Don't let deals turn deadly
A message to those about to partake in Black Friday consumer mania: Remember Jdimytai Damour.
The name doesn't ring a bell? It should.
In 2008, Damour took a temporary security job at a Walmart in Valley Stream, N.Y., to help manage its Black Friday crowds.
Back then, stores actually waited until Friday to open for Black Friday. The crowd at his Long Island Walmart had stood outside for hours waiting for the store's 5 a.m. opening.
Damour, at 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, was picked to work the front door that day with the idea his hulking frame would keep the crowd -- which had been unruly since 3 a.m. -- at bay.
It did not.
When the store's glass doors broke off the hinges at 5 a.m., a 2,000-strong horde burst in, unable to be contained. Some employees took refuge by climbing atop nearby vending machines; Damour could not.
Hundreds of deal-hungry shoppers trampled over Damour as he fought to get up from the Walmart floor. He lost that fight.
As the crowd cleared, Damour lay unconscious on the floor. He was pronounced dead from asphyxiation at 6 a.m.
No one was ever charged with Damour's death. Authorities said it would be hard to identify and determine which of the hundreds of shoppers that burst through the door that morning actually inflicted fatal blows.
Five years later, the U.S. Department of Labor is reminding retailers about the incident.
The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent letters to retailers earlier this month encouraging them to take proper safety precautions and review crowd management strategies to prevent workplace injuries and deaths this Black Friday.
"The busy shopping season should not put retail workers at risk of being injured or killed," assistant labor secretary David Michaels said in a press release.
Read that quote again.
Now ask yourself: How bad have we become as a society that the federal government has to go out of its way to make sure we don't kill people when we go shopping?
Yes, holiday shopping season is stressful. And when the Black Friday deals are great it can be easy to get caught up in the frenzy of large crowds. And sure, Damour's case was an isolated incident.
But when was the last time someone bumped you out of the way as they made their way to their next bargain? It's the same attitude, just a much less severe effect.
Pope Francis lamented this attitude in a message to Catholic leaders earlier this week.
"The great danger in today's world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience," the Pope said.
"Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others," he said. "That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life."
The holidays are a joyous season in which we give to others. Let's do our best to make sure, this year, our giving does not come at others' expense.