On The Money with Peter Hebert

November 29, 2011

On the Money with Peter Hebert, “The Corporate War on Consumers and the Battle for Bargains,” November 29, 2011

Filed under: Commentary — Peter Hebert @ 7:22 AM

The Corporate War on Consumers and the Battle for Bargains: Corporate Marketing, American Consumerism,
Black Friday, and the Capital Markets

Economic Mischief

Anyone who has just a superficial understanding of economics will be able to repeat what is taught in every economics class. It goes something like this, “If you want to increase demand, lower the cost.” An academic discussion with an abstract example or two will follow to explain the law of demand. The lesson translates into the relevance of more sales coming from more customers placing more demand on lower priced goods.

The professor will chalk up the board with an X and Y axis and different relationships between different price points and quantities sold. The monotone lecture might sound something like this:

“A, B and C are points on the demand curve. Each point on the curve reflects a direct correlation between quantity demanded (Q) and price (P). So, at point A, the quantity demanded will be Q1 and the price will be P1, and so on.” Taken from Investopedia: http://www.investopedia.com/university/economics/economics3.asp#ixzz1f3KzxTj7

The result of this economic insight is that business leaders become lab coat technicians and serve as the de facto invisible hand of the market. This is a lot of power that comes from just some minor tweaking of numbers. The motives? Profits and bonuses. Those bonuses translate into many wonderful things like more assets and toys, such as houses, farms, beach homes, boats, small planes, a car collection, and so forth.

Those with seats at the decision making tables at the big corporations and box stores know this. So, every Black Friday … that one day of the year after Thanksgiving when people have gathered with family … corporations slash prices, they engage in no tree left behind direct marketing, and they advertise around the clock on television.

Battle for Bargains

The deals are too good to be true, but in small print … it’s almost always the same … limited supplies will be sold on a first come, first serve basis. The result of this corporate marketing to consumers looking for good deals on tight budgets is long lines before opening hours. When the starting gate opens, the race begins to the back of the stores for the first come, first serve deals.

In some families, it is a tradition to rise at 4:00 a.m. and stand in line dressed in pajamas at the box store of choice. Some show up for the sport of the experience and with no shopping list in hand while others have a game plan due to coupons or actual need. In other families around the world, they fly in to the United States to visit family for Thanksgiving and to do their serious annual shopping.

Across the Nation

It should be common knowledge that an enjoyable shopping experience can become a mindless tragedy in one of these big stores, where the corporate executives have done a bang up job in pushing a low priced item that is hot … like a high definition flat screen television. Consider Black Friday … 2011.

In Southington, Connecticut, the police stationed at the Walmart used a stun gun – a taser – on 37-year-old Patrick Brew. His offense was fighting with officers, which amounted to resisting arrest; and cutting in front of the check out line. See

In San Leandro, California, a shopper at the Hesperian Boulevard Walmart refused to hand over some purchases to a man with a gun. The armed robber was with back up – his buddies. The Walmart shopper, 21-year-old Chris Morillo, tried to fight back, but ended up in the hospital with a gun shot wound. See

In San Fernando Valley, California, an idiotic American consumer pepper sprayed roughly 20 other shoppers in the Porter Ranch Walmart in order to ward them off from the X-Box 360 video game that she wanted to purchase at half price. The end result was kids screaming in panic and people sprawled out on the floors as they took cover. Customers screamed, “Call an ambulance! Call an ambulance!” See

In western Michigan, a 15-year-old girl was trampled in the race to the electronics department of a Walmart. She had to be taken to a hospital. See http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/muskegon_county/girl-stepped-on-in-black-friday-rush

In Kissimmee, Florida, two men fought at a Walmart jewelry counter. One of the two, 35-year-old Oswald Antonio Cruz Marbert, was arrested and jailed for resisting arrest. See http://www.sun-sentinel.com/os-kissimmee-walmart-black-friday-fight-20111125,0,7869014.story

In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a woman in a Walmart was robbed. Customers say they heard five gunshots. A 55-year-old woman was shot in the foot and a 25-year-old man was shot in the head.

In Rome, New York, two women inside the Walmart fought over $30 cell phones. They injured each other, and both were taken to the hospital. Another man was taken to jail due to disorderly conduct. See http://www.app.com/article/20111125/NJNEWS18/311250032/2-hurt-1-arrested-Wal-Mart-store-Black-Friday-brawl-upstate-NY

In Kingston, North Carolina, a Walmart store security officer unleashed pepper spray onto customers in an attempt to tame the crowd maddened by the store’s low prices.

In Florence, Alabama, security officers used a stun gun on a disorderly customer.

In Buck Eye, Arizona, in-store police officers body slammed 54-year-old Jerald Newman face first onto the floor. He was suspected of shoplifting, and was trying to get his grand son out of the press of the maddening crowd. The police broke the man’s face open and left him unconscious on the bloodied floor. One onlooker yelled at the idiotic police behavior, “Get that on camera. See how fucked up that is.” Another shopper mocked the police and yelled, “Someone call 911!” Newman’s grandson cried out, “Grandpa! Grandpa!” After ten minutes of being unconscious, Newman was taken to jail. Some customers said Newman had done nothing wrong. See

In South Charleston, West Virginia, Target customers walked over the dead body of 61-year-old Walter Vance. Vance shopped until he dropped … dead due to a a history of heart problems. Those who knew and worked with Vance, a pharmacist at the Aracoma Drug Company store, were astonished that the Good Samaritan-side of people was absent among the Target customers on Black Friday. See

In Florida, the shopping was heavy and store employees worked long hours. A 36-year-old Target employee drove home after a grueling work period during Black Friday. She was so exhausted, that she drove her car into a Palm Beach County canal. Unable to swim, but able to reach for her cell phone as her car sank into the water, she called for help. But, the connection was cut short. Rescuers arrived in time to save the unidentified woman from drowning.

