As expected, Black Friday (which seems to have jumped the gun late on Thankful Thursday) provided plenty of examples of how not to act in this season of goodwill or at any other time of the year.
Pepper-spraying ones fellow shoppers is not nice, regardless of the scarcity of the merchandise for which they are competing. Waiting for shoppers to pay for their merchandise and then taking it, at gunpoint, and then shooting them when they refuse to comply, is even less acceptable. Both of those offenses happened last week. Similar stories abound.
In Charleston, S.C., a nurse and a paramedic stopped to help a senior citizen who collapsed while shopping for Christmas decorations, but other individuals seemed irritated by the inconvenience of having to step over and around him. He died later that day in a hospital. Last year, a man was badly trampled by stampeding shoppers.
With the exception of the armed robbers, few Americans would say that a great deal on toys and electronics is worth a life or a limb. Most people, even those who were waiting in line overnight, are appalled by the pushing and shoving. Its hard to say how many shoppers actually would snatch a desirable product out of someone elses hand, perhaps after an effective elbow jab, or would grab merchandise or a purse out of a strangers shopping cart. If rumors are to be credited, theres at least one in every store every day, but most of the time, manners prevail.
In years past, wrestlers successful in scoring the item everyone wanted could step outside and sell it to the highest bidder. They still can, although those transactions usually take place electronically. Profit is a powerful motive, both for merchants and for resellers, but again, few would resort to violence.
Those who might be tempted to do so need to be reminded that in most cases, theres little reason. No one is fighting over bread or childrens winter coats items far more essential than big-screen televisions and smart phones, which arent in short supply this year. Money is, and of course consumers want the best deals possible, but theres a reason those deals used to be called door busters. (Headbusters just didnt have the same ring to it.)
Surely theres a more civilized way to handle Christmas shopping, and consumers and retailers ought to be working together to promote it.
Some stores handed out numbers, like rain checks, for the most desirable items, eliminating the mad rush. Some announced that the sale price was available on their websites, with free shipping. And local business owners offer fair prices and good service to their customers all year long.
On the other side of the double doors, some Black Friday shoppers comported themselves with decency and dignity, regardless of the inducement to do otherwise. They, along with the medical professionals who helped the downed Charleston man, are the ones who deserve discounts and encouragement.
Some shoppers just stayed home, and that choice contains a message for merchants. In a Denver Post poll last week, Black Friday non-shoppers outnumbered shoppers 40 to 1. If theyre spending their money online instead, thats a big loss for local businesses and governments.
Businesses and customers should reward good behavior, rather than participating in the feeding frenzy. Thats the real bottom line.