? You can’t create a mod and not expect mob mentality.

  29. I agree with Cory @34. ESPECIALLY with d). Many of the stores in my area that always draw huge crowds (Best Buy, Circuit City, Target, etc.) DO have crowd control more than just throwing open the doors and saying “have at it”, or have the wrist bands / line tickets that others have suggested. It really is pretty damn simple, and I can’t see why they don’t take the time to do it.

    The Best Buy flyer even said that “We will be handing out slips for the big-ticket items starting at 3am”. That way, everybody who had waited in line already knew they were guaranteed a TV, Computer, whatever, so they didn’t need to rush in, and people at the back of the line didn’t have to rush thinking “there might be more left”.

    So yes, the crowd is directly responsible, but it’s pretty hard to say that Wal-mart wasn’t extremely negligent in having no prevention.

  30. #31: That was the first thing I thought, “What was a union worker doing at Walmart?”

    But the press release from the UFCW doesn’t mention anything about the worker being a member, nor does it mention Walmart in the last sentence as having any union members.

    So, in other words, the BoingBoing post is incorrect to say that UFCW Local 1500 represented the dead worker.

  31. From the AP wire story:

    “When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,'” she said. “They kept shopping.”

    Yes, folks, Santa would be proud…

  32. By creating these kind of events and orchestrating them the way that they do, those stores are sure that something will happen. They just cannot plea ignorance when the same stupid dramas repeat themselves year after year.

    Only in America.

  33. …Two observations, sans vitriol, which will no doubt “please” a certain forum troll:

    1) This makes all those old 50’s sitcom gags about the Dress Sale at Macy’s no longer funny, whether it be about two ladies fighting over a dress, or the store greeter getting trampled.

    2) What’s going to happen is that we’ll see the usual knee-jerk reaction from the various municipalities, but in this case it will result in ordinances that will require by law what should have been in effect from the start: a long line around the building, and only allowing shoppers to enter the building in a regulated, controlled flow rate.

    2a) And at the same time, Ticketmaster will start distributing Visa Bands a week before Black Friday…

  34. It’s amazing, I know, but I have managed to survive without ever having been in a Wal Mart.
    Maybe that’s how I have survived…

    sarah northern california

  35. At the risk of sounding like a supreme jerk, I’m getting a bit of a “oh thank god” feeling about just making all of my gifts this year.

  36. Hairy Christmas…

    I was eager to show my righteous indignation towards these sheep-ass consumers stomping through blood to consume… these mindless drones who feed from the corporate teet without soul and without care for anyone else in this world once their eyes fixate on a bargain TV…

    But, then… I thought about the scores of dead and wounded who exchanged their lives for all the oil-based products I enjoy and I decided to write this Christamassy horseshit instead.

    Aren’t all our footsteps rather bloody as well?

  37. I guess it’s wrong to hope that everyone involved in that (all the customers) feels like they murdered someone, and whenever they enter a walmart are confronted with that feeling.

  38. As much as I will despise corporate lack of responsibility for their own actions, this was not a lack of care or planning.

    A mob of consumers, American people, broke down the door and trampled everyone within, killing this poor man.

    There was “corporate” responsibility here: the collective guilt of that crowd for illegal entry, mob action, riot, and murder. Everyone who was in that riot should be booked for all those charges.

    But guilt divided among many is guilt reduced, or eliminated. Sleep well, you heartless monsters.

    (And as for the Putin/Comrade comment: son, you are a little behind the times. Russia is a fascist capitalist state, courtesy of Yeltsin and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Russia is a capitalist dream world, with over half the population reduced to poverty and trying to get the hell out of the Milton-Friedmanite paradise)

  39. Even if proper crowd control was used, would that have stopped the animals? Really?

    This is, as I said, crowd morality. Since they all had 1/500th of the responsibility for that man’s murder and the attempted murder of others (some fought free, recall), they felt morally clean and went back to their own lives. I imagine lynch mobs have much the same moral back door; we all did it, therefore I didn’t do all that much.

    I am always wary of crowds. Remember we are only a quarter of a million years away from a crazed pack of pseudo-chimpanzees whenever panic sets us off. One man is reasonable, a crowd is effectively an alien life form you are lucky not to meet in your time on earth.


    To me it was surprising in that its usually other shoppers getting crushed under the crowds, not employees. But I can’t remember a single year where something like this didn’t happen.

    Really? Not a single year? I remember being a wee little kid in the 1970s who went with my parents to every department store and discount store in NYC and I never experienced a riot or near riot. I do remember people huddled around bins of stuff pushing and shoving, but that was localized and contained.


    By creating these kind of events and orchestrating them the way that they do, those stores are sure that something will happen. They just cannot plea ignorance when the same stupid dramas repeat themselves year after year.

    Completely agreed. Wal-Mart knows exactly what they are doing when the (1) setting mega stores far away from city centers and (2) have “insane” sales that drive consumers to schlep out to the places.

    Okay, now that I made those two statements above here’s something to think about. Back in the day when department stores competed for sales but were located near each other, the worst “riot” you’d have are people fighting for one item in one bin. But if it was too crazy, people just went to another store or another floor.

    In contrast, Wal-Mart is often the only game in town wherever it is so people have no choice but to push and shove.

    I can’t understand ANYONE saying Wal-Mart isn’t responsible. It’s all sick.

    What I do want to hear from are from the people who trampled this guy. Sounds like not one person stopped to help. Anyone think anyone will come forward to say what they did was tragic?

    I’m telling you when people die like this… The U.S. completely deserves a 21st century great depression.

  41. yeah, been in crowd or three. After the first time I made damn sure to never be far from the edges ever again.

  42. Perhaps the union felt compelled to speak for the employees because the employees have no one to speak for them. That’s what a union’s purpose is, even if the labor force they speak for are not allowed to join by actions of their bosses and the complicity of their government.

  43. What they need to do is equip Wal-Mart employees with tasers and riot gear. Serious sales require serious crowd-control techniques.

  44. Yes, there was poor crowd control on Walmart’s part. They should have done wristbands. However, PEOPLE BROKE DOWN THE DOOR! They didn’t wait for people to open the doors or try and get a proper line formed. People should be able to form a line without breaking doors and killing people. It was taught in kindergarten. People refused to quit shopping after someone was killed. It’s not entirely the store’s fault. People know how to behave properly, yet chose to kill someone over a tv.

  45. Walmart may be scum, but they’re not responsible for what happened.

    I’m sorry, I don’t buy the “they knew it would happen” and “what did they expect being the only store in town” arguments.

    @Jack “In contrast, Wal-Mart is often the only game in town wherever it is so people have no choice but to push and shove.”

    Are you kidding me? They had “no choice but to push and shove”? Since when does your right to buy crap override the right of the employee to not be trampled to death?

    For crying out loud, they weren’t running from a zombie horde! They weren’t fighting for their lives!

