𝘕𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 27, 2021
Yesterday was the first Black Friday since the covid-19 pandemic shut businesses in 2020. While the stores did not witness the crush of pre-pandemic shoppers, thousands of people did flock to stores searching for deals. Malls and stores reported decent-sized crowds yesterday, even if not the floods of people that used to fight over the latest toys and electronics. This year’s shopping experience has been damaged by supply-chain bottlenecks that have led to short supplies of merchandise. The biggest draw of discounts were disappointing as rising prices driven by a 30-year high inflation constrained deals. Online shopping is common now and retailers have spread discounts out over the weeks leading up to Christmas on websites and in stores. Overall Christmas holiday sales are still expected to grow this year.
Most shoppers have heard stories of the crowd crush associated with Black Friday in the past. After camping out all night a coveted place in line can be erased by the crush that occurs when the doors are opened and crowds rush to the back of the store to retrieve the best electronics or toys. This became a source of pride for retailers until the crush became dangerous. During the last pre-pandemic years retailers began to handout coupons allowing shoppers to take a more leisurely stroll to the prized discounts. The National Retail Federation says holiday sales in 2020 increased about 8% despite the lack of Friday crush as locked down shoppers spent their money online on pajamas and home goods. In spite of the short checkout lines, the Federation predicts sales will increase between 8.5-10.5% this year.
Shoppers are not the only people who get caught in crowd crush. At least 10 people were killed and hundreds more were injured at a concert in Houston on November 5th. The large crowd began pushing toward the front of the stage during a performance by the hometown rapper Travis Scott. The concert was part of the Astroworld music festival, a two-day event that was later canceled. About 50,000 people were assembled when the injuries occurred, according to the Houston Fire Department. It is one of the deadliest crowd-control disasters at a concert in the US since the 1979 crush outside the doors of a show by the Who in Cincinnati that left 11 people dead. The most common cause of injury and death in crowd crush is compressive asphyxia when people are pushed against one another so tightly that their airways become constricted. The cause of the surge remains under investigation.
𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀: When I flew in the Middle East during the early 1980’s I had two experiences with crowd crush. The first came trying to get my ticket as workers pushed and shoved around the airline’s desk hoping to secure a seat to find work. We finally threw our passports over the crowd and were able to get a seat on the plane. The second came on my return flight as the airline was boarding the plane. There were no assigned seats and the crowd surged forward when the doors opened. I looked down and saw a small boy being crushed by the crowd and yelled out in Arabic, “Seghir walid henna” (small boy here). Despite my warning the crush continued as I struggled to keep from running over the child. Large crowds take on a life of their own and can be sparked by the slightest provocation. Some have used words to inflame crowds and then act surprised when the mob reacts. Once the crowd begins to move the crush of people will continue until it just as inexplicably stops. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.