Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wal-Mart worker killed by stampeding Black Friday crowd

What is wrong with people? One dead and four injured, including a pregnant woman, trampled by a crowd trying to get into Wal-Mart to go shopping? Shoppers at the Valley Stream, N.Y., store found a way to turn "Black Friday" -- so-called because the expected rush of shoppers looking for bargains puts retailers into the black for the first time all year -- into a real black Friday. The annual rite is celebrated all over the country, with anxious buyers sometimes waiting all night for stores to open. The Friday after Thanksgiving is typically the biggest shopping day of the year. But how can so many people lose control of themselves just to shop for consumer goods? The 34-year-old man who was killed was a temporary worker hired over the holidays, according to the Reuters international news agency. Local authorities are said to be investigating whether to file charges against any of the shoppers, at least against the ones caught on the store's security tapes, or against the store, Reuters said. New York's largest grocery workers union, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, blamed the tragedy on what it called "Wal-Mart's failure to provide a safe workplace" and called on federal, state and local authorities to investigate. Wal-Mart said it had added more security personnel and workers and had worked closely with local police prior to Black Friday. "We also erected barricades. Despite all of our precautions, this unfortunate event occurred," Hank Mullany, a Wal-Mart senior vice president, said in a statement. Whether Wal-Mart violated its duty to protect shoppers is up to the civil courts to decide, and whether any crimes were committed will be decided by the criminal courts. But it's not the responsibility of law enforcement to prosecute breaches of common morality, nor should it be. That is entirely up to us.

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