The Craziest Day of the Year
Black Friday is considered the craziest shopping day of the year for good reason. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of people storm into a store in what is essentially a mass looting (the only difference is that this happens to be legal). In the past, there have been fist fights, shootings and stampedes at retail stores, all to snag a slim selection of bargain-priced products. It’s not for the faint of heart.
This year, retailers like Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT) plan to take extra precautions to reduce the madness. Yet, some think this Black Friday could turn out to be even worse.
“I actually think what happened last year may give more of mystique and cache to Black Friday this year,” one expert in buyer behavior told MSNBC recently. “People may think, ‘If there’s that good a deal that people are getting killed over it, then maybe I have to check it out.”
With that in mind, here are the stories you may want to keep in mind before you brave the crowds this week.
Photo Credit: szlea
Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death
This was the death heard round the retail world. Early on Black Friday morning last year, thousands of people swarmed outside a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y. A few minutes before the doors were scheduled to open at 5 a.m., the customers grew impatient and started to press and bang against the sliding glass doors. Half a dozen workers inside tried to hold back the unruly crowd, but failed.
We can’t describe what happened next better than the New York Times did. “Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him. Others who had stood alongside Mr. Damour trying to hold the doors were also hurled back and run over, witnesses said.” The end result was that Damour died and one pregnant woman was badly injured.
Photo Credit: Brave New Films
Wal-Mart Scuffles, the First Edition
While the previous event gained a lot of attention, it was far from the first Black Friday tragedy to hit Wal-Mart. Back in 2005, customers shopping at a Wal-Mart in Orlando, Fla., were involved in a scuffle with security and with each other.
According to one shopper’s testimony, "It was absolutely pandemonium in there. They were throwing laptops 20 feet in the air, and people were collapsing on each other to grab them. It was ridiculous.” One man reportedly got in a fight with several security guards, while other customers experienced blows to the head.
Photo Credit: Monochrome
Shootings At Toys "R" Us
Last year on Black Friday, two couples got into a deadly fight at a Toys "R" Us in Palm Desert, Calif. Sadly, they were not using toy guns. While the quarrel apparently had nothing to do with the Black Friday sales, the end result certainly ruined many peoples’ shopping day.
According to police reports, two women met in the store and ended up in a bloody brawl over some pre-existing dispute. This prompted the two men with them to pull out handguns and start firing at each other in the store. The shootout eventually ended in the electronics aisle. Both men died. Fortunately, no one else was injured.
Photo Credit: sashafatcat
Fighting Over the Last Xbox
Last year, a crowd of Wal-Mart customers descended upon a pile of Xbox game systems and proceeded to fight and brawl with one another until the pile was picked clean. Watch the video of people scavenging and shouting, trying to snatch up the goods while crawling on their knees. It will make you think twice about which items you want on your shopping list this year. (A similar scuffle took place at another Wal-Mart over DVDs. You can watch that video here.)
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Cat Fight in Circuit City
Back when Circuit City still existed, it too had a fair share of Black Friday drama. In 2006, one Circuit City in Naples, Fla., required police backup to help settle down a crowd after 32 vouchers for a laptop deal had been handed out 15 minutes before the doors opened.
Meanwhile, at another Circuit City in the same town, a bad fight broke out between two women in the store. According to Naplesnews.com, shoppers reportedly “witnessed one woman grabbing another woman by the neck over a discounted computer.” Perhaps the world is a little safer now that the chain is out of business (though we do miss their good deals on electronics).
Photo Credit: Zanastardust
Woman Collapses Outside Target
One woman collapsed early in the morning on Black Friday last year while waiting in line for the doors to open at Target (Stock Quote: TGT). Rather than rush to help her, waiting customers stood firm in their spots, unwilling to lose their place in line. A few decent Samaritans threw candy bars in her general direction, thinking she might just have low blood sugar.
Eventually, paramedics arrived and she turned out to be OK. Yet, the lesson here is twofold: Don’t wait in long lines for hours if you are not physically up to it, and if you do choose to, don’t think you can rely on the people around you.
Note: Fortunately, the woman did not actually fall into a sewer, as the picture here might imply. As far as we know, no Black Friday shoppers have ever suffered this fate.
Photo Credit: ronnie44052
The Crowd Gets Pepper Sprayed
In 2006, Sony (Stock Quote: SNY) decided to take advantage of holiday traffic and released the PlayStation 3 in the week leading up to Black Friday. A video game release is typically a manic event, but when you pair it with the holiday, the result is absolute chaos.
Hundreds of over-eager customers gathered outside a Circuit City in Virginia waiting for the doors to open. Police officers tried to tame the crowd before the doors opened. According to a local radio station, “Twice officers verbally warned the crowd, then an officer shot a pepper ball at the ground.” When that didn’t pacify the crowd, police fired another round. Eventually, the customers dispersed all together.
Note: Though this picture wasn’t snapped at the Circuit City in question, it does give you an idea of what it looks like when police use pepper spray on crowds.
Photo Credit: djbones
Online Shopping Gets Rough
After reading this list, you may be tempted to opt for shopping online. Most of the time, this is a safe bet, but every once in a while, things can get rough here, too. Sure, you might not get elbowed in the face, but as customers found out last year, Internet slights can be far more frustrating.
CompUSA partnered with TigerDirect to host a big online Black Friday sale that featured, among other goodies, a $6,000 Sony Vaio for just $999. Unfortunately, the system broke down altogether. Customers sat in front of their computers all day waiting for discount codes to pop up on screen, only to be prompted to call 1-800 numbers, where they were put on hold indefinitely or told goods were out of stock.
It later turned out that supplies were much more limited than initially stated. As one customer wrote after the day was over, “It is late, I am tired, and I somehow feel robbed even though I had no chance to spend money.” Retail stores may be a dangerous place on Black Friday, but if you miss out on the coveted goods, at least you can buy some gum and “get well” cards on your way out. There isn't the same type of consolation prize on the Web.
Photo Credit: conskeptical