    They were shopping.

    Christmas shopping does not give you a license to kill.

    And as for “I can’t understand ANYONE saying Wal-Mart isn’t responsible. It’s all sick.”

    You’re right, someone is definitely sick. Ping me if you need the name of a good doctor.

    You know, I’m all for personal responsibility, but Wal-Mart knows the atmosphere they were creating. They know what scenes play well on camera and in the news. If Wal-Mart didn’t want a mob scene they could have easilly barred people from lining up THE NIGHT BEFORE to buy some toaster oven at a deep discount.

    In contrast the shooting California that happened at a Toys R Us? The gun wielding idiots are the only ones to blame.

    Also, I suggest you read Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds:
    “Why do otherwise intelligent individuals form seething masses of idiocy when they engage in collective action? Why do financially sensible people jump lemming-like into hare-brained speculative frenzies–only to jump broker-like out of windows when their fantasies dissolve? We may think that the Great Crash of 1929, junk bonds of the ’80s, and over-valued high-tech stocks of the ’90s are peculiarly 20th century aberrations, but Mackay’s classic–first published in 1841–shows that the madness and confusion of crowds knows no limits, and has no temporal bounds. These are extraordinarily illuminating,and, unfortunately, entertaining tales of chicanery, greed and naivete. Essential reading for any student of human nature or the transmission of ideas.”

  47. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is public domain and can be read at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext96/ppdel10.txt. I read it this summer. It’s a fascinating and instructive book – times change but people don’t. (Tulip mania…mortgage crisis…ad nauseum.)

    This is a disgusting event. I can imagine being in the crowd and not being able to stop what was going on, as Sirdook pointed out. But I cannot imagine that, after taking part – however unintentionally – in the death of a human being, I would keep shopping. That is obscene.

    Chris L – are North Americans really crushed to death while Christmas shopping every year? I can’t recall a single other instance. But I might be wrong – I’m sure you can post some references.

  48. Wal Mart doesn’t create an unsafe work environment by having a black Friday sale and attracting customers. An unsafe work environment is, say, one that is known to contain asbestos, or electrical that isn’t up to code. You can also get into psychological issues, but they still aren’t to blame. They didn’t force anyone to do anything. They simply enforced normal closing/opening procedure at the store.

    Someone chastised the Wal Mart workers. Hey. Fck y. Shame on them for jeopardizing their safety? Do you really think that anyone there that night thought that the throng outside was rabid enough to actually kill someone? More than likely, they were just tired, a little cranky, and dreading the hard work that was ahead of them.

    Someone else asked “what happened to accountability?” and then blamed Wal Mart for this tragedy. I’m simply stunned. How about “what happened to not acting like a jackass” or “what happened to not trampling over the guy in front of you?” How about the fact that no one in the line had any right to touch, let alone push, anyone else in that line?

    Personally, I think we’re looking at three things, here. The first is the fact that large, excited crows are stupid. Look at any riot, or think back on similar sporting- and music event tragedies.

    The second is that shopping crowds this year are extra-excitable. Lots of us are way more broke this year than even last. Lots of us are trying really hard to maintain our material standard of living with a lot less money. Lots of us are really scared about the economy, but still want to give people nice things.

    And the last is that there will always be a group of people out there that can get angry at people for making a living. Is Wal Mart the best company in the world? No. Would it be nice to see Wal Mart make some marketing and employment changes? Yes. But they employ a lot of people that really need jobs, and they provide a lot of cheap shit to people that couldn’t otherwise afford it. You can call it materialist shit. And a lot of it is. But Wal Mart isn’t responsible for stupid people doing stupid things.

    I’m pretty fucking happy that Wal Mart has allowed me to fix my plumbing, appliances, and car at a fraction of the price that it would cost elsewhere. nd th ppl tht knw tht wrk t th str rn’t gng t gt rch, bt t lst thy rn’t pmps twts wth dsgstng tndncy t lnk hmn wrth wth dctn nd ncm.

    1. medra42,

      Crowd control is not a magical philosophy. It’s a professional discipline that was developed for the purpose of keeping people from being trampled to death. Due diligence requires that crowd control be in place when there is any reasonable chance of a crowd doing damage to people or property. When responsible parties take appropriate precautions, there’s no need to assign blame later. Did you not read sirdook’s comment?

      So who in the crowd could have avoided trampling people? Not the people in the front – if they slow down, they’ll either be propelled forward by those behind them or else knocked down and trampled themselves. Not the people in the middle – they’re in the same boat, plus they don’t even know that anyone is being trampled.

      So it must be the people in the back then. But of course they don’t know anyone is being trampled; they’re just trying to make sure the jerk next to them doesn’t cut in line. They’re just trying to stay in line.

  49. walmart has billions to pay people to figure out that uncontrolled masses of people forcing their way through limited access , enticed by walmart advertising yet, is dangerous.

    walmart is liable,legally, morally, ethically and rationally. Never mind their other community destroying, worker exploiting crimes.

  50. @#62 POSTED BY MEDRA42:

    Wal Mart doesn’t create an unsafe work environment by having a black Friday sale and attracting customers. An unsafe work environment is, say, one that is known to contain asbestos, or electrical that isn’t up to code. You can also get into psychological issues, but they still aren’t to blame. They didn’t force anyone to do anything. They simply enforced normal closing/opening procedure at the store.

    This is the same kind of logic that says that a salesman isn’t at fault for fleecing a customer. The reality is if you create an environment where something like this can happen YOU are responsible. Nothing is stopping the store manager from calling the cops and saying “Look this crowd is out of control. We need your help.” In fact if local police did not know there were crowds and would have extra patrols up, I’d be shocked.

    You can also get into psychological issues, but they still aren’t to blame.

    If you think Wal-Mart is some innocent being that somehow doesn’t create environments where psychological buttons are pushed? You need to do some research on retail marketing, because modern megastores and designed to do one thing and one thing only: Draw you in, and trap you until you buy something.

    Ever go to a megastore and suddenly feel claustrophobic or trapped? There’s a valid reason for that.

    And there’s a reason why small businesses are more open and welcoming and don’t make you feel trapped: They know what people hate in large stores and design their sales environment to be nicer.

  51. Although I agree with most posters that the crowd itself bears a lot of the blame, why didn’t the following happen?

    (1) Wal-Mart manager sees dangerous situation outside.
    (2) Wal-Mart manager calls cops.
    (3) Wal-Mart manager turns off lights at front of the store and announces and/or posts sign that no one will be allowed to purchase anything until an orderly line is formed.

    Of course, would the manager even have the right to do so? He/she would probably be fired by corporate for costing Sam Walton that extra fraction of a percent.

  52. We actually used to call those sorts of sales “door busters” in Australia, and they were traditionally run on Boxing Day. They still go ahead, but the huge markdowns on limited items were more or less voluntarily discontinued by retailers after a similar incident (nobody died, thank goodness) ten or fifteen years ago. Now the discounts are storewide – makes for less panic. Having said that, OMFG, people. Nobody needs to get trampled over a discounted Dorothy the Dinosaur. Get some freaking perspective.

