Thursday, December 4, 2008

124. Black Friday brings out the worst in people

My wife and I have taken to the "Black Friday" idea. Three years running, we saved nearly all of our holiday shopping for the day after Thanksgiving. We have had mostly good experiences, as we enjoy getting up at 4:00 a.m. to the trails of advertisements we reviewed the day before. I actually appreciate the excitement and the energy of the day.

The customer service of the stores this year was appreciatively friendly and helpful. Perhaps a focus of the difficult economic times, stores seemed fully staffed with associates that were more than willing to be of assistance.

I also enjoy the interaction with people, who for the most part were also kind and courteous. Besides making room in aisles and holding doors, we had, on more than one occasion, people who had overheard our conversation point us in the right direction- whether it was where something was located in the store or if another store had a better deal.

We had our "Christmas" lists, store advertisements, and a list of when each store opened and the things they had that we might be interested in. This year, we went to Kohl's, Lowe's (twice), Sears, JC Penney (twice), Home Depot, Circuit City, Target, Office Max, Wal-Mart, Michaels and Best Buy. We really only purchased the "sale items," while also using the occasion to pick ourselves up those "good deals" for around the house.

Although our experience has been good overall, it does not mean that everything goes perfectly. There are indeed, "those people" who act like "Black Friday" is the only day they are permitted to leave their cages. As a "liberal," I make a lot of excuses for people, often focusing on circumstance rather than the responsibility of their actions. It is somewhat fair; I do factor in environmental and socio-economic factors in considering the opportunity for people to succeed.

However, I never concede laziness or rudeness. Even under the direst of circumstances would I have a difficult time justifying the behavior of those that act as though the rules, or even common human decency, do not apply to them. It seems that under the excitement and anxiety of "Black Friday" or, really, anything to do with money, this behavior can reach unacceptable levels.

We have indeed met the occasional shopper who runs ahead of the line to grab a shopping cart or pushes through to get a sale item. This year, my wife kindly noted to someone who had parked in reserved parking, that in fact, it was not reserved for them. Which, of course they knew, and responded that, "she (my wife) was jealous that she did not think of that and to mine her own business." That was the wrong thing to say to my wife, who then offered an ethics and etiquette lesson to the lazy and rude shoppers.

But, our typically good experience is not always the case, as most of us have heard the ridiculousness that has accompanied some "day after Thanksgiving" sales. Another absurd event happened this year, when a 34 year old Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death by nearly 2000 shoppers when he was trying to open the doors to the store. Several others were injured while trying to help the victim, including a woman who was eight months pregnant. Not to be deterred, reports indicated that the "savages" rushed past the individual and began shopping- seemingly without concern.

There is something wrong in society when people lose their minds over the prospect of saving a few dollars, or getting that perfect toy for their kids. We see the same behavior in times of crisis. While some people are willing to make the sacrifices to help others, there are others still that will abandon all civility for a cheap tank of gas.

Perspective is a powerful idea, one that undoubtedly changes over time- as we grow older and we incorporate the experiences of our lives. One of those perspectives is that my integrity and class shall never be compromised to save a few dollars. I am not proposing that I am above ever acting improperly, we all have our moments, but I can assure you I will never trample someone to get a discounted big screen television. It hardly seems to represent the spirit of the holiday season.

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