Did you hear about the death at a New York City Walmart early Friday morning? Black Friday shoppers were so eager to get inside and start spending money that they broke through the store’s front doors and trampled an employee.
All over social media, this story and similar bits and pieces of anecdotes are being reported as the latest evidence of the depravity of our society. But I’ve been sitting here Friday afternoon wondering whether we’re all just looking for evidence to confirm what we already believe.
There’s an odd bias that causes what’s expected to be reported and talked about, especially if the anecdote confirms what we already believe. For instance, there are stories every year on Black Friday about how violent it is to be shopping today, especially at Walmart (since Walmart is the all-purpose boogeyman today). There’s always at least one story about a shopper being trampled to death. (It was an employee in the story today who was killed, but maybe a dead shopper will still turn up and save the narrative.)
But I’ve been to stores on Black Friday and never seen anything vaguely violent. My friends who are “serious shoppers” don’t seem to see this horrible violence. They might see angry people argue over who gets to buy the last giant television for a few hundred dollars off, maybe. They might have even heard frustrated people threaten each other over who gets to buy the last $9 crockpot.
But I’m pretty sure that more people were killed in their cars on the way to shop today than die in the stores. If you combined every Black Friday-related “shopping death” for decades and decades, it still wouldn’t be as many as were killed in car accidents before breakfast this morning.