Saturday, November 25, 2006

It's the Holiday Season!

The "Quotation of the Day" in this morning's online edition of The New York Times:

"It's like a mosh pit. You get pushed everywhere." --LEXIE DEWEGEL, 19, a shopper at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah, where fighting erupted among 12,000 bargain hunters.

One hates to always be the spoilsport, but this Black Friday free-for-all strikes me as pandering to the worst impulses of the American public. Everybody likes a bargain, and retailers must make money, but does that translate into "anything goes"?

Is there no major retailer in the country with enough intestinal fortitude to say, "No, we think we can be better than that"?

Well, of course not. What am I thinking? Obviously been hitting the cranberry sauce a little hard,

But as I watch the images of holiday shoppers stampeding into Wal-Mart like a herd of wild pigs, as pushing and pulling degenerate into fistfights, I cannot but think that sooner or later somebody's going to get killed. Someone will stumble in the mad rush, and be trampled by the wild pigs. A fight will turn deadly. Someone will produce a gun or knife in order to secure the season's version of Tickle-Me Elmo.

Black Friday, indeed.

And, since we live in a litigious society, the victim, or the victim's survivors, will sue. The retailer will argue that the victim was there voluntarily, and that it is blameless. The survivors will argue that the victim was, well, the victim of the retailer's endless hyperbolic advertising, that nonstop insisting that those who snooze will be those who lose created an imperative in the victim's mind that he or she was helpless to resist. And anyway the store should have had better security.

As annoyed as I get at people's refusal to accept responsibility for their own actions and the consequences thereof, I hope that when--not if--the lawsuits start flying, some of these retailers are hit with whopping great fines. Money being the only thing that seems to matter to them only the threat of having money taken away from them will make them see (maybe) that just because base impulses exist in the American public, they needn't feel obliged to pander to them.

In the meantime, I was sound asleep at five a.m. when the local stores started their "doorbuster" sales. It was noon before I was looking at the newspaper ads telling me about all the great bargains I had missed. (One wonders: If Best Buy boasts a "minimum of 10" copies of an attractively priced LCD TV, what are the odds of my getting one even if I'm in line at the store in the middle of the night?) I am hard-pressed to think of anything I want or need so badly, any bargain that is so irresistibly attractive, that would compel me to eat Thanksgiving dinner in a tent in front of the mall.

And the holiday season begins!

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