Shopping on Black Friday? Let’s be careful out there

Violence on a Black Friday.
The gate rises and the Black Friday shoppers rush in.

Today, known as “Black Friday.” is the day that consumers descend on retail outlets, seeking reduced costs on items considered popular for Christmas gifts.

The name started in Philadelphia in the 1960s, coined by tired police officers tending to the day after Thanksgiving and the day before the annual Army-Navy football game.

Writes Coral Murphy Marcos in The New York Times:

The term “Black Friday” has for years been synonymous with mayhem at stores, and its origin story has roots in turbulence.

Black Friday began in Philadelphia in the 1960s. Tourists would descend on the city on the day between Thanksgiving and the annual Army-Navy football game held on Saturday. Historians say the Philadelphia police took to calling the day Black Friday because officers had to work long hours and deal with terrible traffic, bad weather and other crowd-related miseries.

Local retailers wanted to draw in shoppers that day. But they disliked the term because of the connotation of the word “black” in front of a day of the week, which historically has been used to mark unpleasant events. One was Black Tuesday, the day of the stock market crash of 1929, and another, Black Monday, the day in 1987 when the market lost more, on a percentage basis, than on any day in 1929.

Retailers tried to rebrand the holiday “Big Friday” but were unsuccessful. Businesses later reclaimed the name Black Friday, saying that the day was when stores’ books went from red ink to black.

Economic survival is foremost for many retailers on Black Friday. Those whose sales fell below expectations have often declared bankruptcy or announced cutbacks in stores, staff, and offerings.

I’ve covered too many Black Fridays as a newspaperman. Now, in semi-retirement, it is not something I miss.

On a Black Friday in St. Louis in 1978, I wrote about watching a woman spread payments for an expensive item over five credit cards because the balances were that close to the credit limits. I photographed a fight in a shopping center lot over a parking space. Police arrested both.

On this online day, some avoid the madness of Black Friday mobs by shopping online at Amazon or other retailers. I have my wife Amy’s primary Christmas present stored in a closet. I bought it three months ago. I suspect she has done the same.

Last year, Reuters reported that shootings on Thanksgiving week kept shoppers at home. With a mass shooting by a night manager of WalMark in Chesapeake, VA,

The wire service reports at least a dozen deaths from violence on Black Fridays in the last decade. Last year, two died in shootings during Black Friday shopping in East Chicago, just one of the multiple incidents around the country on that day. In 2020, two died in shootings at a mall in Northern California.

CNN reports: “After an ordinary workday turned deadly at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, survivors, and investigators are spending the Thanksgiving holiday questioning the motive of an employee who opened fire on coworkers, killing six before fatally turning the gun on himself.”

I’ve seen comments posted on social media this morning from potential shoppers saying they will be carrying a firearm when they go into stores this Black Friday.

Self-defense or an invitation to collateral deaths in a shootout? Good question.

Let’s be careful out there. If we go out on this Black Friday, it may be just to the Friday Night Jamboree.

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© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse