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Does Black Friday bring out the worst in us?

What would you do to score the season’s hottest Christmas gift?

Lie? Cut in line? Knock down an adult? Push over a child?

In what, depending upon your own feelings about Christmas shopping, sounds like either a few novel strategies for Black Friday shopping or proof that the Christmas spirit has suffered a gaping chest wound, a survey firm asked more than 2,000 American adults how dirty they’d be willing to play to obtain this year’s hottest Christmas gift.

And let’s just say the Grinch would be pleased, and leave it at that.

The online poll, conducted by Harris Poll for FusionOps (www.fusionops.com/fusionops-survey-almost-half-of-americans-predict-temper-tantrums-in-event-of-holiday-gift-shortage) examined how shoppers might react to holiday gift shortages. In short: 45 percent say “temper tantrums” probably would ensue and that shortages of smartphones probably would cause the biggest problems, followed by shortages of video games, tablets, “Star Wars” toys and smartwatches.

Another section of the survey asked shoppers what how far they’d go to obtain a hot holiday gift. According to the survey, 23 percent of Americans said they’d be “willing to behave unethically if it meant leaving a retail store with the last hot holiday gift.”

According to the survey, a willingness to play dirty was most pronounced among students ages 18 and older (36 percent) and parents of children younger than age 18 (37 percent, versus 16 percent of persons with no kids younger than 18), and the employed (29 percent, versus 16 percent of unemployed Americans).

Just how low would shoppers go? According to the poll: 27 percent of students ages 18 and older and 17 percent of parents with kids younger than age 18 would be willing to lie to other shoppers (versus 7 percent of adults with no kids younger than age 18); 14 percent of students and 16 percent of parents with kids younger than 18 would be willing to cut into line (versus 8 percent of parents with no kids younger than 18); 13 percent of students and 8 percent of parents with kids younger than 18 would be willing to “knock an adult down” (versus 3 percent of adults with no kids younger than 18); and 9 percent of students and 8 percent of parents with kids younger than 18 would be willing to “push over a child if it meant leaving with the last hot hoiday gift” (versus 2 percent of parents with no kids younger than 18).

So … Merry Christmas?

Don’t worry. College of Southern Nevada philosophy professor Darin Dockstader can wrest a ray or two of holiday cheer from these decidedly Grinchy results.

Even if, laughing, he’d agree that they’re “very bizarre” and even “a little” creepy.

Dockstader wonders whether “confronted with the real situation, where you’re actually face to face with that child that you’re considering pushing down or face to face with the actual person you’re pushing out of the way, whether these (respondents) would act in exactly the same way.”

Answering a question about a hypothetical fellow shopper is one thing, he says. But dealing with someone in real life, when one’s sense of empathy can kick in and force reconsideration of a possible rude action, is another.

“I think people are better able to understand the experience of others and put themselves in the position of others when they are, in fact, face to face,” Dockstader says.

But can someone’s ethics — someone’s sense of right and wrong — vary with the situation he or she is in, be it a stressful life event or the fiery crucible of a Black Friday shopping run?

“I guess what you’re asking is, are values subjective things, and I, personally, would say no,” Dockstader says.

“The statement, ‘You shouldn’t push old ladies down’ is a different kind of statement than ‘The color yellow is pretty’ ” Dockstader says, and while people can hold differing opinions on the appeal of the color yellow, reasonable people will agree, and hold a shared belief, that knocking others to the showroom floor is something that shouldn’t be done.

So, survey results notwithstanding, Dockstader doesn’t expect to see an epidemic of unethical behavior breaking out on Black Friday, an expectation supported by the fact that when something terrible does happen on Black Friday, it makes the news.

“We all see the terrible footage from Black Friday every single year, so we know that old ladies are getting pushed to the ground. We know people do this,” he says. “But the thing that makes that footage shocking is that there is a basic presumption out there that that is out of bounds, that is off-limits, and it wouldn’t make the news otherwise.

“If it were a commonplace occurrence, and if that is what we expect to happen, it wouldn’t be newsworthy. It’s the fact that we don’t expect that to happen, and there is a basic presumption of society that it won’t, and that’s kind of the glue that holds humanity together, really.”

Dockstader isn’t speaking just theoretically, either. He holds field experience, having once shared a Black Friday shopping excursion with family members.

“We waited in line forever and no one was really happy, but nobody got pushed to the ground and we all came away from the experience equally damaged,” he recalls, laughing.

— Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280 or follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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