In Fayetteville, North Carolina, gun shots were heard outside and then inside of the Cross Creek Mall. Small shops closed, but the Mall did not evacuate the customers. Cross Creek Mall spokeswoman Tammy Hopkins said, “From what we understand, obviously, it was an isolated incident, an unusual incident. It doesn’t seem to have dampened the shopping spirit at the mall.” See http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/10422570/

According to the Business Inquirer, “Walmart spokesperson Greg Rossiter said Black Friday was safe at most of its nearly 4,000 US outlets, but there were ‘a few unfortunate incidents.’” See http://business.inquirer.net/32325/black-friday-is-bargain-hunters’-big-day Yet, by its own corporate conduct, the Walmart smiley face has been replaced by the yellow police tape that reads, “Police line. Do not cross.”

The Capital Markets

The 2011 Black Friday was anticipated to be “the biggest on record with a staggering 152 million people predicted to shop over the weekend – up 10 per cent on last year, according to estimates,” according to the National Retail Federation. See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2066011/Pepper-spray-Black-Friday-sales-madness-grandfather-body-slammed-cops.html

On Monday, Monday, November 28, 2011, CNN reported “U.S. stocks posted sharp gains after reports of strong Black Friday weekend sales and amid optimism that European leaders may be working toward a solution to the European debt crisis. The Dow Jones industrial average soared 291 points, or 2.6 percent, the S&P 500 added 34 points, or 2.9 percent, and the Nasdaq composite rose 86 points, or 3.5 percent. The advance broke a 4-day losing streak for the Dow and seven consecutive days of declines for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq.”

The Dark Side of Capitalism

Capitalism is not evil. It is good. And, so is making a profit. But, the precise management of the economic metrics and database and mass marketing that drive crowds must be balanced with what results: a frenzied mob behaving like dumb animals masquerading as human beings. These are the market’s “animal spirits” described by Adam Smith … fear and greed … seated within the limbic system of the brain of every person. And, Walmart seems to have the corner on attracting the basest of these “animal spirits” from across the country to patronize its box stores.

In heavy traffic, a crowd of cars can only move as fast as the slowest moving vehicles regardless of how many lanes are on the highway. At the gates to any event be it a concert, a cruise, or a box store … the crowd can move forward only as fast as the slowest moving members of the crowd. The results are accidents, mayhem, and disappointments when the less patient among us rush head long to meet their objectives.

Disappointment is a function of expectation. Shopper rage is pathetic and disgusting, but understandable when seen in light of the fact that when a store stocks just ten super low priced items for 100 or 1,000 expecting customers, repercussions will follow.

The executives at the box stores that pushed the super low prices and drove the customers in to shop are primarily responsible for the mindless mayhem. They are the invisible hand of the market. They are the hands above the marionette pulling its strings. They are the Ph.D. economists, MBAs, and senior level executives in marketing who are well paid and also compensated in stocks and performance bonuses. These industry leaders and marketplace experts are idiots. Oddly, the graduate level professors of business and economics are largely silent on the connections between economic malfeasance and violence on the store room floors across the United States of America.

The greed, narcism, stupidity, and mayhem that characterize Black Friday are symptoms of moral and spiritual bankruptcy. It’s not limited to the American way of life. Foreigners, in fact, come to the states to shop till they drop on Black Friday. Some outlet malls around the nation provide multi- language announcements in the public spaces in much more than just English and Spanish.

The Walmart business model is based on the worst elements of globalism. It’s a store front for China and thrives on exploitative capitalism on its labor force in every part of the supply chain. The documentary film Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price describes this. See .

Before Black Friday, Michelle Mundy of Albeqerque, New Mexico organized a national Black Friday Walmart Boycott by using Facebook to promote the cause. Mundy’s reasons for the boycott rested on the box store’s business model that exploits its employees by paying low wages and then externalizing health care costs onto the local jurisdictions. After the disgusting corporate driven consumer fest, Susan Reinhardt of Citizen-Times.com stated that Black Friday must end, because it has become “a fatal holiday pastime.” See http://www.blogtalkradio.com/peterhebert/2011/11/08/the-black-friday-walmart-boycott

I was in “little India” in midtown Manhattan during the Thanksgiving holiday break. My wife and I were in the city to see a play at the Repertorio Español titled El Color Del Deseo (The Color of Desire). The unstated underlying message of the play was the perennial adage from the world’s holy teachers. As Buddhists note, “There is suffering in the world due to desire.” And, as the New Testament notes, “There is corruption in the world due to lust.” And, as the Law of Moses states, “You shall not covet.” Yes, Jesus Christ nailed it when we were warned, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” The color of desire is the black of total spiritual darkness and suffering. And, that is precisely what Black Friday does to the human soul.

Around the corner from the Repertorio Español, I saw an Indian woman shake her head and berate her husband, “We have been walking all over the city wasting our time and we could have been inside Bloomingdales shopping!”

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