From the Vault – Murphy’s Law – Black Friday

Joel Murphy

Joel Murphy

[Editor’s Note – Joel Murphy is in New York covering the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony tonight, so today we bring you a column that originally ran on the site on December 3, 2008.]

Last Friday morning, before the sun came up, after spending a day gorging yourself on too much food and doing your best to tolerate annoying family members, some of you headed out to your local malls and retail stores to save a few bucks on what has become known as “Black Friday” (which sounds like it should star Ice Cube and Chris Tucker). Certainly every penny counts now that we are officially in a recession, so I hope that you were able to find some incredible deals. But to be perfectly honest, you are lucky just to have gotten out of there alive.

Three people died this year on Black Friday. Three people. Let me repeat that – three people were killed due to SHOPPING.

In Long Island, New York, a Wal-mart employee was trampled to death while attempting to open the store at 5 a.m. The 34-year-old temporary employee unlocked the doors and was crushed by the overly-excited Wal-mart shoppers as they rushed into the store.

Approximately 12 people were knocked over as customers attempted to enter the Wal-mart. Some sustained minor injuries and a pregnant woman nearly miscarried and had to be hospitalized. The security tape revealed that hundreds of people trampled the Wal-mart employee and it took several minutes before anyone could clear enough space to help the man. CNN reports that police officers attempting to administer first aid were “jostled and pushed.” The Wal-mart employee was pronounced dead at the hospital.

I can’t even begin to comprehend how something like this happened. If all of these people were trapped inside a building that was on fire, then perhaps I could understand how someone was trampled as people fought their way out. But how could hundreds of people trample a man to death in order to save a few bucks on a copy of Lego Batman or a laptop computer? How can these people sleep at night knowing that they ended a man’s life just so they could save 10 percent on season three of Dawson’s Creek? This guy was just some poor bastard forced to work for Wal-mart to make ends meet and he’s dead now. How did we get here?

In Southern California, two men in a Toys R Us were shot and killed. According to Palm Desert Councilman Jim Ferguson, the two men killed each other. Both men had criminal records and it is believed that the shootings may have been gang related.

While the two men who were shot and killed most likely weren’t squabbling over the last copy of The Sopranos: The Complete Series on DVD, it’s still a bit off-putting that even rival gang members felt the need to brave the crowds on Black Friday in an attempt to save a few bucks. If even our nation’s gangs are pinching pennies this holiday season, perhaps the economy is in even worse shape than we all thought. If money is that tight, then who will be there to “make it rain” for the strippers? That’s a world I just don’t know if I can live in.

If you know me at all, you know I am someone who gets excited about the holiday season. It wasn’t too long ago that I shared Courtney Enlow’s enthusiasm for all things Christmas. I’ve gotten bitter and more jaded as the years have gone by, but I still do all I can to find my holiday spirit. I’m truly excited to make my return to the D.C. area this Christmas so that I can see all of the family members I haven’t seen since last December. I also enjoy buying presents for people I care about and seeing their faces when they open those gifts. It’s a good feeling.

But even during the peak years for my yuletide joy, I never once went shopping on Black Friday. I hate crowds and I simply don’t have the desire to attempt to wrestle the last copy of Space Camp out of the five dollar bin at Wal-mart while other patrons are bumping into me and knocking me around. I have enough trouble not stabbing other shoppers in Wal-mart on a normal day, I can’t imagine taking on a group of unruly parents at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

I’m actually done with all of my Christmas shopping this year. While I missed out on some of the Black Friday savings, I was able to get all of my shopping done this past Monday online. Not only did I not have to fight the crowds, I didn’t even have to put pants on. I bought presents for everyone on my list in a little over an hour without ever setting foot inside a store.

I will never go shopping on Black Friday. I don’t care how cheap the merchandise is; it’s simply not worth it. There is no discount that is worth dying over.

Let’s hope that next year more people take a cue from me. Stay home next year and buy your presents online. It eliminates the stress and frustration that holiday shopping creates, and allows you to focus on what Christmas is truly about – getting free stuff in exchange for spending time with your family.

Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at

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