  53. The best part of this story was the accompanying ad up top of BoingBoing (gone now so I’m paraphrasing): Let’s Make Christmas Wal-Mart!


  54. It does seem insane to have to pay so much just to defend yourself in writing against someone’s claims. I wonder what one has to pay to register a complaint?

    I would like to hear the other dirty story only out of curiosity but really the other story is beside the point.

    The persecutors have cows and those are really stinky. Even a Clydesdale’s poo couldn’t add up to the amount of stench probably coming from the neighbors field with their herd.

    The mother and her family live on an acre! That is not like a couple hundred or thousand feet of yard space in a city….it is a massive amount of room for one dog sized pony. I had neighbors once who had a sheep herd on their acre! About 30 sheep or so.

    I think the neighbors attitude smells worse than anything. SO hypocritical and vindictive!

  55. @ Jack – This is absolutely nothing like a salesman cheating a customer. They had a sale. Where is the intentional malice? This was a mistake, no doubt.

    I think your assertion that Wal Mart is evil for employing psychological tactics in advertising, store environment, etc. is hilarious. You really believed I was going to agree that I’ve felt trapped in a store. It’s almost as if you think someone is there with a cattle prod, forcing empty-handed pedestrians into the store, and barring the way out until they make a purchase.

    To be honest, I’ve never found the wide aisles, high-ceilings, sky lights, clean stores, and constant cool temperature to be anything other than bland.

    @ Antinous – I read the comment. So what? I still blame the crowd for being full of people willing to put their hands on others, to push and pull people around when they had no right to do so. I’ve been in crowds at concerts and, yes black Friday sales. I try very hard to stay off of the people around me. When it becomes too difficult, I leave.

    If people respected the personal space of others, and if the store manager had done things differently, the tragedy would have been avoided. But in this case I blame the people because we are taught in kindergarten that shoving in wrong. The managers and workers at the Wal Mart, however, are working in an industry that is starting to have isolated incidents resulting in deaths.

  56. @#70 POSTED BY MEDRA42:
    It’s clear you won’t acknowledge there’s a method to the madness (literally) that Wal-Mart creates in these environments. Do some research and realize that when you’re in one of those places you are in far less sensory control of yourself than you can imagine.

    They had a sale. Where is the intentional malice?

    I love when debates bring up the concept of “intentional malice”. You realize that’s based in a biblical view of responsibility? That’s for another post. But for now, here’s your “intentional malice”: Wal-Mart created and hyped a sales environment they know would drive shoppers into a frenzy and they did little to nothing to stop this from happening pre-incident. As I said before, had there been police there and barricades this might be different, but Wal-Mart and it’s local management had no problem standing by and allowing this situation to get out of hand.

    Would it have been too hard to call the police? I’m in NYC and have typically seen crowd control cops at local retail events. It’s not unusual.

    So please continue to rant and rave and believe people like me who are blaming Wal-Mart for this are “pompous twats”; you clearly show how clueless you are. I grew up going to practically every discount store and department store in NYC so I know what it’s like to hunt for sales. The environment Wal-Mart deliberately creates via their negligence is criminal and has caused the death of someone who was most likely making $8 per hour so you can be allowed to “…fix my plumbing, appliances, and car at a fraction of the price that it would cost elsewhere.”

    Your paying the fraction of the cost because Wal-Mart pays others nothing. Enjoy your discount!


    NO ONE in their RIGHT mind could have anticipated this tragedy! Do any of you anticipate being mugged? Do any of you anticipate being raped? Do any of you anticipate being the victim of a serial killer? No, I am sure you do not!

    So you equate a corporate sale that has been planned for months with meetings and notes being passed to staff for an equal amount of time as the equivalent of rape and murder? You can’t be this dense.

    Did the crowd suddenly just appear? It grew and management saw what happened and at no point did they say “This is bad. We have to shut down. Let’s call the cops.”

    They just let the crowd grow and did much of nothing.


  58. @#73 POSTED BY ANTINOUS , NOVEMBER 28, 2008 11:43 PM

    Jack, If it looks like grass but it smells like plastic, just let me get rid of it.

    Not too sure what you mean, but if it’s in reference to my quoting a comment that was deleted, then yes. Please kill my part of that chain as well by deleting my comment.

  59. Antinous, aaaahhh, now I get it. Some PR firm must have burned the midnight coffee on this. Go team! (not)

    Never Mind,
    Mr. Emily Litella

  60. @ Jack – I’m just going to admit to being baffled by everything you said. I am clueless as to how people can honestly believe that sales advertisements incite violence, and big box stores force people to drain pockets and extend credit. I admit that psychological tricks exist in various corporate media, but it is far less harmful than you assert.

    There was a big crowd, and mistakes were made on both sides. Wal Mart, and many other stores, should be taking note and making changes. The people in the crowd should have known to keep their fucking hands off of each other, regardless of potential savings inside. The fucktards in front that took the door of the goddamn hinges should be put in jail for manslaughter (because they didn’t intend to kill anyone– there’s that pesky intention again).

    As for your attack on my shopping practices, I do enjoy the cheap goods, because I’m one of those hourly wage slaves, and I live on cheap food, clothing, tools, etc. And I’m glad that I keep so many people in my community employed by shopping at Wal Mart, so that they can spend their money on the shit that I shill out.

    My wife and I lived on less than $7/hr/person for a two years, one right before, and one right after we got married. For two years after, we lived on about $8.50/hr/person. Since then, we’ve both received raises (mostly because the minimum wage went up, but also because we are dedicated wage slaves). But the entire time we have been “abused” by the “evil companies” that pay us so “poorly” we have paid our rent, paid off two cars, saved up a down payment, bought a house, and continue to go to college. This year we reached a new high, and we’re at $10.15/hr and $11.50/hr. We live debt free (except for the mortgage) with a higher standard of living than god knows how much of the world.

    Mostly, we got here by being lucky– lucky to have responsible parents, lucky to have effective grade school teachers, and lucky to have each other. I guess, in your eyes, we might be a little super-human, because we can pass through any department store without making a single purchase!

  61. Human-chain formation in front of the doors was a supremely dangerous maneuver – it was an incipient stampede at a choke point. People moving from the back of the crowd couldn’t see what they were getting into, and then with more people behind them to push along.

    This was a crowd stampede. There seems to be disparate reports as to what went on with the doors — it’s quite possible that the crowd movement pushed people into them, then they gave way.

    If you ever find yourself in such a crowd situation, do everything you can to stay on your feet, even if it means stepping on someone. Seriously, your life is in danger if you stop or get caught against some fixed object.

    The real wonder is that no women or small children were also killed — I guess the 5 AM hour helped that.

