Black Friday, blessedly gone for another year; make that nine months

by Ken Carpenter

Some people wait all year for Black Friday, the all commercial all the time day after Thanksgiving. Customers will start lining before midnight in front of some retailers with monster deals, which is most of them. When the doors open you move your behind or get squished, your choice.

            In 2008 a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a stampede of 2000 people when the doors opened at 5:00 a.m. Most of the shoppers were totally unconcerned with his fate, refusing to slow down even when it was obvious he was badly hurt.

            My hate for Black Friday crowds started long before that, but this incident was just more proof that I am not a “shop until you drop” kind of guy. If you drop, you might not get up.

             This year was no exception, especially for one woman who really, and I do mean really, wanted one of the available Wal-Mart X-Boxes. In her shopping frenzy she pepper sprayed the crowd, inside the store, having lost the ability to comprehend that she would also be peppering herself. She made her escape, minus the X-Box, but later turned herself in.

            It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “spicing up the deal”. 

            The origin of the term “Black Friday” is supposedly meant to show that retailers officially begin to show a profit for the year on that day. When accounting was done by hand, red ink indicated financial loss, so it was a big deal to finally get ”in the black”.

It is also estimated that many retailers register 40% of their annual sales from Black Friday on, so I’d say only being in the black during the holiday season is not too hard to choke down. That is assuming that there is truth to the tale.

            There is another theory about where Black Friday came from, and I think it is the more legitimate. Police in Philadelphia back in the early 60’s came up with it because the day after Thanksgiving was such a disruptive and heavy traffic day, complicating and endangering their lives more than any other day of the year. The name began to spread across the country around 1975, but the “in the black” theory for it is still the most popular.

            Not in my book. Crowds of pushy, zombie-eyed, carnivorous shoppers might be the cat’s meow from a retailer’s viewpoint, but they are my worst nightmare. My Black Friday is reserved for the day before the night before Christmas, which is normally when I do my shopping. Maybe I pay a bit more, but I rarely get any bites taken out of whatever flesh I have showing.

            Employees of the major retailers have their own opinion of where Black Friday comes from. They work long, frustrating shifts that often mess up their Thanksgiving plans, so how much blacker could it get?

            Around the late 19th/ early 20th century, big city department stores started sponsoring day after Thanksgiving Day parades that were a major part of their Christmas advertising, enticing folks to shop after the parade. It might not have been known as Black Friday, but it was as black as black could be.

Eventually an unwritten rule was reached that the major advertising push should be set back a day, and the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was in 1924. This moved corporate-induced shopping frenzies into the big leagues and it has not looked back since.

            In 1869 two nefarious gold dealers tried to manipulate gold prices and managed to cause the market to crash. It was known for many years as Black Friday, the first ever reference, but has nothing to do with the present version. It just happens to have the mass-misery quotient in common.

            The claim this year is that there were 152 million Black Friday shoppers in America. I was not and never will be one of them. Shopping is supposed to be fun, not survival of the fittest.

            Besides, my pepper spray is expired.