I read with some horror of the poor guy who got trampled to death by the stampeding shoppers at a Wal-Mart, and my feelings really weren't all that mixed. Wal-Mart continues to anger me with this sort of thing. No, it's not like somebody's getting trampled to death every year on Black Friday, but crowd control isn't that hard, especially when you're dealing with an event like this where you know exactly when the movement of people is going to happen. Other retailers manage to figure this out: you set up stanchions and steel fence lines, you hire security people to direct the crowds into lines outside the door, and so on. There is absolutely no reason for Wal-Mart's approach to simply boil down to "Unlock the doors, and then get the hell out of the way!", no reason that I can see, except for one:
Wal-Mart likes it this way.
You'd better believe they do. What better publicity can there be for Wal-Mart's unbelievable bargains than the annual news footage, which runs like clockwork on all the news stations every year on Black Friday starting with the very earliest local newscasts and then propagating out to the TODAY Show, of all those lunatic shoppers leaping forward from their three-point stances as they race into the damn store? Wal-Mart loves this publicity, and the news stations love giving it to them – otherwise, they wouldn't have camera crews on site to capture this footage. Sure, having lines set up and personnel outside the store to help things move along in an orderly fashion might be safer and prevent the trampling death that everybody knew was gonna happen sooner or later, but that's not fun to watch on teevee, is it?
And of course, that news footage every year helps guarantee that the same crowds will be there every year, probably even larger and they'll be gathering even earlier, because every year somebody's going to see that footage and think, "Hey, gotta remember that for next year!" And why does the news media think that a bunch of stampeding weirdos looking to buy stuff is important to show? Who knows why the news media thinks that most of the stuff it shows is news?
I have no problem at all with the 4:00 a.m. shopping stuff, even if I think it's total lunacy. But I do think that the stores should make it safe. This was not a freak occurrence. Anybody who has half a brain and has seen the news footage of the Wal-Mart Shoppers of Pamplona in years past must know that sooner or later somebody was going to get killed on account of those $300 laptops, and just because it's been a rarity doesn't cancel out the fact that this was preventable. That guy did not have to die under the feet of shoppers who didn't care enough to stop and notice him beneath the soles of their boots. Those people didn't have to be running at all.
So, yeah: f*** Wal-Mart.