Saturday, November 27, 2010

Efficient Agony, Indeed

(Photo of Black Friday "shoppers" from The

This is a weekend for which I have strong opinions.  It is Thanksgiving weekend.  It should be about reflection and celebration of family, friends, and the abundance in our collective American lives.  But I am a cynic.  

Yes, after nearly 30 years in retail, I am a cynic.  I believe that the Thanksgiving/Christmas "holiday" season is an abomination. And we all have created it and allow it to happen.  Yes, many of us do give thanks, and many Christians do celebrate the Christmas season in the spirit of love and giving.  

But let's be honest, folks:  We all, me included,  participate in this travesty of economic madness.  Not enough of us stand up and make noise about how shallow it's all become.  So shallow, that, in my opinion, there isn't any water in the pool. 

I work in retail.  So I'm part of this madness.  I have to pay the bills like everyone else.  But I absolutely do NOT shop this weekend.  Every year I've tried to "encourage" my friends and family to stay at home this weekend and savor the time.  But it's not enough.  The madness continues and grows year after year.  

And for that, we've collectively created an efficient agony, indeed. 

Below I'm reposting two essays from my other blog "BakersTake" that I wrote in 2008 and 2009.  Just as a reminder. The second one, "Single File, Please, Or You Will Be Shot" was a follow-up to the "Black Friday, Blood Red" essay.  Some of you may take offense to a few of my statements, but I make no apologies and stand by my feelings.  

In the news just this morning, more mindboggled "shoppers" were trampled as they sprinted through ONE door at a Target in North Buffalo, New York early Thursday morning.  ( see CNN online) 

Thankfully no one was killed, but do we learn NOTHING from the recent past?  

Has Target heard NOTHING about Wal-Mart's past travesty? 

Are we, as consumers, just that stupid to continue this pathetic insanity every stinking year?  

I sincerely wish everyone well, and hope that as a nation, we can return to the meanings of our holidays, celebrating them with kindness and love. I have faith that my blogging friends are kinder, more thoughtful, and sensitive souls.  Let that be a guide and inspiration for celebrating the truly important aspects of our lives.   

November 27, 2010

Black Friday, Blood Red
(Originally posted on "BakersTake",  November 28, 2008)

On Thursday we gave thanks.  This Friday morning we trampled a man to death. 

Yes, at 5AM today Long Island, NY  Wal-Mart employee, Mr. Jdimytai Damour, trying to control the doors just before opening, was knocked down by crazed shoppers forcing their way into the store, running for those oh so freakin important bargains.  

They trampled him to death.  

All for Samsung flatscreen TV's, Bissel vacuum cleaners, and The Incredible Hulk DVD's for $9.  Black Friday has taken on, not the color of green, but the color of blood red.  

Happy Thanksgiving!  Merry freakin Christmas!  

Having been in retail for over 25 years, I long ago lost any respect for customers overall, and I absolutely loathe the holiday period from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.  As my college classmate, columnist,  and close friend Andrew T. Durham has said many times, "Everything has the potential to be meaningless."  Today selfish, greedy, thoughtless, lowlife, consuming scum in a New York Wal-Mart showed that to be true.  

A Wal-Mart spokesman issued a statement today saying that the security and safety of Wal-Mart employees is a "top priority."  A meaningless statement.  Otherwise Mr. Damour would be alive tonight. 

And ALL retailers must be held accountable for this as well.  They have purposely created the monsters called customers who literally commit manslaughter to boost traffic, sales, and profits in the name of free enterprise and yes, Jesus!   

If security and safety were a priority for any retailer, none of them would be open at 4AM or 5AM or 6AM.  Period.  They would open when daylight appeared.  They would have ample security for crowd control.  And ideally they would not have these idiotic "door buster" sales and promotions to lure these braindead shoppers to their doors in the first place. 

None of these shoppers - I repeat NONE of them - are shopping early in the spirit of love and giving.  No, these jackasses are shopping for themselves.  I've seen them, waited on them, and been "polite" to them (meaningless) just to satisfy the corporate masters' desire for higher comp sales.   

None of these retailers'  balance sheets,  profit margins,  shareholders, or dividends are important enough to help participate in the meaningless death of an employee. The authorities should ensure that Wal-Mart is heavily penalized in some way as a form of accountability.  And if, through reviewing surveillance videos, the police can identify and arrest those responsible directly and indirectly for the depraved indifference that caused Mr. Damour's death, they should be put in prison for life as examples to other crapheaded shoppers who push, shove and potentially kill to buy junk they don't need with money they don't have.  Let 'em rot in jail! 