  62. @ Impak – I’d like to see how that applies to a mob situation. Are home owners responsible for bodily harm that comes from the actions of other people in a mob, that have no ownership over the land?

    @ Connie H – I work overnights at a convenience store. The vast majority of people out on Friday morning were women.

  63. Look, much as we Americans like to always blame someone else, especially if that someone else has deep pockets, the people in the crowd ARE to blame. We can talk about mob mentality all we want, but in the end, those people ARE responsible for their actions.

    How about we Americans grow up a little bit, stop trying to blame everything on someone else, and start accepting the responsibility for our own actions. If you trample someone to death, the store isn’t at fault… you are.

  64. I can’t help of thinking of the family of this poor man. If there is any opportunity to donate to the family, please comment here. I know I could spare a little to at least help relieve the financial strain that this loss will cause.

  65. @#83 POSTED BY MEDRA4

    @ Connie H – I work overnights at a convenience store. The vast majority of people out on Friday morning were women.

    Are you sure you’re not a shill for Wal-Mart? Because the density of your logic is baffling.

    @ Impak – I’d like to see how that applies to a mob situation. Are home owners responsible for bodily harm that comes from the actions of other people in a mob, that have no ownership over the land?

    The first sentence you mention “mob situation”. The next you innocently switch gears to “home owners”. Look, a Wal-Mart is not a private home. This is not some yard sale that went out of control. This was a mob scene consciously caused by a retailer who had people waiting out on line with no security or supervision on what staff called a “Blitz Line”.

    @#80 POSTED BY MEDRA42

    As for your attack on my shopping practices, I do enjoy the cheap goods, because I’m one of those hourly wage slaves, and I live on cheap food, clothing, tools, etc. And I’m glad that I keep so many people in my community employed by shopping at Wal Mart, so that they can spend their money on the shit that I shill out.

    You completely duck the issue of these items being created for your cheap consumption under slave labor conditions. Did it ever occur to you that if all parties in the chain that supplies and buys from Wal-Mart were paid well EVERYONE would have a better life? Or is that such a foreign concept it shouldn’t even be mentioned. Because if all people were paid a true fair wage, all workers would be better. But only one thing would suffer: Wal-Mart’s profits wouldn’t be as big.

    I guess, in your eyes, we might be a little super-human, because we can pass through any department store without making a single purchase!

    No I don’t. I can do that. And so can others. Perhaps you should take my comment about reading Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds seriously.

    People simply behave differently in crowds and Wal-Mart is completely negligent in not providing enough security or even having ANY security on hand. “Blitz Line”? Folks, if you can’t gasp the environment Wal-Mart was trying to create my condolences on the loss of your mind.

  66. Prediction: MAL*WART will be unionized within five years.

    @#38: Toyota Corollas and Tacomas made in the USA are made by UAW members. I’m not going to link; you can do your own search.

  67. #88,

    Prediction: The price of those already worthless goods will skyrocket.

    Contrary to your assumption, I did search, but nothing turned up. So a small portion of their overall vehicle sales are made by union members, that doesn’t mean the entire corporation is unionized. In fact, Toyota discourages unions, so I don’t see them ever gaining traction. I don’t want your link, I can do my own search.

  68. From all the way down here in New Zealand…

    What the hell have we come to as a human beings that this happens at all??

    The rambling horde that killed the poor guy *must* have known they were trampling all over another human being?

    Obviously I wasn’t there. Maybe people did stop, and the trampling was from the door crashing open and people falling in.

    Still… it’s scary that we care more about a $2 discount than a life.

  69. all it means is the current management practices at Toyota USA don’t make the workers angry enough to unionize. Unlike GM etc. That can change.

    Unions in Japan are a different animal altogether.

  70. The great wave of unionization came during the Great Depression. (The UAW — 1936-38.) People don’t organize against good times. That’s why I said “within five years.” Hard times are coming, really hard times, and unionization will be hard on its heels. What is unionization, after all, but workers contracting with employers?

    People will want contracts as security against great uncertainty. Mark the times — for they are ‘a changing.

  71. aye, but this time people have instant,nearly free communication. When the bad times really bite, they will try to lock down the web. Sooner, if they are smart.

  72. I agree the union guy is kind of shilling for his cause – unionizing WalMart – but it doesn’t change the fact that WalMart was responsible for the mob scene outside it’s doors because they allowed those frenzied shoppers onto their property and didn’t do a single responsible thing to remedy the mob dynamics in the hours leading up to the store’s opening. Chances are, the folks at the front of the line were trapped and being forced against the doors by folks behind them- who couldn’t see what was going on at all.

    Thing is, that’s *utterly predictable* when you have 2000 people on the premises competing for a limited quantity of heavily advertised, deeply discounted items. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to hire a couple of off-duty cops – I mean, you have to do that for a wedding with 250 guests, never mind *2000* jackasses. And in fact, the store did call the police – a full 90 minutes before the store opened.

    Whipping mobs into a frenzy has carried clear liability issues for promoters for some time – IIRC, the classic case law includes a contest in which folks hit other cars and generally acted like animals to beat each other to a buried treasure prize package during a real-time radio scavenger hunt. Another classic example might be unloading packets of cash from a zeppelin over a crowded football stadium.

    If you have a store with that many demonstrably ill-behaved people stacked up to enter through a tiny, tiny opening, and you encouraged them to be there in the first place, you have a responsibility to disperse them peacefully. The way to do that is barriers, wristbands, tickets, and additional security. None of which these idiots opted to pursue.

    I hope every manager in that store is fired, just like I hope any particularly rowdy member of that crowd gets arrested for their part in this whole thing. And I think it was absolutely disgusting that Bentonville tried to duck legal liability by calling this “a tragedy” and acting like the store itself wasn’t criminally negligent in setting up this situation without taking any measures to defuse it before someone got hurt- or in this case, killed.

    1. In many towns, if I want to have a charity party for a few hundred people, I would be required to rent an off-duty cop or two to provide crowd control. Why should businesses be exempt from due diligence? If you know that you’re going to draw a crowd, you are legally bound to provide adequate crowd control.

  73. @ Jack again – If you’d like to get into an off topic discussion about labor practices and corporate responsibility, please email E87D1j25UzJQ@meltmail.com. I promise that is a real email address, but it is only good for the next 24 hours. I’ll provide my real email address later.

    More the the point at hand– no Wal Mart is not a private home. But it is a private building on private land. I was making a comparison because I suddenly thought of villagers rushing a cottage occupied by an ogre, actually. And you’re going to have to try much harder to convince me that your analogy of Wal Mart:Yard Sale isn’t more accurate than you admit. Are they the same? Of course not. But, as far as who is responsible for what insane patrons do, I see little reason to find Wal Mart more responsible, simply because they have the money to advertise.

