Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday shopping death, part three

While I suspect that there is plenty of blame to go around regarding the death of a Wal-Mart employee in a Long Island holiday sale gone horribly awry, that hasn't made people shy of targeting blame. I've already noted that the stampeders have gotten their fair share.

And, in addition, some blame has been assigned to Wal-Mart. AMERICABlog:

The worker's family should sue the hell out of Wal-Mart. It seems to me that these stores WANT a mass of people pounding at the door so that the moment they open they'll have great video for the evening news of people just swarming into the store. They know people get trampled, we see videos every year of people getting trampled. But they continue to do these cute stunts. This guy didn't have a chance. And while it's initially tempting, I don't necessarily blame the people in line. Anyone who has ever been in a hideously packed line knows what it's like when people behind you start pushing, you can push back against one person but you can't really push back against 25 or 50 or 500 people - it's a bit like trying to stop a river. Seems to me that Wal-Mart, and every other store, knows the potential for trampling. I'd like to know what they did to prevent this from happening.

While I'm not quite ready to absolve the stampeders of responsibility - we have a duty to our fellow human beings, as I've noted in the Abraham Biggs case - this does raise the question of whether Wal-Mart was prepared for what could potentially happen at the store opening.

I will say, however, that Wal-Mart has more of a heart than

Last Updated: Friday, November 28, 2008
UPDATED - Walmart Statement on Black Friday Incident at Valley Stream Store

We expected a large crowd this morning and added additional internal security, additional third party security, additional store associates and we worked closely with the Nassau County Police. We also erected barricades. Despite all of our precautions, this unfortunate event occurred.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the deceased. We are continuing to work closely with local law enforcement and we are reaching out to those involved."

- Hank Mullany, Senior Vice President and President,

Northeast Division, Walmart U.S.

# # #

Obviously, firms that have a customer focus are better equipped to survive such catastrophic events. As it turns out, Hank Mullany was interviewed a few days ago by the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal, and he had this to say:

CPBJ: What are the biggest challenges the company will face next year?

Mullany: We understand the plight of our customers who have been hurt by the current economic events. We see this every day in the stores and clubs. We must continue to be an advocate for our customers, as they expect us to help them save money so they can live better, especially in today's difficult times. In the year ahead, we also want to continue to work together on issues like energy, health care and rebuilding the economy. We believe that progress on these issues will be good for our customers and good for the country.

Needless to say, safety has now risen to the top of Wal-Mart's list, and to the lists of others:

The incident at the Long Island outlet of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. killed a temporary employee and was “a tragic situation,” the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company, the world’s biggest retailer, said in a statement. “The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if any shoppers or workers have been killed during similar incidents during sales on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally known as Black Friday.

“We do not know of an incident such as what happened today,” Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based National Retail Federation, said in an e-mail. “Retailers are reminded of the importance of employee safety.”

Incidentally, you may be wondering why I'm not talking about two of the deaths in my own backyard - namely, at the Toys R Us in Palm Desert, California. However, it seems that this incident, while undeniably tragic, may be an intentional gang-related incident, rather than something arising from the holiday season itself. See the Inquisitr.

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