The date is November 28, 2008. It is a cold fall morning in Long Island, New York. Thousands of customers are prepared to spend their much earned monies on everything from $400 televisions to $3 appliances. The countdown to 5 A.M. has begun and the crowd is starting to get nervous. Will they be the first to grab all of those spectacular deals to finalize their Christmas shopping? Each patron’s modus operandi is different. No one has the same thought process except for one commonality, to get into the store first.
Management as well as associates, Wal-Mart’s term for employees, is prepared for a huge influx of customers. Excitement and nervousness flow through the hundreds of associates in the building. It is now time to open the doors. The proverbial flood gates are opened and the waters rush in. There is a problem. Jdimytai Damour, a temporary associate, did not realize what was about to happen next. The young man of 34 was trapped in the entryway by at least 2000 customers who broke down the doors. Mr. Damour eventually died of asphyxiation. In total, 12 people were hurt during that fateful morning of Black Friday Christmas shopping.
This is a grim reminder of the horrors of Black Friday shopping. No one wanted this tragedy to take place nor did they expect it. The realization is the tragedy could have been prevented. This was not the mega-retailers first pre-dawn sale. Black Friday sales have been around since the dawn of big box retail. There have even been reports from various outlets of violence during the unofficial kick-off to holiday shopping. So as a $400 billion conglomerate, why weren’t better safety measures in place?
This was a question proposed by the Nassau County prosecutors as well as Mr. Damour’s family. The end result was Walmart settling the lawsuit out of court for about $2 million. A fund for the victims set at $400,000 and $1.5 million dedicated to Nassau County social services programs and non-profit groups rounded out the settlement. Herein lies the problem; OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is imposing a $7000 fine as a result of the tragedy. Walmart is opposing the federal fine stating the penalty is retroactive. According to Greg Rossiter, Wal-Mart spokesman, as told to the Associated Press, the penalty is primarily for “standards which were not in place at the time of the incident.”
Shouldn’t any company involved in a death of one of their employees or customers be held accountable? Walmart doesn’t think so. The retailer is worried about future infractions if a tragedy similar to the incident in Long Island were to occur again. They are willing to spend big money on lawyers and court time to prevent their brand from being tarnished. If Walmart had put more energy into safeguarding associates and customers years ago, this tragedy would have never happened.