Nov 272011
Authors: Joe Vajgrt

If you’re back in school today, I want to offer my congratulations on your safe return. Not only did you survive a week of being couped up with your family, but you also survived the hordes of bargain hunters.

Shoppers across the country braved tryptophan-induced madness in the name of saving a couple of bucks as part of the corporate pseudo-holiday known as Black Friday.

In the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles, a woman pepper-sprayed at least 20 people (including children) vying for discounted Xbox consoles at a Wal-Mart. The woman has been identified, but police are currently trying to figure out what charges, if any, are applicable.

The incident was caught on video, and one of the victims of the spraying can clearly be heard screaming, “My eyes, my eyes!”

“I don’t know if she felt threatened or she felt she had to do that to get what she wanted,” witness Juan Castro told CNN. “I got it in my throat. It was burning. I saw people around me –– they got it really bad. I tried to get away as quickly as possible because I didn’t think it was worth it. No deal’s worth that,” he said.

In her defense, the woman who sprayed her fellow ‘Murricans may have simply confused the bargain hunters around her for Occupy protesters.

Other serious Black Friday incidents also occurred in South Carolina, North Carolina. Florida, New York, Alaska and Connecticut, with the vast majority of the reported incidents happening at or near Walmart stores.

For example, in Rome, N. Y., a brawl broke out in the electronics department at a Walmart moments after midnight. Two people were taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

In San Leandro, Calif., a robber shot a shopper who refused to give up his purchases outside a Walmart store, leaving the victim in critical but stable condition.

While no deaths were reported in this year’s shopping frenzy, one can’t help but be reminded of the 2008 incident where crowds of frantic Black Friday shoppers trampled and killed a Walmart employee in New York as he and other workers tried to unlock the door at 5 a.m.

I’ve never been shopping on a Black Friday. I guess I simply fail to understand why people would choose to spend their holiday pushing, clawing, robbing, stabbing and shooting one another to save a little money on something that they don’t need and will probably rarely use.

Don’t get me wrong –– I love waffles as much as anyone. But watching the online videos of a few dozen people trampling each other to get a $2 waffle iron is a powerful message and a sad commentary on our mass-consumer culture in America.

I use the word “culture” here lightly. When reading about all the chaos that ensued over the long holiday weekend, I learned about a new term: “competitive shopping.”

Now there’s a sport that Americans can get behind.

Did you know that competitive eating is the fastest-growing sport in America? At least, according to Major League Eating, the governing body of professional food consumption in the U.S.

Yes, that’s right –– there is now an organization devoted to representing “professional food consumption.”

Much like competitive eating, competitive shopping rewards selfishness, greed, aggressiveness and over-consumption.

The two sports blend together seamlessly. That extra bulk you add from eating 20 pounds of food in one sitting earlier in the day will later help you box out your opponents at the local Walmart.

All the tryptophan in your turkey serves the valuable purpose of making you feel a bit drowsy early in the day, giving you the opportunity to get some much-needed rest before the evening shopping melee ensues.

Don’t focus too much on the turkey, though. Make sure to load up on carbs, too. You’re going to need that energy later as you elbow your way to the front of the line to get your hands on that cheap, plastic, disposable crap from China. Pepper-spraying random strangers is hard work, folks.

I didn’t buy a thing over the weekend. I stayed home, enjoyed my time with family and friends over good food, and got out for several hikes and bike rides. Sure, I didn’t get any $3 DVDs or $2 waffle irons, but I also didn’t get trampled, pepper-sprayed or robbed at gunpoint.

I also didn’t contribute to the degradation of civility and common sense over the weekend. And for that, I am truly thankful.

Joe Vajgrt is senior journalism major who is actually just too poor to go shopping. His column appears on Mondays in the Collegian. Feedback can be sent to

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