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Black Friday 2009: Wal-Mart Hopes to Curb Hysteria in Wake of 2008 Trampling Death

(AP)
Photo: Valley Stream, N.Y., Wal-Mart where worker was killed. Friday, Nov. 28, 2008.

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) At a New York Wal-Mart, last year's Black Friday wasn't just busy, it was deadly. A massive crowd crushed temporary Wal-Mart employee Jdimytai Damour to death.

In 2009, the world's largest retailer says it will do better and is ready to face the massive crowd of bargain hunters.

Wal-Mart Stores announced Wednesday it will keep its stores open 24 hours to prevent a rush at its doors and take new crowd-control measures during the 2009 Thanksgiving weekend.

Wal-Mart says day-after-Thanksgiving sales will begin at 5 a.m. Nov. 27, but most U.S. stores will be open 24 hours to prevent a mad dash. The announcement doesn't affect most of Wal-Mart's Supercenters, which are already open 24 hours.

Federal safety regulators cited Wal-Mart for inadequate crowd management after the Nov. 28, 2008, death of a temporary employee at a Long Island, N.Y., store. A crowd of shoppers broke down the store's doors, trapping Damour, who died of asphyxiation.

Wal-Mart was required to create improved crowd management plans for all its 92 New York stores as part of a deal with prosecutors that avoided criminal charges in the trampling death.



VIDEO COURTESY OF CBS AFFILIATE WCBS
It also was required to set up a $400,000 victims' compensation fund, and give $1.5 million to social services programs and nonprofit groups. The agreement included no admission of guilt by Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart said in a statement that it consulted with safety experts in the sports and entertainment industries to develop store-specific plans for all U.S. locations. Each plan looked at how customers approach and enter the store, how they check out and leave, as well as how customers move around the store and near the biggest bargains, Wal-Mart said.

A spokesman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer didn't immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

Shoppers around the country typically line up early outside retailers on the day after Thanksgiving in the annual bargain-hunting ritual known as Black Friday. It got that name because it traditionally was considered the day stores broke into profitability for the full year.

  • Sammy Saltzman

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