Friday, November 23, 2012

Doorbuster Discrimination: The Inaccessibility of Black Friday


I hope everyone is recovering well from the holiday and post-Thanksgiving shopping! This post is going to be a little less formal than usual (so if you prefer it this way, leave a comment saying so), filled mostly with musings brought about by the small controversy regarding “creeping” Black Friday and the general chaos that comes with holiday shopping.

Since 2008, when a Walmart employee was trampled to death by the store's patrons, much attention has been given to the violence and barbarism that occurs on the day after Thanksgiving (and now, to the frustration of many, Thanksgiving day itself). It's an interesting—if not a bit humorous—phenomenon: People are risking their lives for 30% off entertainment systems. All of this absurdity got me wondering about the inevitable discrimination that occurs during this consumerist frenzy. I began to wonder about the accessibility of Black Friday sales to the disabled community.

Supposed once-a-year deals have the power to turn respectable people into charging savages with no apparent regard for human life. Employees and shoppers alike suffer injuries and can die in the midst of the frenzy, largely due to panic-ridden impatience. So what does this mean for the man with cerebral palsy who has to navigate an ocean of manic flesh and shopping cart riot shields so that he gets his fair shot at a cheap television? What happens to the girl who takes a bit longer to count her money at the register? What about the physically challenged who have to park at the back of the parking lot because the handicapped spaces are illegally filled? Will they get overtaken by the mobs and be subjected to verbal and physical abuse because people simply cannot wait to empty their pockets?

I did some internet searching and came across an article that had been posted earlier today about a man who felt he had been discriminated against by Walmart. The man, Stephen Constable, usually walks with a cane or walker and uses a motorized shopping cart when at Walmart. When Constable and his wife went to the store, not for Black Friday deals, but for some groceries, they found that the motorized carts were not available to use. When Constable asked an assistant manager about the shopping cart situation, he was told that Walmart did not want handicapped people in the store that night because they may get hurt.

KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather

I kept looking, curious to see whether similar situations had arisen. I came across a thread on a Best Buy forum. Someone asked whether or not Best Buy had any accommodations for the disabled, as the exact deal he was looking for was not available online. The eventual (and final) post to the thread was from Best Buy, somewhat skirting the issue of disability discrimination but ultimately answering the asker's question regarding the television he wanted. The most interesting thing about the thread, however, was not the apparent lack of accommodation, but the annoyance and hostility the question aroused in a certain other poster. I highly suggest giving the thread a look: http://forums.bestbuy.com/t5/Best-Buy-Geek-Squad-Policies/Black-Friday-and-the-Disabled/td-p/621392

Many people have been expressing concerns about how increasingly early doorbuster sales are ruining the integrity of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner spent in the company of friends and family rather than frenzied shoppers. I have also noticed a lot of people bypassing Black Friday sales entirely, the misery of the chaos outweighing the potential good deals. It's easy to do for those who have experienced Black Friday and all of its absurdity, but perhaps some consideration ought to be given to those who don't have the opportunity to partake in those sales at all. Shouldn't we all have the same opportunity to face the madness and witness the insanity?

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I can't imagine why anyone would want to do BF but anyone who does should have the right. Of course, I can see the results of backlash already -- accommodations for disabled get so nice that regular greedy folks start showing up in wheelchairs to score an advantage -- then they leap out of the chairs and start fighting over the flat screens...

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