“The Friday known as Black”

Here’s a piece I pulled together based on A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore:

‘Twas the day after Thanksgiving, when all through the store

Employees were frightened as shoppers screamed “more!”

The sale papers had been scanned and clipped with great care,

In hopes a few bucks could be saved here and there.

The CEOs were still nestled all snug in their beds,

While the sounds of cash registers danced in their heads;

And mammas in their sweatpants, and daddies in their caps,

Were ready to do battle since they’d taken quick naps.

And there on the TV, there arose such a clatter,

I hit the volume button to see what was the matter.

Away to the registers, the workers flew like a flash,

As patrons tore through doors and made a mad dash.

The news crews were capturing it all for the show,

How many were injured, police did not know.

When, what to my wondering mind should appear,

But a moment of pause when things seemed quite clear.

With a move of my hand, so lively and quick,

I saw more news with every mouse click.

More rapid than eagles the shoppers they went,

Store to store they ran, for bargains hell-bent;

And they whistled, and shouted, and called each other names,

All because they wanted some big TVs and Wii games.

And the families of workers, were just rising up

Pouring coffee and orange juice into their cup.

“Mommy’s been there since 3!” the smallest kids shouted,

The true meaning of Christmas they suddenly doubted.

“If it’s supposed to be about giving and love,

Why are those people doing a push and a shove?”

It’s that special time, their daddy did say,

When stores cut prices like no other day.

And shoppers forget there is a real reason,

That Christmas can be such a wondrous season.

Their wits will return when they see what they did,

But on that one terrible day, they all blow their lid.

No bargain’s too little as they cruise through the mall,

They’ll hit every store, not just most but all.

And when Christmas day comes and the kids see their toys,

Popular dolls for the girls and hot games for the boys,

I wonder if they’ll sit back and remember,

That long, horrifying day in November;

When their friends and neighbors went on the attack

To buy so many things, on the Friday known as Black.

. . .

(Sale sign picture courtesy of bixentro’s Flickr photostream.)

Ads don’t kill people, people kill people

Advertising has been blamed for a lot of things in this world — including hyperactive children, obese adults and, now, killing WalMart employees.

The tragedy of a man’s death in a New York state WalMart on “Black Friday” this year really has me thinking we need to put an end to the madness that is the post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping stampede. In the latest case, that stampede was literal and Jdimytai Damour, 34, was crushed when a throng of unruly shoppers decided a great deal on Christmas presents was worth more than civility or even human life.

For years, we have watched as retailers have opened their doors earlier, many now forcing employees to be ready and smiling at 4 a.m. We have seen the advertising intensify. We have seen the deals seemingly get so good no one can possibly pass them up. Retailers have increased their pitchmen’s shouting volume, their outlandish claims and their audacity to force employees to bid an early goodnight to family as they prepare to earn a bleary-eyed buck on the day after Thanksgiving.

It has been annoying and frustrating — but is it responsible for a man’s death?

Mr. Damour’s family has filed a lawsuit claiming that WalMart didn’t provide enough security that fateful morning but also, “engaged in specific marketing and advertising techniques to specifically attract a large crowd and create an environment of frenzy and mayhem.”

If this case proceeds to a judgment against WalMart or even an out-of-court settlement, you’ll see a growing crowd of salivating trial lawyers the likes of which even the WalMart stampeders would cower from.

Mr. Damour’s family deserves our sympathy and, if at all possible, those responsible for killing this man deserve to be punished. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that neither WalMart nor their advertising agencies crushed Mr. Damour. WalMart shoppers are the killers in this scenario.

Advertising informs, titillates and entices. Advertising drives us to take action and be at a certain place at a certain time for a certain deal. But advertising in no way is responsible for people giving up all sense of decency and storming a discount retailer so they can save a few hundred dollars.

According to several news reports, shoppers even refused to leave the store during the police investigation, claiming they had been standing in line all night and had a right to be there.

No amount or style of advertising is responsible for that kind of ruthless, cold-hearted sentiment.

Ads don’t kill people, people kill people.