  74. MEDRA42, I’m pretty much convinced you’re a corporate shill connected to Wal-Mart in some way. Enjoy your MeltMail!

  75. let’s see him say “walmart sucks”. Just once. Here. In public. Or we could get him to trample on a smiley face.

  76. @ Jack – Why are you so convinced that the world is so eeevil?

    I’m glad I used the MeltMail. I got three “fuck the stupid Chinese, they deserve to be poor” responses in twenty minutes. This way, I know that will go away in 24 hours…

    @ Takuan – But that only proves that I’m not a Wal Mart op. What if I’m a member of a much larger organization, such as the nefarious Bilderberg Group? What will I have to do *then*?

  77. as far as who is responsible for what insane patrons do, I see little reason to find Wal Mart more responsible, simply because they have the money to advertise.

    Whomever forms the mob is responsible for the mob.

    squirm around that.

  78. @#104 POSTED BY MEDRA42

    Why are you so convinced that the world is so eeevil?

    Why do you enjoy building up asinine strawmen for a company you claim to have no connection to? When did I ever say the world is so evil?

    Look you know what sickens me? People making excuses for companies who couldn’t care if you’re alive or dead. It baffles me that people would go out of their way to defend a mega-corp like Wal-Mart in the eyes of such negligence.

    You know what you are to a place like Wal-Mart? A bank/checking account and source of income. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Wal-Mart disappears you might end up paying $3 more for light-bulbs. Hope you don’t go into debt over that.

  79. MEDRA42, do you find any great values at KMart or Target or Home Depot or Lowes? Or is Wal-Mart your best bet for all of your needs?

  80. Takuan? Do you hear that? It’s the sound of silence and the faint strains of Freddie Mercury singing “Another One Bites the Dust” swelling in the background.

  81. @ MDH – Who’s squirming? Again, I blame mostly the people, for putting their hands on each other and acting like fools. As I have done repeatedly, I say that Wal Mart would do very well to pay attention and make some changes.

    @ Jack – You never said the world was evil, you imply it with almost every word. I’m a Wal Mart operative. Wal Mart forces people into some brain-dead-will-kill-for-sales mode with their mind control techniques. And on and on. There’s an undercurrent of movie eeeeevil lurking about.

    My view of Wal Mart’s practices is irrelevant to most of this particular discussion. They operate large stores, apparently attracting large crowds of people who actually want to shop there. As I said, for discussion about anything else, email me or lets talk in another forum.

    @ Jack/Takuan – They closed the Kmart a couple of years ago. It is a JC Penny’s now. I don’t shop at Penny’s. I shop at Home Depot fairly regularly, after I’ve established that Wal Mart doesn’t have what I’m looking for… (are you ready Takuan)… because Wal Mart’s selection of (some) tools (did you know they don’t carry sledge hammers?) BLOWS.

    And, finally

    @ Jack again – Is it too much of a stretch to believe that I don’t give a shit what Wal Mart thinks of me? I know that all they want is my money. And I don’t give a shit. Oh, and when you’re as poor as I am/have been, every penny counts.. especially since we need more than light bulbs to make it through the day.

  82. @#113 POSTED BY MEDRA42

    Oh, and when you’re as poor as I am/have been, every penny counts.. especially since we need more than light bulbs to make it through the day.

    And I’ve been poor myself. I grew up with no shame “dumpster diving” for goods.

    Oh BTW, seems like some factory workers in China are sick of being poor as well.

    And still think you’re a flack for Wal-Mart because your responses have little depth/detail and you seem to portray Wal-Mart as the greatest thing as sliced bread. So good luck doing whatever you do! It’s a broken shill-record at this point.

  83. @ Jack – I haven’t cast Wal Mart in any light other than a large employer, purveyor of cheap goods, and a private land owner. I fail to see how this is a glowing recommendation. Again, if you’d like to talk about these other (off-topic) issues, email me or point me to an appropriate forum. The MeltMail account still has 15+ hours on it.

  84. @#115 POSTED BY MEDRA42
    Your tendency to put words in people’s mouths gives you away as well. Look, none of this discussion is “off-topic”. It’s completely on topic. And you know it.

    Enjoy your night and discounts! I hear that Wal-Mart is the best way to save in tough times.

  85. @ Jck – ff-tpc = Wl Mrts cntrct plcs hv nthng t d wth th stmpd.

    Oh, and, quoth the article

    But even with videos from the store’s surveillance cameras and the accounts of witnesses, Lieutenant Fleming and other officials acknowledged that it would be difficult to identify those responsible, let alone to prove culpability.

    … because they’re blaming … who … the people?

    Wal Mart should pay attention and make changes. This is at least the second time I’ve said it.
    *thrws n f hs Nm Kln bks t Jck*

  86. Oh and

    The nation’s largest retail group, the National Retail Federation, said it had never heard of a worker being killed on Black Friday

    So, yeah. New phenomenon. Wal Mart should pay attention and make changes.

    But I still blame the people.


  87. And, finally

    Witnesses said the crowd outside Wal-Mart began gathering at 9 p.m. on Thursday. The night was not bitterly cold, and the early mood was relaxed. By the early morning hours, the throngs had grown, and officers of the Fifth Precinct of the Nassau County Police Department, who patrol Valley Stream, were out in force, checking on crowds at the mall.

    They were already mobile, and checking on the issue!

    Jesus fucking Christ! But will anyone blame the police for making a mistake? Nooooooo, because they’re not fucking Wal Mart.

    Wal Mart, the police, and mall security all made mistakes. The people in the crowd were a bunch of assholes.


    *bursts into a puff of bloody mist*

  88. Please let us read with a discerning eye. The deal-crazed crowd did not break down the door, they bent the door frame in their mad rush after the door was opened by the unfortunate dude that got crushed.

    A throng of 2000 people outside the store in an uncontrolled mass cannot stop to avoid trampling someone.

    The sheriff, Det. Lt Michael Fleming, who investvated scene stated that, “This crowd was out of control,” Fleming said. He described the scene as “utter chaos,” and said the store didn’t have enough security.

    People were not queued up, and that’s WalMart’s fault. Sheeple are nuts, and that’s their fault.

  89. Medra, allow me to explain who can authoritatively declare a subject off-topic:

    Not you.

    The moderators can, and of course the Boingers can.

    You, on the other hand, can suggest that it’s off-topic.

    Just like everybody else.

  90. Medra:

    Usually, telling someone that they write professional-quality prose is a compliment. In your case, it’s not meant as one.

    What bothers me isn’t your insistence on personal responsibility. Personal responsibility (I speak here of the abstract principle) is a good thing. Anyone might make the argument that it’s the important factor here.

    However. A real commenter who made that argument eleven times over a 24-hour period, writing at some length, would normally have been shifting their focus from “It’s the individuals’ responsibility; Wal-Mart is not to blame” to a more concentrated focus on personal responsibility itself, and its relationship to society.