And folks, I'm being restrained here as to how I really feel about retail and customers during this time of year.  It was Harry Selfridge of Selfridge Department Store in London who, in 1909 coined the phrase "The Customer Is Always Right."  It's hogwash.  

Today customers should be ashamed of themselves.  They could never be more wrong as they were in Long Island this morning.  

Today retailers should be ashamed of themselves.  They could never be more wrong about making Black Friday green:  Their dollars are the color of blood red. 

Merry Christmas! 


Single File, Please, Or You WILL Be Shot
(Originally posted on "BakersTake" November 14, 2009) 

That's my little Black Friday fantasy.  That nasty little day is less than two weeks away, but in my perfect world, there would be no Black Friday. Thanksgiving would be a four day holiday with blue laws in effect.  Gas stations and grocery stores would be allowed to open.  That's it. No Target.  No Sears.  No Best Buy.  And especially NO WAL-MART. 

And come Monday morning, stores would be allowed to open their REGULAR hours.  Period. 

I'm here to remind you all of Mr. Jdimytai Damour, the part time Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death as he opened the doors on Black Friday last year in Long Island, New York. I wrote about that last November in my essay titled "Black Friday, Blood Red."  

This week I heard about a website called  Oh yeah!  They give you all the latest about door busters (aptly named) in various retailers, and these mercenary businesses are helping sponsor this site.  God only knows how many websites and blogs there are out there to fire up a little excitement among the throngs of recession-weary consumers.  No doubt they'll be lining up at 2am to purchase the latest iWad.  

As for Wal-Mart, I suggested last year that they should have been held accountable for the death of Mr. Damour, as well as the serious injuries sustained by a pregnant woman whose fate I never heard any more about.  

Well, Wal-Mart got a slap on the wrist.  Had to set up a $400,000 "victim's compensation" fund, and give $1.5million to social services programs and nonprofit groups!  Are you kidding me?  Social services programs?  Let me go out on a politically incorrect limb here and suggest that some of those programs may be offering financial benefits to the very "customers" who trampled Mr. Damour to death!  

Additionally, Wal-Mart was required to create crowd management plans for all of its New York stores.  You know:  How to enter the store. (Single file, please, or you WILL be shot!) Where to place the 50 cent plasma TV's.  Check out line control.  Store exit procedures and so on. Supposedly the company consulted with safety experts who have experience with the Super Bowl, Olympics, and concerts.  I'm sure Mr. Damour's family takes great comfort in all that. 

So, I'm here to request that NONE of you participate in Black Friday.  If you do:  Shame on you! 

And if you know anyone who does participate in this travesty of commerce, do all you can to convince them to STOP IT NOW.  

Enjoy Thanksgiving.  Enjoy the three days following by sharing them quietly with friends, family, or alone if that be the case.  And do it with peace and love in your hearts! 

Rick B. Baker 
November 14, 2009
Rochester, NY 

© 2010 by R. Burnett Baker 


  1. Thank you, Rick. I have never understood the black friday (I refuse to capitalize it) rush. For the sake of all that you hold holy, it's just a few dollars you save, and you save that few dollars at the cost of seeing your friends and neighbors turn into savages.

    The holidays are meaningless, now, anyways. I love Wegman's, but, they had the Christmas stuff out before Halloween. How about we enjoy one holiday before we start celebrating the next?

    I do my Christmas shopping throughout the year, and on-line, thank you very much.

  2. no way i would be out there...the stores were dead today as they still had some good

  3. You say it all very well. And especially well taken is the point that it is the retailers who create and build up the frenzy of the stupid consumers with their "door buster" sales and the like.

    It's really discouraging that the commercialism seems to have gotten so much worse on the part of both the retailers and the consumers. I wonder if the reason is that as faith declines, the only "meaning" left to Christmas is the gift-giving for its own sake. (Along with parties.) The person who buys the most for the least wins.

  4. Excellent! We create this mess... buy into it. I have six children and I think we have FINALLY got "it". Sounds corny, but our favorite gifts have become the $10 kind we shop specifically for each other AND the ones we make - my son has given each of us a poem, my daughter makes jewelry, etc. This year, we (the parents) are giving each child $300. Doesn't buy much when you consider what an i-pod costs or a "DS". But they will have to make the choices as they won't get everything they are wishing for. And we (the parents) get to bypass all the crazy holiday shopping. We buy aplenty throughout the year, so your job in retail isn't hurt :) But the focus for the holiday season is where it needs to be. And I didn't take offense to your words - I think they are brilliant!