On November 24, the day following the traditional Thanksgiving celebration among American families, shoppers across the US will engage in a shopping extravaganza that some people consider a perfect example of a society in decline. Black Friday is an ode to consumerism expressed by incredible discounts, particularly on electronics and popular toys, that many people find irresistible.
Black Friday has become legendary for all the wrong reasons. Everything gets started on Thanksgiving night as shoppers satiated by a hearty turkey meal and a few alcoholic beverages start planning their shopping strategy, which often involves lining up outside of stores and shopping malls as they brave cold temperatures the next morning. Shoppers are not the only ones preparing for Black Friday; police departments and paramedics start calling up off-duty members due to the violent history of this shopping holiday.
Pushing, shoving, elbow-throwing, stampedes, and shouting matches can be expected when a store such as Walmart decides to offer 50 toasters at just $1 each when 300 shoppers are lined up outside at 5:00 in the morning. Unfortunately, previous Black Fridays have turned fatal; in 2008, a store clerk was trampled to death near upstate New York; in 2010, a similar situation unfolded in Buffalo, although the victim survived the stampede.
One of the dangers of Black Friday is that some Americans carry firearms; in 2011, a man was shot and wounded after arguing with other shoppers about purchases they had made earlier; the next year, two people were shot after a heated argument over a parking spot. Things turned deadly last year in New Jersey when a man was fatally shot outside of a mall; that was one of four post-Thanksgiving shootings in 2016, a year that registered two violent deaths related to Black Friday.
For 2017, law enforcement departments across the US are taking into consideration the current political climate, which could make things worse for Black Friday shoppers.
The term “Black Friday” comes from retail accounting—bookkeepers use black ink to denote profits and red ink to indicate losses. Since Thanksgiving marks the start of the busy holiday shopping season in the US, retailers celebrate the first day they will be in the black by extending significant discounts.
For all the ugly displays of violence and consumerism, the economic impact of Black Friday is undeniable: more than 130 million purchases are expected to be completed this year in less than 24 hours, and retail analysts believe that more than $70 billion will be spent during the weekend.