Battleground shopping

The key to stress-free shopping is to be prepared.

By SEAN ADKINS

Daily Record/Sunday News


Posted: 12/01/2008 06:29:55 PM EST



A woman struggles as she comes through the doors with other shoppers at a Wal- Mart store in Secaucus, N.J., shortly after 5 a.m. Black Friday. Hundreds of people lined up to get into this Wal- Mart for the annual pre-dawn Black Friday bargain hunting. (Associated Press)

The day after Thanksgiving, I was sitting on my father's couch flicking the channels in search of a network reporting on Black Friday sales.

I had spent most of the morning finishing up my holiday shopping, which, I might add, is now done, and I didn't spend a dime more than $300.

So, I'm there in Lancaster County watching TV and on comes a breaking news update that a death had occurred at the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream on Long Island, N.Y.

It seems that a crowd of Black Friday shoppers had stampeded through the store's sliding-glass doors, killing a seasonal worker.

I looked over at my father who, at first, squinted at the screen as if in apparent disbelief.

Seconds later, he was no longer squinting as his face took on a look of saddened understanding.

I never squinted. I really wasn't surprised by the news.

As a native of Long Island, I've witnessed violent altercations between holiday shoppers.

I've seen shoppers tear clothes to shreds rather than let someone else walk away with the spoils.

In the past, I've walked through some of the busiest malls on Long Island during November and December only to hear more profanity than holiday greetings exchanged.

It seems crowd control might have been a challenge for those in charge at the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream.

"Crowd control is always concern," said Gene Schenck, vice president of the York Fair. "But we deal with it with multiple layers of security."

Often, just the presence of security and police officers can act as a deterrent against violence," he said.

"If you have a dispute between two people about a seat, you don't need a police officer with a gun to settle that," Schenck said. "You just need a big guy to settle that dispute."

Julia Hampton, chief executive officer and co-founder of NU-U Image Consulting in New York, said people need to be prepared before they start their holiday shopping.

Residents should draft shopping lists and are advised to avoid stores on weekends when crowds are heavy.

"Take a long lunch hour on a weekday, and go shopping then," Hampton said. "Wear comfortable clothing and go on a full stomach, so that being hungry doesn't add to your stress."

Hampton said if a person is feeling stressed, that day is not the day to go shopping.

"I think what happened (on Long Island) was insane," she said. "(Those people) were not in the right mind-set. I have never witnessed a fight, thank God. I would probably run."

sadkins@ydr.com;771-2047