I marvel at the people who get up at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning to hit the gym. The mental acuity and dexterity that I would need to muster to be functional at the gym at that time is almost too much for me to calculate. Similarly, I cannot relate to the people who get up at just before the crack of dawn to partake in what has become a national pastime, Black Friday. Black Friday is the one day of the year retailers promise to deliver consumers jaw- dropping deals worthy of camping out in line outside of retail stores. Much to the delight of retailers, consumers have responded favorably to the Black Friday call, braving rain, snow, and sleet to secure their opportunity to buy the deal of the year. The tsunami- like wave of people rushing their way past the doors of “X” and “Y” retail store isn’t an image one is soon likely to forget. Stories of Black Friday shoppers getting pushed and elbowed on their way into the stores are as common as the stories of the physical altercations that break out between shoppers and employees over merchandise. Sadly, for one Walmart employee in New York a few years back Black Friday turned deadly when he was trampled to death by shoppers rushing to get a hold of limited merchandise. This year at a Los Angeles based Walmart store, Black Friday shoppers were greeted not only by an unruly bargain seeking crowd but also one determined pepper spray packing shopper. It is alleged that a woman whom police say was trying to get a leg up over shoppers vying for the same Black Friday deals as her sprayed pepper spray at the crowd of people surrounding her, a crowd which also included children. A Black Friday shopper whom alleges she was standing behind the woman in question for 2 hours prior to the store opening says that she heard the woman say “I got pepper spray.” Twenty people were treated for minor injuries related to this incident that police have called an example of “Competitive shopping.”
Is this pepper spray infused incident simply a case of “Competitive shopping” rum amuck, or is there something deeper going on here? Were the deeply discounted Black Friday items enough of a catalyst to get this woman out of her home, pepper spray in tow? In part, yes, the hope of getting her hands on a discounted item or two steered this woman in the direction of the store, but I submit that the euphoria of victory and the chance to stand out are what drove the decision to pepper spray fellow shoppers. Before, and after, Black Friday sales, reporters clamor to interview Black Friday shoppers about their shopping experience and conquest. Like Vikings whom have returned from a triumphant night of pillaging, successful Black Friday shoppers seem all too eager to display the fruits of their victory. Gleefully, these shoppers parade their Black Friday acquisitions in front of the camera. The 65% off flat screen TV, this years coveted toy or electronic gadget, clothes, shoes, kitchen appliances, for the victorious Black Friday shopper no conquest is too big or small to tauntingly parade in front of the TV camera. But it is not only in front of the TV camera where the Black Friday shopper shines, it is anywhere the Black Friday shopper can share their heroic tale of shopping victory. There is no denying that some of the deals many Black Friday shoppers snag are impressive, quite impressive, which adds to the almost folklore nature of the Black Friday shopper. And while many of us would never dream of staying out practically all night nearly risking life and limb to get such impressive deals, for others the Black Friday shopper is a hero of sorts, an individual who stands apart from the pack, accomplishing something that only a targeted group of individuals can boast to have achieved. Perhaps the desire to be part of this folkloric group is what pushed this woman beyond simply standing in line for her chance to grab one of the coveted Black Friday goodies to spraying a group of individuals with a temporarily blinding chemical compound.
For the hardcore deal tracker, nothing quite beats the satisfaction of obtaining the crème de la crème in shopping deals that is Black Friday. In these hard- pressed economic times, a day like Black Friday is especially significant for those trying to save their pennies. And while I personally cannot see myself camping outside any retail store overnight in hopes of obtaining 75% off of this or that, I am not going to bash the individuals who choose to participate in Black Friday. The task of digging out the motivation for purchasing material goods, whether on Black Friday or any other day is an individual exercise that only that specific person can answer for themselves. Pronouncing that someone is a soul-less, materialistic person simply because they decide to camp out for Black Friday sales is, in my opinion, not only presumptuous but arrogant. In writing about the pepper spraying incident at Walmart, I am only guessing at what could have potentially led this person to take such drastic action. It is society’s skewed and destructive thirst for material goods, coupled with the need for attention at any cost that I take issue with, not individuals whom for whatever reason other than the aforementioned reasons decide to participate in Black Friday. Hopefully, what is gleaned from this incident is not another opportunity to bash or deify Black Friday shoppers, but rather an opportunity to examine our own individual drives and motives. At least for now, it appears that what drives and motivates many Black Friday shoppers are discounts, not pepper spray.