Black Friday is an important day for retailers. That’s the day after Thanksgiving, when most retailers start to show a profit, ending months of red ink. It’s an important day for Wal-Mart also. The oversized retailer’s stores all across the country produced record sales levels on Black Friday, more than $1.5 billion in sales on one day — more than most small retailers see in a year. In Winchester, Virginia, the manager of the Wal-Mart supercenter told the Winchester Star that the day after Thanksgiving is important to Wal-Mart stores because each Wal-Mart is supposed to have a 10 percent increase in sales each day of the year compared to the year before. But it wasn’t just sales levels that made the national news on Black Friday. The most emblematic story about shopping came from the small community of Orange City, Florida, where Wal-Mart shoppers scrambling for everyday low prices on a DVD player knocked a woman unconscious, and in so doing, profiled our reputation as a nation of “shop till you drop” fanatics. A woman named Patricia VanLester was first in line to get a $29 DVD player, but the 41 year old ended up in the hospital instead, when a crowd described by the Associated Press as “frenzied”, knocked her to the ground. “They walked over her like a herd of elephants,” the woman’s sister was quoted as saying. “I told them, ‘Stop stepping on my sister. She’s on the ground.'” The sister went on to say that very little help was offered to VanLester while she was down. “All they cared about was a stupid DVD player,” she said. When paramedics arrived, they found the injured shopper unconscious, lying on top of a cheap DVD player. The woman was flown to a hospital in Daytona Beach, where doctors told the media VanLester had suffered a seizure after she was knocked down. “Patty doesn’t remember anything,: her sister said. “She still can’t believe it all happened.” A spokesperson for the retailer she she had never heard of such a fight for a sale item. “We are very disappointed this happened,” the spokesperson said. “We want her to come back as a shopper.” Wal-Mart offered to put a DVD player on hold for her.
Several years ago, someone sent me a bumper-sticker that said, “Outta my way, I’m shopping at Wal-Mart.” VanLester’s sister was correct: “All they cared about was a stupid DVD.” But then, VanLester had put herself in harm’s way, standing in line at Wal-Mart at 6 am in the morning to save a few bucks on an electronic music gadget. VanLester was just another of the shoppers who helped Wal-Mart reach its $1.5 billion record sales figure on Black Friday. It was almost over VanLester’s dead body that the new heights were reached. The saddest part of this story may be that in all likelihood, VanLester will come back to Wal-Mart to get her “stupid DVD”. After all, it’s on hold for her.