Monday, December 01, 2008

Advice to WalMart on preventing employees from being trampled to death

Okay, Jdimytai Damour wasn't a real WalMart employee - not one of the lucky ones who has the security of that short-sheet workweek, the poor benefits, the paltry wage, the grim working conditions - he was a temp hired by Wally for the holiday season. (Hard to think of a more miserable job than being a WalMart temp, is there?)

Still, he was more or less in WalMart's employ at the time of his death at the feet of a mob of crazed shoppers intent on being one of the lucky ones to nab a bargain-priced flat-screen TV, or whatever else was the lure at the Long Island WalMart where Damour lost his life.

And I'm sure that WalMart, moving forward, will want to have a few more safeguards in place to prevent anything like this from happening again.

So here's a bit of free advice from someone whose retail experience was in the more refined shopping precincts of yore - Filene's and Jordan Marsh - but who nonetheless has some ideas about what could have made this entire sorry scene better.

First, I know that it's way too much to recommend doing away with the come-on Black Friday ads. Ah, those the bait and switch (or bait and run out of) bargains you've so craftily designed to bring customers in with what will be, for most, a false promise, but will, you hope and pray, keep the disappointed in enough of a spending mood for you to make a buck off them.

No, I won't be recommending that.

But how about giving out coupons to the first "n" people in line, guaranteeing that they'll get one of the precious few whatevers that's enticed the crowd.

Of course, once you reach "n", you will have to be prepared to deal with the frustration, disappointment, and anger of person "n plus 1", who had his or her rapidly beating little shopping heart set on that flat screen TV, that lap top cum printer, that day-glo Wii, that fully-sentient Elmo.

So maybe you give everyone who's in line at that point a coupon for $10 off, or some such placating token, on the stuff their dreams are made of.

No, it's not the same as getting their mitts on "it", but maybe knowing that they aren't one of the lucky ones to get "it" will keep them from surging forward in a buying frenzy that is so consumption-crazed that they won't even realize that they're trampling an actual human being, and not just last year's version of Elmo.

And while I'm on the topic of surging, would it be too much to have an orderly line set up, like the ones that funnel us to the check-in counter at the airport, so that people weren't so tempted to elbow the folks around them out of the way, or create a flying wedge so that the group's designated shopper-in-chief can get there first?

Obviously, an orderly line set up won't resolve the surge problem entirely, but it will give people a sense of where they stand and wait, and a better sense that pushing forward really won't help them all that much. Plus, if you've taken my earlier piece of advice, the folks in line will already know whether they're a have or a have not for that sentient Elmo. If you know you're going to get one, no need to push and shove. Ditto if you know you aren't going to get one.

It might be a good idea to have a back up plan around what to do if the size of the crowd gets to a certain point.

Off duty police officers, anyone?

Or, since you have an orderly rope line set up already, let everyone after a certain place in line know that they won't be in the first wave getting into the store.

No, they'll have to wait until the first set of shoppers has exited the building.

Yes, they will have to cast their lusting, jealous eyes on carts full of merchandise that they really and truly want.

But, hey, this is America: you snooze, you lose. You were the one who decided to doze in front of the TV, rather than zoom over to WalMart to be the first in line at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

What do you expect, waiting until dawn on Black Friday?

What are you, some kind of a maroon or something?

I'm not going to say that this poor man's death is all on WalMart.

No, Bentonville is not single-handedly responsible for the creation of the monster that is the American consumer.

WalMart certainly doesn't make people show up at their doors in the wee-small hours of the morning to spend money they more than likely don't have on crap they more of likely don't need.

WalMart certainly doesn't make people push and shove and otherwise behave thoughtlessly and dangerously.

But we all know it just takes one or two people to start pushing and shoving, and the whole crowd turns into an ugly mob. (Talk about the domino effect.)

And somebody in Bentonville, and at the HQ's of the other stores that contribute to the grotesque "event" that Black Thursday has become, has to know, deep-down, that their rapacious corporate greed preys on and incites the rapacious personal greed of a bunch of people who, this holiday season especially, are fearful that this may be their last spending opportunity in a long time.

What can I say? One more reason to disdain WalMart. (As if I needed another one.)

1 comment:

K. said...

Or, we could outlaw Wal-Marts.