Let's avoid another trampling: Stop offering a handful of supercheap items per store

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When frantic shoppers crushed into a Long Island Wal-Mart on Black Friday, they killed a temporary worker, 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour of Queens. Let's hope this ugly, horrific incident also marks the end of these marketing-induced frenzies.

When we hear about a story like this, we think that the people there must have been savages. But that's just mob psychology. They started showing up at 9pm the night before. Police were called in during the night. Then when clerks were minutes late opening the doors, they broke them down and pushed Damour, a pregnant woman and others to the floor. The extent of the damage was a shock, but the fact there was mayhem was not news. One worker told the New York Post that "last year they only bent the door."

So, if you ran an event where the crowd was crushing up against glass doors with the force to bend metal, what would you do? Would you change it? Or would you hire a temp worker to step into it? The unions, of course, blame Wal-Mart and say the incident could have been prevented.
The problem goes beyond that particular crowd or the store's security measures. The frenzies are created by stores who want people to shop like crazy. There wouldn't be the frenzy if stores would stop having a limited number of items on super-duper special. The New York Post reports that the big items for sale were a $798 Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV and a $69 10 megapixel camera. That kind of TV normally sells for between $1,000 and $2,400, according to Google shopping.

Instead, spread the savings around. Instead of giving, for example, 10 customers $800 off, give 50 customers $160 off. Open the doors at 7. Make people take numbers. Some of the pressure needs to be released. On top of everything, these sales don't work. People go in, grab their one item and go home. Who wants to calmly browse at 5 am?
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