Saturday, October 17, 2009

Deserving, Entitlement, and Privilege

There's a recent news article about a crazy woman who duped an entire store full of patrons.

The first article I saw was a video clip from a local news station. They placed a lot of emphasis on what disorder the woman caused. Linda Brown rented a stretch Hummer limo and rode it to Burlington Coat Factory in Columbus, Ohio. Inside, she announced that she had recently won $1.5 million in a lottery and would pay for everyone's purchases, up to $500 per person.

I think the emphasis should have been on the customers. To read about a crazy woman marching into an expensive retail outlet and announcing she'll cover everyone's shopping, that's funny. George C. Scott used this tactic in the 1979 movie They Might Be Giants: needing a momentary distraction, he grabbed a microphone to a grocery store's PA system and announced a string of outrageous discounts on chicken, produce, everything. Even the cops in pursuit of him said their wives would kill them if they didn't take advantage of some of these deals, and they gave up the chase.

So it's amusing that someone would actually do this. I'm sure more than a few of us have thought of committing similar mischief in a public venue. Tom Green did the same thing on his prankish MTV show. But the reaction of the people in the area is offensive and depressing. If I were in such a situation, I'd like to think that I'd be incredulous enough to question the veracity of this strange woman's claim--no one in the store had that capacity, however. Indeed, they began placing phone calls to friends and relatives, urging them to hurry down to Burlington Coat Factory and take advantage of this offer, in addition to grabbing everything they could get their hands on. They didn't need those coats, all those supplies: they were just being outrageously greedy and seizing everything within their reach. Maybe they'd sell them off later, maybe they'd even be daring enough to attempt to cash in a refund for them at that very same store. But they were grabbing more than they ever needed and were calling people to rush over and do the same.

When the limo driver realized he would not be paid the $900 owed for his services, he turned Ms. Brown in to the police. But the people were something else: when it was discovered that the crazy lady actually had no money at all, they rioted. They tore clothes off the hangers and threw them to the ground. They knocked over displays and they looted. Oh yes, they still felt entitled to their "free clothing" and ran out of the store with armloads of stolen merchandise. The video clip I saw featured an interview with a balding, bespectacled middle-aged man who related his personal experiences with a defiant whine. He grabbed a wooden laundry basket and started filling it with everything he could grab--regardless of size, cut, or object itself, just grabbing everything. The customers believed they somehow deserved the merchandise and took it, after trashing the store.

That's where the story is, to me. That a crazy lady pulled this prank, that's interesting, but I'm more interested--and appalled--by the behavior of a store full of privileged, spoiled Americans who believed the reasonable response was vandalism and looting.

1 comment:

Cinamingrl said...

Wow, that's funny.r