    That’s because a real commenter would be interested in the overall issues. Their primary motive would not be to defend Wal-Mart. Yet you defend Wal-Mart at every turn — slickly, in polished press-release-style prose, without hesitation, digression, unnecessary explanation, quotes, anecdotes, or recourse to concrete data. It’s hard to imagine how you’ve come to do this.

    Another odd circumstance is that you never backtrack to explain that your various comments aren’t all extensions of a single argument, but rather are based on several different ones. It’s unusual to see someone repeatedly shift the grounds of their arguments like that — swap out the understructures, as it were — without varying their surface-level resolution or their tone.

    Normally, I’d expect someone who’s constructing a specific set of arguments for the first time to briefly acknowledge a shift of grounds, or to trace a connection between the previous grounds and the new ones. That’s because they’re having to think it out while they’re writing it: they trace their travel path.

    If I believed that you were real, I’d also have to account for your tepidly positive take on Wal-Mart. That would be hard to do. Wal-Mart is widely and generally despised. A thoughtful, intelligent person would have to really like Wal-Mart in order to defend it so repeatedly and at such length. And yet, you say you don’t especially like Wal-Mart.

    What’s equally hard to fit into a coherent overall picture is that you show no particular consciousness that defending Wal-Mart might be an issue. You haven’t been living in an alternate universe, but I’m having real trouble seeing how you can honestly be made to fit into this one.

    Finally: there’s an excellent principle, one that’s never failed me, which I learned in places like the rec.arts.sf* hierarchy, Absolute Write, and the Godawful Star Trek Fan Fiction Board:

    If you’re discussing a piece of writing, and a person pops up who claims they’re not the author, they have no connection with the author, and they’re just trying (out of a simple love of justice) to defend the honor of the author and/or the piece of writing;

    – and –

    if that person then proceeds to plunk themselves down in the middle of the conversation and respond, over and over and over again, to every last thing people say about the author and/or work …

    That person is always the author.

    Another way to put it would be that if someone claims they don’t have a dog in the fight, but they stand up for the same dog over and over again, you have to figure they’ve got an interest in the matter.

    If you think I’ve gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick, please feel free to write to me and explain.

    Make it good.

  91. Why Wal-Mart Is to Blame for the Death of Jdimytai Damour:

    Wal-Mart holds these Black Friday sales every year — and every year, there are reports from all over the country of injuries when customers get trampled in the rush, or when fights break out due to inadequate stocks of merchandise and poor crowd control. There have been some very ugly incidents.

    In spite of the obvious danger, Wal-Mart continues to put a lot of effort into creating mobs of shoppers charged with a false sense of urgency. Over the years, they’ve pushed their Black Friday starting times further and further back. They do stunt pricing — advertising a new laptop or Xbox or plasma TV for a fraction of its usual price — then stocking only twenty or thirty of each those items, when they know they can expect a thousand shoppers at their door.

    Wal-Mart also appears to have decided not to require crowd-calming measures at their stores, like handing out numbered chits to the people waiting in line to buy big-ticket items, or stationing enough security at the front of the line to force people to enter in a well-regulated stream rather than a mob.

    Game behavior is always conditioned by the rules, and the entire emphasis of Wal-Mart’s Black Friday game is that the first person with their hands on the package wins. (See above, “creating a false sense of urgency.”) Where there’s no regulation or crowd control, people who are first in line and have been waiting longest will still have to scramble if they’re going to get anything, since otherwise they’ll be beaten out by more aggressive shoppers.

    Therefore, that mob at the door of the Green Acres/Valley Stream Wal-Mart didn’t just happen. There’s a mob at the door of every Wal-Mart Black Friday sale. It was engineered, and Wal-Mart did the engineering.

    Every year, Wal-Mart’s had ugly incidents, scuffles, and injuries at Black Friday sales. It was a foregone conclusion that sooner or later, one of these stunt sales would result in serious injury or death. Wal-Mart has known that. They’ve done nothing to avert it, and much to encourage it. They’re responsible for Jdimytai Damour’s death.

    Why would they set up a system like that? Simple: they’re raking it in. People who come to Black Friday sales spend freely once they’re inside. (If they’ve stood in line for that long, they’re damned well going to get something.) They tend to have a rough amount in mind they’ve budgeted for Christmas, and Wal-Mart gets first crack at it.

    The mob rush at the Green Acres/Valley Stream store could just as easily have killed customers as Jdimytai Damour. Crush incidents can form surprisingly quickly and kill a lot of people fast. All it takes is a chokepoint, an approach to the chokepoint that doesn’t let the crowd in the back see what’s happening in front, and a crowd with a strong motivation to get through that chokepoint. At its simplest, that’s a locked door, a dogleg corridor, a crowd of protesters or sports fans, and one tear gas grenade.

    The Black Friday opening rush is a natural occasion for such events, but it’s not the only point of vulnerability. There’ve already been a couple of incidents of pepper-spray being used on crowds of Black Friday shoppers. You could readily come up with lots of further scenarios. The death of Jdimytai Damour was awful, but it was just one death. We may see incidents with more.

    Connie H. @82:

    Human-chain formation in front of the doors was a supremely dangerous maneuver – it was an incipient stampede at a choke point. People moving from the back of the crowd couldn’t see what they were getting into … There seem to be disparate reports as to what went on with the doors — it’s quite possible that the crowd movement pushed people into them, then they gave way.

    That is: the surge of the crowd — an annual event which Wal-Mart has engineered — was pushing forward against the doors. If the doors had not given way, there might well have been crush injuries among the customers outside the doors. If the doors did give way, the human chain of Wal-Mart employees were going to be in the direct path of the stampede. One way or another, there were going to be injuries.

    Why Wal-Mart knew this was going to happen:

    Note: I started researching at 2005, and found far more material than I expected, so 2005 is overrepresented and 2006-2007 are underrepresented. I’m sure you’ll still get the picture.

    Raking it in:

    2003: Bentonville, AK: Wal-Mart reported a single-day sales record for sales of $1.52 billion the Friday after Thanksgiving at its domestic stores. This represented a 6.3 percent gain over last year’s single-day sales record, also on Black Friday, of $1.43 billion.

    2006: El Cajon CA: Footage taken “about five minutes” after the start of the 2006 Black Friday sale in El Cajon. Note the amount of merchandise already in carts.

    ND: Black Friday in a Texas Wal-Mart. The ambient sounds are interesting.

    2008: Secaucus, New Jersey.

    2005 Incidents – compilations:

    Nationwide Black Eye Friday wrap-up. Of 23 news reports about Black Friday violence, 16 involved Wal-Mart stores. Locations included Mountain View CA, Orlando FL, Oak Grove KY, Elkton MD, Cascade Township MI, Grandville MI, Hamilton Township NJ, Mays Landing NJ, Wallkill NY, Atlantic County PA, Warwick R.I., Kingsport TN, Beaumont TX, Lynchburg VA, Renton WA, and Puyallup WA.

