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Black Friday 

Scene: Doubletree Hotel in Mesa, Ariz., the day after Thanksgiving

My husband and I casually strolled from our hotel room to the elevator. The elevator door opened, and inside was a woman who appeared annoyed that the elevator had stopped for us. She jabbed the button repeatedly before we had cleared the door; she was in a hurry, excuse me. We stepped aside when the elevator door opened on the lobby level so as to avoid her as she rushed past us to claim her share of the complimentary breakfast buffet.

As we entered the breakfast room, several guests stood to see the breaking news on television--the fallen Wal-Mart customers in Florida who were pushed and trampled by the crowds bursting down the doors for the retail giant's Black Friday so-called deep discount advertised specials. Interesting, I thought, that the cameras recording this event were inside the store. Wal-Mart officials apparently thought this would be good publicity, either recording this themselves or inviting the press in to do so. Good strategy: free advertising--our prices are so low that people are fighting over our merchandise. I mean, after all, a laptop computer for $400?

Meanwhile, our gracious breakfast partners ignored the tongs provided, grabbing muffins and Danish pastries with their hands. The hotel staff could not keep up with replenishing the trays of food. All the tables were filled, so some guests decided to stand at the buffet table and jam food from the buffet directly into their mouths. A lovely sight. We overheard a father say to his son "Is that all you're taking?" and witnessed a local person who came in to fetch a hotel guest decide that he would help himself to breakfast too. Why not? It's free.

I was witnessing a cultural paradigm shift: from a "me first" orientation to a "me only" model. We, as you might guess, decided to eat elsewhere and left the hotel for a bite of breakfast in a quieter, more civilized environment, realizing that this was just the official beginning of the joyous holiday season.

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