The worst Black Friday in U.S. retail industry history happened in 2008, when the Great Recession, desperately drastic discounts, and the crumbling American Dream converged in a moment that resulted in the death of both careless consumerism and a retail employee.
Top U.S. retail and economic experts had a bleak outlook for the Christmas holiday shopping season that year. But surprisingly, consumer turnout for the traditional Black Friday shopping spree defied all the dire predictions from the experts.
Even though the American Dream was collapsing under the weight of the Great Recession, Black Friday shoppers rang up more than $10 billion in sales in 2008, according to the mall traffic-watching company, ShopperTrak. And while that alone should have made Black Friday 2008 a famously successful day in retail history, it will be remembered instead as one of the darkest days in American retailing. The tragedy of Black Friday 2008 could be easily repeated in any year. It can also just as easily be avoided forever more.
The Worst Black Friday Ever
In place of retail momentum in the 2008 holiday shopping season, the U.S. retail industry had mayhem. A temporary Wal-Mart employee was trampled by shoppers who were so desperate for Black Friday bargains that they didn't notice they were stomping on a human being under their feet. I can't remember too many sentences I've hated to type more than that one.
If anything that we sell as retailers or purchase as consumers is more important than life itself, then the global financial crisis is the least of our concerns. No matter how desperate we all feel on both sides of the retail equation right now, I want to believe that as buyers, sellers, Americans, and human beings we all have a better set of values and priorities than this.
It's not like the last truckload of edible food in North America was delivered to the Long Island Wal-Mart on Black Friday before dawn. Someone would have to work hard to convince me that the acquisition of a low-priced plasma television could ever be justified as a life or death matter.
Collectively, it seems that we need to stop and take a breath. We owe at least that much to a 34-year-old man who left his Thanksgiving dinner to go directly to a temporary hourly wage job and didn’t make it back home alive.
If we're going to do any purchasing on Cyber Monday, it should be to buy ourselves a copy of "It's a Wonderful Life." It might do us all good to pause and realize that we are all starring as George Bailey in our own real-life drama. Like George, we may have lost control of our life as it unravels around us, but also like George, we get to choose whether we curse the broken staircase spindle or kiss it.
More About Retailers, Consumers and Black Friday
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