    ConsumerAffairs.com compiles shopper complaints and reports from all over the country, including inadequate or nonexistent supplies of advertised merchandise; store managers refusing to honor advertised offers of rain checks; customers trampled in the opening rush; and poor organization and crowd control inside stores, leading to shouting matches, pushing and shoving, fights, and a pepper-spray incident. Locations included Tigard OR, Chicago IL, Beaumont TX, Wilton, IA, and Gilroy, CA.

    More complaints logged by ConsumerAffairs.com, plus some repeats in more detail. Lots of complaints about inadequate or nonexistent merchandise that had been advertised, and flyers offering rain checks which store managers refused to issue. Locations included Montgomery County MD, Chicago IL, Gulf Shores AL, Lincoln NE, Wilton IA, Memphis TN, Hinesville GA, and Gilroy CA.

    A Democratic Underground reader posts a compilation of the full texts of news stories about violent incidents during Black Friday 2005 at Wal-Marts in Orlando FL, Cascade Township MI, Hamilton Township NJ, Puyallup WA, and Oak Grove KY.

    The Scotsman on Wal-Mart Black Friday violence in Orlando FL, North East MD, and Cascade Township MI.

    BoxTank’s compilation of stories.

    Luke the Obscure’s Wal-Mart Trampling Roundup:

    Wal-Mart Black Friday Trampling is here to stay! I was able to track down a Wal-Mart trampling account in nearly every one of the fifty states, and the lack of any class-action lawsuits speaks volumes about the corporate influence of everyones favorite corporation.

    Locations included Cascade Township MI, Hamilton Township NJ, Kingsport TN, and Orlando FL. My favorite:

    CNN Money – Calls made to several Wal-Marts around the country revealed that one of the hottest items on the holiday sale list, a $378 Hewlett-Packard laptop, sold out within the first hour the stores were open. “They trampled each other for ’em,” said one Wal-Mart employee at a Maryland store. “It was great.”

    2005 Incidents – single:

    Footage: Stampede in Cascade Township, Michigan (near Grand Rapids), with shoppers (mostly women and children) falling and getting trampled. There were several injuries.

    Orlando FL: shopper gets into fight with plainclothes security officers.

    Security guards wrestled a man to the ground and handcuffed him, this morning at an Orlando Wal-Mart. Eyewitnesses told Channel Nine that the man cut in line to get laptop computers that were on sale.

    The man started arguing with people inside the store, and then scuffled with plain-clothed security guards.

    One man told reporters that the laptops were being thrown into the air and people rushed toward them, collapsing on each other. Another man described the scene as crazy.

    “It was absolutely pandemonium in there. They were throwing laptops twenty feet in the air, and people were collapsing on each other to grab them. It was ridiculous,” said shopper Brian Horwitz.

    “A guy came on top of me and hit my head,” said Wal-Mart shopper, Jennifer Harris. “When he did it bounced against the other two people. I got hit on both of my ears.”

    Some people weren’t fazed in the least. Many customers simply carted their stuff out of the store and passed right by the man in handcuffs, without any reaction.

    When a Sheriff’s deputy arrived, he gave the man a trespassing warning and let him go. It turns out, in the confusion, he fought off the plain-clothes security guards, when they grabbed him, because he thought they were other customers.

    Oak Grove, KY: A woman is trampled and hospitalized when a crowd waiting for laptops goes out of control.

    Hamilton Township, NJ: a fracas breaks out in a Wal-Mart over inadequate stocks of desirable items. Police have to call for backup.

    Lincoln, Nebraska: a scrimmage over laptop computers turns ugly.

    Beaumont TX: A security guard pepper-sprays customers waiting in line in the electronics department. Beaumont TX, two years later: Customers who were pepper-sprayed are suing Wal-Mart.

    Renton WA: Police have to be called in to deal with a crowd in the electronics department.

    2006 Incidents

    Footage: Chokepoint stampede at Wal-Mart in South Philadelphia. Two shoppers go down and can’t get up. A policeman wades in and rescues them.

    Footage: A West Bend, WI store manager makes a crowd of waiting customers race to a row of chairs to determine who gets xbox systems. By report, people in the crowd were begging him to use some other system, like a simple lottery. Many people are hurt in the race. One is seriously hurt, and is hospitalized. See also: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on the West Bend Wal-Mart footrace fiasco.

    Another bad system for allocating scarce goods is to let the shoppers in early to take up positions near the items they want, but not allow them to lay claim to those items until the clock strikes. The results are predictable. Footage: A fight breaks out over six computers.

    Lewis Center, Ohio:

    at the Wal-Mart outside Columbus, customers dashing toward 5 a.m. deals pinned employees against stacks of merchandise.

    “Oh, my god, stop pushing me, oh, my god,” screamed Linda Tuttle, a 47-year-old employee at the store.

    Grace Smith, a 22-year-old customer in the store, was stunned by the scene. “I heard it would be crazy but I never thought I’d see anything like this,” she said.

    Lafayette LA: Man suffers broken leg in the Black Friday rush.


    Footage: opening rush, Wal-Mart Store 5450, North East Maryland. I suspect this “informal YouTube video” was made by Wal-Mart. All is sweetness and light. You’d never guess that two years earlier, on Black Friday 2005, this same store was the site of a melee that took ten policemen to settle, caused by atrociously bad crowd control measures on the part of the manager.


    Footage: A mad scramble for a small number of 360 XBoxes.

    Rapid City, SD: A teenage girl was holding an Xbox 360 was struck in the throat by a man who was yelling and pushing his way through a line of shoppers. He may face assault charges.

    Secaucus NJ: a woman’s leg was injured in the scrum, and she had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance.

    The Consumerist bingo card, which predicts everything but the killing.

    In summary: Wal-Mart makes Black Friday happen. Wal-Mart knew something like this death-by-trampling would eventually happen. The blood’s on Wal-Mart’s hands.

  92. thorough and masterful research as usual Teresa, It is clear there is only one thing to do: a poor,non-white should be immediately arrested and charged with murder.

  93. Trs @ 124 – ws prtng ndr th ssmptn tht nyn rdng cmmnt by m wld rcgnz t s my pnn, rthr thn tht f th BB mds.

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  94. In summary: Wal-Mart makes Black Friday happen. Wal-Mart knew something like this death-by-trampling would eventually happen. The blood’s on Wal-Mart’s hands.

    Wal Mart has sales. People act like morons. People should learn, for the gazillionth time, not to act like assholes. Wal Mart should make some changes.

  95. When I read the first news account of this incident (on the day it happened), Wal-Mart’s spokesperson stated that the dead worker was a contract employee.

    The way I interpret this statement is, “We disclaim any responsibility. If there are any civil judgments to be awarded, they will be paid by the temp agency, because WE’RE NOT RESPONSIBILE.”

