Black Friday Indeed: Customer & Employee Safety

This is shocking.

NY Times: Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death by Customers

A Wal-Mart employee in suburban New York died after being trampled by a crush of shoppers who tore down the front doors and thronged into the store early Friday morning, turning the annual rite of post-Thanksgiving bargain hunting into a frenzy.
The 34-year-old employee, who was not identified, was knocked down by a crowd that broke down the doors of the Wal-Mart at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, N.Y., and surged into the store. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 6 a.m.

Police are apparently investigating. That’s good; charges should be laid, and I hope the tramplers go to jail for this (it’s going to be hard to apportion responsibility among various members of the mob, but that’s a problem for a different kind of blog). But from a business ethics point of view, it’s clear that Wal-Mart also has to take action, here.

The 2005 attack-documentary, “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” claimed that Wal-Mart’s lax security was responsible for crimes committed in Wal-Mart parking lots. In my review of that movie, I suggested that was unfair. But today’s death happened inside a Wal-Mart store, and was presumably incited by the sale Wal-Mart was having. I’m not saying Wal-Mart was responsible — the death was the mob’s fault, and it’s not at all clear that Wal-Mart could have foreseen that their low prices would cause a frenzied crowd to rip the front doors of their hinges and trample an employee. But now it has happened. And it cannot happen again. Wal-Mart has either to improve security measures during future big sales events, or cancel such events altogether.

3 comments so far

  1. Katie on

    I couldn’t believe this when I read it in the news. Absolutely senseless. Something is seriously wrong when a crowd will trample a person to death for some discounted Wal-Mart crap. This is why I stay far away from stores during crazy stuff like Boxing Day, because people just lose their heads to save a few bucks.

  2. Joseph Onesta on

    I think that Wal-Mart really should have planned for a dramatic incident. For years, stores have been opening earlier and earlier, as if black Friday were their only chance to sell merchandise and the discounts are so deep that people go shopping in the wee hours of the morning. For years, Wal-Mart in particular has been giving out special little snow globes to their first customers. Now a collectable item, these little things add fuel to the fire. They have seen for years the behavior at their doors on Black Friday and while tearing off the doors and trampling an unfortunate associate may be unprecedented in its gravity and severity, the frantic behavior is predictable.

  3. Alice C. Linsley on

    Chris, I agree that WalMart and other mega-chains that invest millions in advertisement of big sales events such as Black Friday, must re-evaluate their security policies. I’d be willing to bet that WalMart corporate heads are together right now. Target and K-Mart should take this incident as a warning also.I’m posting a link to this at Ethics Forum (http://college-ethics.blogspot.com)


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