People have died as a result of Black Friday.
It’s true: Early morning bargain shoppers have been shot in parking lots outside big-box stores over parking spots and inside malls over mistaken looks, crushed by their fellow Americans as they stampede toward deals at Walmart and even killed in car wrecks coming and going. There are all-out brawls in the aisles over various items — yes, just things — that will be outdated in a few months anyway and, one year, people reportedly stepped over a dying man in Target who had collapsed and was likely suffering a heart attack.
Apparently, bargain hunting brings out the beast in people.
Of course, since nothing gets between a bargain hunter and a bargain — not even a pandemic — there will still be shoppers standing in long lines outside big-box stores this year despite rising Covid-19 infection rates all over the country and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warnings.
Just look at Thanksgiving travel: Leading up to the holiday week, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Americans about traveling home for the holiday: "You're in a crowded airport, you're lining up, not everybody's wearing masks, that puts yourself at risk," he said. "Those are the things we've got to realize are going to get us into even more trouble."
Bargain hunting brings out the beast in people.
But instead of listening, millions flooded airports, ignoring the experts in order to keep to their Thanksgiving traditions. So why will Black Friday be any different? (It won’t be.)
Walmart, though, thinks it has it all figured out.
For the first time in Black Friday history, Walmart believes Black-Friday-goers will shop in a calm, orderly fashion because it has a plan.
“During these in-store Black Friday events, Walmart will meter customers into the store to help reduce congestion and promote social distancing inside stores,” the company said in statement. “Customers will be directed to shop down the right-hand side of aisles to be able to easily – and safely – select the Black Friday items they’re interested in purchasing.”
But if you’ve been in a single Walmart, big-box or grocery store since March, you know that is not going to happen: People regularly ignore directional signage, any encouragement to social distance, directions on how to wear their masks properly (if they wear them at all) and all efforts to reduce congestion. Plus, if Black Friday shoppers were wholly responsible, science-minded citizens, they probably wouldn’t be there trying to track down a cheap flat-screen at significant risk to themselves and others in the first place.
Don’t stand in disease-riddled long lines at corporate chains, spreading a pestilence for a shopping spree.
Sadly, in 2020, as we face the threat of more deaths from a ravaging, invisible menace transferred from person to person via the simple act of breathing, perhaps long lines of people snaking through store aisles and crawling toward cash registers aren’t what we need right now. Only Covid-19 needs long queues, congested areas, little distancing and masks worn over the mouth but not the nose; only Covid-19 needs denial, arrogance and, frankly, stupidity (which, on the evidence, it already has). Humanity, however, does not.
The best course of action this post-Thanksgiving is to thwart the disease: Don’t go to the big-box stores or a mall. Don’t stand in those disease-riddled long lines outside and inside corporate chains, spreading a pestilence for a shopping spree. Help humanity, not the sickness.
Instead, support local businesses and local communities, and individual talent and entrepreneurs. This year, buy goodies and gifts from your local chef, baker, brewer, artist, clothing designer, taco-maker or whatever — and do so in a safe, socially distant fashion, even on some day other than Friday. Or buy online from a small business local to someone else somewhere else.
Avoid even the possibility of trampling, crying, haymakers, bloody noses and thrown elbows — all those good ol’ American Black Friday traditions — as well as the perpetuation of a pandemic that has already claimed more than 250,000 lives in the U.S. alone.
Because unless human behavior changes — all human behavior, including yours, mine and everyone else’s — and everybody takes this pandemic much more seriously than they are now, the holiday you’re nominally out buying gifts to celebrate will not only be bleak, but riddled with bodies — as will January and beyond.
This year, it’s increasingly probable that, if you participate in any in-person Black Friday shopping madness, you may get far more than you bargained for — and the ones you love may, as well. And the last time I checked, grandpa wanted a La-Z-Boy, not a coffin.
So, save lives by staying home and shopping local. Put money back into your community and the small businesses that are suffering as a result of the economic calamity driven by poor public policy instead of perpetuating what’s an already dangerous and vicious American tradition of propping up corporations’ bottom lines.
Sacrifice the bargain, not grandpa. Show him you’re thankful by acting like there’s a pandemic out there — because, after all, there is.