First we had the Pepper-Spray Cop. Now we have the Pepper-Spray Shopper, an as-yet unidentified woman who allegedly sprayed open an avenue for herself amid crowds grasping for Black Friday bargains in an LA-area Walmart. Apparently, she needed an Xbox at half off.
As the Los Angeles Times described it:
20 customers, including children, were hurt in the 10:10 p.m. incident, officials said. Shoppers complained of minor skin and eye irritation and sore throats….
The woman used the spray in more than one area of the Walmart “to gain preferred access to a variety of locations in the store,” said Los Angeles Fire Capt. James Carson.
“She was competitive shopping,” he said.
Of course, big box stores have long encouraged “competitive shopping.” After an employee was trampled to death at a Long Island Walmart on Black Friday in 2008, stores vowed to improve their crowd control. But they don’t advertise their sales with the words “door busters”—with that hint of drug-raid-level violence—for nothing. They know that hysteria can drive higher sales. It works so well that stores have been moving door busters back earlier and earlier, so that this year Black Friday at Walmarts across the country began on Thanksgiving night, forcing employees to work on the holiday in order to sow the itching powder of urgency among customers.
Friday’s “Day of Spray,” as TPM dubbed it, included not only reports of an off-duty cop pepper-spraying a shopper during a disturbance at a North Carolina Walmart, but a cop tasing someone in an Alabama Walmart, and shootings and robberies outside Walmarts in South Carolina and California. (I won’t pin any of these actions directly on this obnoxious, constantly running Walmart TV commercial, but it does portray a shopper as a babbling, practically drooling idiot.)
But the suspected Pepper Spray Shopper—who turned herself in to police, though her name hasn’t been released—provides the most telling example of our twisted economic times. If she did what she’s accused of, then this woman picked up the same device she’s almost certainly seen police use against Occupy protesters and used it against her fellow citizens; she may be part of the 99 percent, but a competitive edge is a competitive edge.