Thursday, December 1

Virginia's State of Mind: It shall now be known as Black and Blue Friday

American conspicuous consumption shone bright as shoppers erupted into physical disputes over coveted kitchenware and electronics on Black Friday.

As a gentle reminder, that's the Friday after Thanksgiving Day when we all sat around a turkey dinner and purportedly gave thanks for the wonderful blessings in our life. For some, there weren't enough blessings and the Black Friday sales offered the opportunity to buy all the blessings that might be missing.

Based on the quantity and gravity of shopping related injuries, Black Friday might be more aptly named Black and Blue Friday.

What could anyone possibly need to purchase on their Christmas list that would be worth risking bodily harm or arrest? I can't think of any purchase that might lead me to shopping fisticuffs. I guess if I were desperate enough I might get violent over penicillin or tampons but I can't imagine duking it out with other shoppers over a waffle iron. Customers at a Wal-Mart in Little Rock, Ark., erupted in frenzy over a limited quantity of $2 waffle irons. The precious moment was all caught on an iPhone and is now available for viewing on YouTube in perpetuity.

The Black Friday sale at a Wal-Mart in the Los Angeles area should have been rated R for violence. The Xbox video game console which normally retails for about $320 was heavily discounted. One woman, in desperate need of the console, edged out the Xbox competition by incapacitating fellow shoppers with pepper spray. She pulled out her pepper spray and took out a minimum of 10 shoppers faster than Clint Eastwood with his .44 Magnum. After she disabled her competition, she secured the Xbox console, waited in line at the cash register, paid for the Xbox and drove home. Amidst the melee of the pepper sprayed adults and children the police were unable to apprehend the pepper spray shopper. She later turned herself over to police.

Apparently if pepper spray is used for anything other than self-defense the sprayer can be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony depending on the situation. Not surprisingly, the Xbox pepper sprayer has claimed that she used the spray in self-defense. The store video of the event has not been released but even without the video I surmised that the actual events do not match her claim of self-defense. I think it is more likely that the self-defense story was provided at the advice of an attorney. It's a good thing she got the Xbox on sale as she will need the extra money to cover the attorney and court fees.

Many retailers have offered Internet sales on the Monday following Black Friday as a safer alternative to in-store discount shopping. I avoided Cyber Monday for fear there would be a viral attack on my computer. The pepper spray and waffle iron people are way out of my shopping league and I wouldn't put it past them to concoct a cyber-virus to thwart other Internet shoppers.

Is it not concerning to retailers and customers alike that personal safety must now be evaluated before a shopper takes to their Christmas list? When did holiday shopping become a contact sport?

In the immortal words of Santa Claus, "be good for goodness sake!"

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