Christmas in America is usually thought of as an occasion of peace, joy, happiness and gratitude as Americans take time out from their careers to spend precious days with friends and family, exchanging gifts and celebrating good times.
Unfortunately, in the last several years, unseemly spectacles of greed and violence have reared their ugly heads, and it’s hard to know if the Christmas holidays will ever be the same.
Many news watchers remember a 2008 stampede that turned deadly at a Valley Stream, New York Wal-Mart, which held a “Black Friday” sale and decided to open its doors at 5 a.m. to let anxious shoppers in to claim dozens of “doorbuster” deals.
As is typical during the holiday season, big-box retailers will often put out what are called “loss-leader” products, which are often priced below their cost to lure shoppers in. The consumers ultimately make other purchases, more than making up for stores’ losses on the advertised leader products.
Intensifying the interest in these sales is the fact that usually, these leader products are only available in extremely limited quantities, so it’s first-come, first-served in terms of who can claim these Christmas “prizes” for their relatives, their children and even themselves.
It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone to know that entrepreneurial young people have organized themselves into gangs to try and swipe many of these bargain items at the earliest possible times so they can make quick bucks turning around and selling them either online or in-person.
Even though retailers often have “one-per-customer” rules in place to try to prevent hoarding, these may be ignored, or the groups will send their members back into the same store more than once to scoop up the remaining bargains.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this combination of circumstances is a recipe for disaster and selfishness as what was originally planned with good intentions goes awry, and the consuming public takes advantage of the stores.
Adding to the hoarding is the fact that in many cases, people’s real disposable incomes haven’t risen in 20 years, so working families have to make do with less money, and bargain-seeking has become of prime importance around the holidays.
In fact, without such loss-leading deals, some families simply couldn’t afford the big-ticket items they need to purchase for their homes. Some consumers have been known to wait all year long for Christmas sales so that they can get the few special items they need or want.
This fact, combined with the reality that many people now hold down multiple jobs means that hours for holiday shopping are strictly limited, and a store opening at 5 (or even 1) a.m. is no longer looked askance at; for some consumers, these times might be the only realistic hours that Christmas shopping can be accomplished.
In light of this knowledge, it now makes sense that at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart, there was an unruly mob of as many as 2,000 people that had begun gathering up to eight hours before the store was set to open.
Security cameras captured the chaos as store workers, including a maintenance man named Jdimytai Damour, opened the roll-down gates and unlocked the doors to the store, leading to a mad dash of consumers for the loss-leader items. Amidst the rush of people, Jdimytai was pushed down and trampled as people simply ran over him to get to the merchandise they desperately sought.
So anxious was the mob for the goods that the store’s doors were literally ripped off their hinges. No one bothered to help Jdimytai up or assist him as he cried out from his injuries. Jdimytai died on the scene at approximately 5:30 a.m., and even emergency workers attending to him were unable to clear the area of shoppers while they tried in vain to save him.
It was the first recorded fatality chalked up to Christmas selling, but it wouldn’t be the last. Between 2006 and 2016, six other people have died as a result of either stampedes or fighting between consumers over goods. 2008 was also the year that two Toys “R” Us shoppers in California shot each other after arguing over a toy they both wanted to purchase.
While Wal-Mart and a few other stores took preventative steps in subsequent years to prevent such incidents from involving their staff, many stores simply did not and still do not have enough security on hand to break up or stop fights between customers over the limited quantities of sale merchandise.
Fights too numerous to count can be seen on Youtube if you search on the term “Christmas shopping melee”; the results should shame most Americans.
2016 was no exception to the string of violent incidents that have occurred in the time between Jdimytai’s death and the present day. On Black Friday of this year, a brawl between a half-dozen fully grown men was recorded at Modesto, California’s Vintage Faire Mall and posted to Twitter by a bystander.
The men can be seen swinging at each other and wrestling on the floor of the indoor mall outside one of its larger stores. At a Wal-Mart in Bainbridge, Georgia, a video posted to Youtube shows an aggressive crowd battling over bargain towels. At another Wal-Mart in Reno, Nevada, a 33-year-old man died of a gunshot wound after arguing with another man over a parking space. In Mays Landing, New Jersey, two brothers — one 20 years old and the other 26 — were shot multiple times, and the younger one died outside of Macy’s at the town’s Hamilton Mall; no motive has been established for the crime. And at the Wolfchase Galleria Mall in Memphis, Tennessee, a man fired multiple gunshots in the shopping center’s parking lot before driving away. Three people were taken into custody over the incident.
Last year, the day after Christmas saw a riot of teens at Louisville, Kentucky’s Mall St. Matthews. Up to 2,000 unsupervised teenagers organized via social media showed up at the mall and began harassing shoppers and running through stores in a chaotic “wilding” incident. Fights broke out, and the local police were forced to shut down the mall and evacuate people. Controversy broke out in the media as many news outlets left out of the story the fact that nearly all of the teenagers were African-American.
The social justice group Black Lives Matter held a protest march on Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” shopping area on this year’s Black Friday to try and deter shoppers from entering stores there as part of the group’s battle against a spate of police shootings of youth. More than 40 people were shot and 11 killed in that Midwestern city over this past Christmas weekend.
How much the Christmas sales have to do with all this violence is questionable, but some stores have reduced or eliminated hype around loss-leader sales in an effort to curb aggression among mobs of people at their locations.
One can only hope that if President-Elect Trump’s plans for the economy take shape that perhaps people won’t be so desperate for Christmas deals in future years. A strong economy and a return to basic law-and-order police practices will help in this regard.
~ American Liberty Report