    The news article didn’t say anything about how they express their regrets for this terrible incident. Maybe that would have implied legal culpability, but it would also have been The Right Thing To Do.

    Which just reinforces my determination to never shop at Wal-Mart, and to oppose their expansion into any community in which I live.

    Wal-Mart’s greatest successes have been in exporting “American” jobs, destroying American small businesses, and bringing its customers (mostly) Chinese merchandise which may as well have been made by slave labor.

    No wonder they have been a huge success: they have sold America “short” every step of the way. Their cynicism knows no bounds. They are the ultimate “bad neighbor.”

    Do I hate Wal-Mart? No. But how many times do you need to see someone acting like a “dick” before you conclude that they really *are* a dick?

  96. Queens (NYC) Lawmaker Proposes Shopper Crowd Control Bill
    “These early morning, middle of the night crushes of shoppers are essentially street activities and they should be regulated,” said Gennaro. “And there should be requirements put forth, which fortunately some retailers already observe and they have security personnel and they have crowd control. But some don’t and we have to make sure that in every case that is the case.”

  97. Because of the kind of sports I enjoy, I’ve been in mass trampling situations many times. If you are at the breach when 200 men pour through, you are in tramplin’ ground. Luckily we all wear armor; still, I can say that if any significant fraction of people refuses to trample someone who is down, and instead throw themselves protectively atop the down person, the heap of bodies that results quickly stops further trampling. I’ve done it myself several times; it commonly occurs when somebody has a significant armor failure such as losing their helmet in a fall.

    Your legs usually get pretty bruised up if you are one of the first to go down; the fetal position is highly recommended, with eyes open, knees up, chin tucked, arms around the head and don’t present your spine to traffic.

    If you are willing to trample people you should expect to pay the penalty; at a minimum, prosecution for manslaughter. We all should always be held responsible for our physically harmful actions, regardless of how terrorized and weak we may profess to be, if we wish to make even a pretence of valuing justice or honor.


  98. Medra, kind of a failure to engage, there.

    Jack, that’s very sensible of Gennaro. The greater NYC area has a lot of people, and not a lot of Wal-Marts, so we could get more of these oversized mobs in the future.

    It would be better if the stores regulated themselves, but if they don’t, it’s right for the city to regulate them. Other big-box retailers like Circuit City and Best Buy have had these incidents too (though nowhere near as often as Wal-Mart), and there’ve been a few episodes where entire malls had Black Friday crowd-control breakdowns.

    If Black Friday’s going to go on happening, it should be required to do so in a safe and orderly fashion.

  99. FWIW, Teresa your research also highlights something few talk about: Wal-Mart has these crazy sales, but then has calculated low stocks of items. Which makes 100% no sense. Why not have at least 500 of a computer on sale instead of 6? Or heck, have 100. That’s more reasonable.

    If a small mom & pop store has low stock, that makes sense. If this were pre-Internet. It makes sense. A global retailer that controls massive supply pipes and is known for their massive stock? It’s manipulation, plain and simple.

    Does anyone know if there’s a memorial setup at the site of the death of Jimmy Damour? Haven’t seen one sign of a memorial anywhere and in NYC when something like this happens, candles and flowers are pretty much there overnight.

  100. “Characteristics of loss leaders

    * A loss leader may be placed at the back of a store, so that purchasers must walk past racks of other displayed goods which have higher profit margins.
    * A loss leader item is usually a product that customers purchase frequently—thus they are aware of the usual price and that the offered price is a bargain.
    * Items offered as loss leaders are often very limited in number, which discourages stockpiling by customers. A retailer must subscribe to this method of selling on a regular basis in order to compel customers to make repeat visits.
    * The retailer will often set limitations on the quantity that one purchaser can make (e.g., “limit 4”) and/or require a minimum dollar purchase before the sale price becomes valid (e.g., “limit 1 with $10 purchase”).”

  101. I used to work at walmart. Black friday SUCKED because all the customers were psycho. And the thing is.. you couldn’t take that day off because if you did, management would fire you. I got fired from that shithole in august, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me… but I made the mistake of being one of THOSE shoppers who got up at 3:30 in the morning and all I got was a watch. My father got a camcorder that he was looking at… all I have to say is never again will I go anywhere for black friday. I’ll wait till that day is over to go christmas shopping.

  102. This reminds me of a tornado drill we had in high school. Everyone was pushing to get in the basement and I was pushed on the stairs and sprained my ankle. I was run over by other students, and this was just a drill. The super at the school hardly believed me when my mom filed an accident report. Several days later, others came forward about the chaos and the way everyone was herding. The people in the back pushing were responsible for the surge forward. The same as gaming events where the barrior breaks and everyone falls over the edge. The people in the front row aren’t pushing, they are being pushed from behind.

  103. Jack, Takuan, I think this is a little different, and that it’s about generating that false sense of urgency. Highly desirable items, deep discounts, and tiny quantities turns Black Friday sales into something like a 1980s platform game: Run fast! Beat the other characters! Get the treasure! Find the exit! That is: Act now! Act without thinking!

    Most shoppers aren’t going to get the $300 laptop (PS3, Xbox, monster TV screen, etc.), but they’ll know that people who moved quickly and decisively got great bargains that didn’t last long. What they’ll see are stocks running out on some items, and unquestionably low prices on some others. This will color their judgement of everything else in the store.

    Many people aren’t good at remembering numbers. It’s a commoner affliction than not being able to remember words or faces. An equally important fact about our species is that it’s bizarrely easy to screw up our ability to make accurate estimates. On that score, our thought processes are like tofu: they’ll take on the flavor of any data in our vicinity. Put the idea in our heads that we’re in an environment full of unusually desirable bargains, and we’ll adjust our perceptions to match.

    All the features of these sales — unusual circumstances, sleep deprivation, the whole carnival atmosphere, stress, anticipation, disinhibition, perceived urgency, perceived competition, etc. — encourage poor judgement. (When we’re teaching people how scams work, there’s a reason we tell them that as a rule of thumb, they should say no when people tell them about an amazing opportunity they can only get in on if they act right now.) Meanwhile, the environment’s full of cues that suggest that prices right now are remarkably low, but if you don’t grab the stuff you want right now, someone else will get it instead of you.

    Look again at the footage and still photos under “raking it in.” Those were taken shortly after the sales started. Whatever else you can say about Black Friday, it works.


    Look again at the footage and still photos under “raking it in.” Those were taken shortly after the sales started. Whatever else you can say about Black Friday, it works.

    Very true. That’s why I have always said that walking out of a store you don’t like is the best thing to do. Always. It’s the ultimate way to guarantee better service.

    Also pricing is a fascinating world of psychology. Price something $9.99 and it’s instantly more desirable than $10. There was a pizza place near me that had a never ending “2 for 1” special. So for $10 you get two crappy pizzas that are really worth $5 each. But at $5 that seems two high for one.

    Us humans.

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