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Attention, Shoppers: Where's Your Humanity?

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Thursday, December 4, 2008; Page D02

What happened on the day after Thanksgiving at a Long Island Wal-Mart pretty much sums up the wretched pursuit of a deal and a buck that has become the American way.

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On Black Friday, when stores lure customers before dawn by promising deep discounts on stuff they most likely don't need, a mob stomped Jdimytai Damour to death. Damour was a healthy 34-year-old man working temporarily for Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer. He was killed when a crowd of an estimated 2,000 shoppers stormed the doors he was manning.

Increasingly, these door-busting sales attract crazy crowds. And why are they crazy?

Because they know the retailers often carry only a limited number of the sale items.

Still, there's no question the people in that New York crowd lost their humanity in the quest for a bargain.

What happened after that man died says even more about our culture and corporate greed.

Even after hearing that the worker was trampled, some shoppers complained that they were forced to leave the store while the incident was being investigated. News reports quoted store employees who said some shoppers didn't want to leave for fear they would miss out on the sales for which they had stood in line for hours.

What that says to me: Even tragedy can't stop bargain hunters.

Immediately following the crushing death of the worker, news crews interviewed people who, with scowling faces, wondered how others could want a bargain so badly that they would run over a man. A pregnant woman and several others had to receive medical attention.

But what wasn't lost on me was that the people the reporters were interviewing were standing outside the very store where the man had died that morning. The people, who were so indignant at what had happened before they arrived, nevertheless continued their plans to shop, having to walk past where Damour died.

A Wal-Mart senior vice president issued a statement expressing management's deep regret for the Black Friday tragedy.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the deceased," said Hank Mullany, head of Wal-Mart's Northeast Division. "We are continuing to work closely with local law enforcement, and we are reaching out to those involved."

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