Black Friday violence: Competitive shopping's troubling new edge
Some Black Friday shoppers have been cutting in line, grabbing carts, coming to blows, and wielding pepper spray. What the Black Friday hunt for the perfect Christmas present says about the shopper within.
(Page 2 of 2)
Indeed, such mass shopping events don't just appeal to baser instincts, but primal desires.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"We love to exchange things with people. It comes from our ancestral past," Dr. Peter Whybrow, author of "American Mania: When More Is Not Enough," told TheStreet writer Joe Mont. "When we are faced with something really exciting and immediate, we go for it. It's very difficult to control and the merchants know that."
The backdrop to the pandemonium is anemic economic growth. Retailers said they expected a 3 percent bump in sales this year, but not the 5 percent the big box stores saw last year.
Meanwhile, scenes of Black Friday tragedy have become a B-roll to the recession and its aftermath, a phenomenon firmly vaulted into the collective conscious when a person died after getting trampled by a throng trying to get into a Valley Stream, NY, Wal-Mart on Black Friday 2008.
Given the growth of Cyber Monday, the introduction last year of Small Business Saturday – an American Express promotion backed by President Obama – and added hours on Black Friday, shoppers told pollsters this week that they plan to spend four more hours shopping this year than last, but a third of those say they'll spend less money than in the past.
All in all, one in four Americans melted into the throngs on Friday, the vast majority on a good-natured, even fun, hunt for savings. But as usual, the unusual became news, and fodder for societal reflection.
For YouTube aficionados, Black Friday mayhem has become its own annual event. One popular video shows two women throwing punches over a table of hand towels in Oregon, Ohio. "They were fighting over bath towels on sale for $1.88, as ridiculous as that sounds," Police Sergeant Jason Druckenmiller told Reuters.
Ridiculous may be in the eye of the beholder, however.
Yes, "for the shopaholics out there, it's the equivalent of Mardi Gras," Bob Robicheaux, a marketing professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, tells the Birmingham News. "Once you get that emotional predisposition to go buy something, the floodgates open and people sort of lose their control."
On the other hand: While Wal-Mart seemed to be particularly hard-hit by stories of consumer misbehavior, it doesn't appear to have hurt the Bentonville, Ark. retailer's bottom line. Wal-Mart stocks rose slightly after Black Friday, with shares rising to $56.89 in late trading.
RECOMMENDED: Top 6 weird Black Friday discounts