Monday, December 01, 2008

The Cost of Christmas

This morning I opened my Inbox to find at least a dozen emails taunting me to click and save more money this Cyber Monday, the Monday following Black Friday.

Black Friday was branded such because it is reportedly the biggest day of the year for retailers, often the first day they are in "the black," making profits beyond what you or I could imagine. But I think, after this deplorable tragedy, Black Friday has taken on a new meaning.

It isn't often that I blog about news articles or scandals, but the death of a Wal-mart employee at the hands and feet of a mob cries out for commentary and serious thought.

If you are not familiar with the story by now, here is a summary.

A Wal-mart employee was killed while opening the store on Black Friday. He was literally trampled to death. Employees who ran to his rescue were also injured, along with customers, including an expectant mother.

When the store closed for several hours because of the tragic death, some of the customers complained.

I know what you're saying.

This is awful, sad, inhumane.

How could people be so greedy for a sale?

I would never do that.

Don't be so sure. The influence of a crowd can be powerful. This psychological phenomenon must not excuse any responsibility; it should be discussed.

Where does the responsibility fall?

On the excited mob which had been waiting for hours for the store to open?

On the retailer who markets the sale with limited quantities and doorbuster deals?

On the retail industry which continues to open their stores earlier and earlier each year, ratcheting the tension, and spurring adrenaline?

I am sure a panel of lawyers will sort it all out.

While sitting and watching the news story, reading the headline and wondering who is to blame, the person who comes to my mind is very clear.


I am the consumer.

I am the mom who wants her kid to have a good Christmas.

I am the wife who wants to save money, who tries hard to spend frugally.

I am the person who feels a rush when I find a good bargain- at 4:00 AM or 2:00 in the afternoon.


No, I wasn't part of the mob. I was at home in my bed. But, I am not very different from the people who broke down a metal door to reach a big screen TV, killing someone on their way.

What makes a person transition from bargain hunter to savage shopper? I don't know.

Is it wrong to wake up early all in the spirit of shopping fun to hope for that last Elmo? No.

We all need to save money, watch our budgets, check our checkbooks. It is the responsible thing to do. Yet, are we really shopping the crazy sales for the savings or for the rush?

I may not be able to stop an angry mob but I can be sure that I am not a part of it. In reality or in theory. I can delete the emails advertising savings on things I don't even want. Or need. I can carefully evaluate my motives for shopping a sale, and check it twice.

This Christmas Eve, after all the stores have closed and all the deals are off, we'll tuck our children into bed. We'll sit down with our spouses in the quiet and look at the decorated tree.
We'll take a moment to savor the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Odds are that next year none of us will remember what we gave or received the year before, let alone the great deals we got on the presents under the tree.

This Christmas, and the Christmas after that, we will remember the gifts that matter.

Our family. Our friends. The ones we love.

These are the gifts we value most.


stacywhite said...

Well written.

Susanne said...

No matter how the lawyers hash it out to lay blame you hit the nail on the head, it comes down to "me". I think as a people we have totally lost site of what Christmas is supposed to be about. This was very well written, Melanie.

Kimberly said...

Hi - I just found your blog from my reader. I wanted to thank you for writing this. This has been on my mind alot since this happened. It's sad to say the least. Hopefully some good will come from this! Oh - on a lighter note - I am from the South - lived in the north and the west and am now back home in NC. The South is a state of mind for sure! Have a great day!

fuzzytop said...

Very insightful post....

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Re: "Odds are that next year none of us will remember what we gave or received the year before, let alone the great deals we got on the presents under the tree." The sad thing is, the trampled victim's family will always have this Christmastime memory. So sad.