Black Friday. As the meme says, “Because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.” Depending on who you are, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is either a spectacular way for stores across the United States to get a jump on Christmas sales and boost their earnings, or it’s a widespread madness marking the height of extreme consumerism bordering on fanaticism.
Either way you look at it, Black Friday can be dangerous.
A new website has started tracking fatalities and serious injuries resulting from the manic shoppers trying to get the best deals on toys, electronics, and other big-ticket items that American stores offer in the early morning hours of Black Friday. Commonly, these Black Friday sales are called “Door Busters,” and that’s just what they are. Bleary-eyed consumers line up outside big box stores in the wee morning hours of Black Friday, somewhat resembling the shopping mall zombies in Dawn of the Dead, and wait for the signal when they can “bust through” the doors of the store to get their hands on the latest and greatest deals. It might seem obvious, and yet not quite a deterrent to the hopeful shoppers, that this post-Thanksgiving running of the bulls will result in people getting hurt.
BlackFridayDeathCount.com has kept track of fatalities and injuries on Black Friday since 2006, though the concept of Black Friday has been around much longer than that. The modern version of Black Friday has actually been around in the United States since the 1950s. The term was invented by police officers in Philadelphia who referred to it as such because of the traffic jams and pedestrian congestion caused by shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving. Merchants in Philadelphia didn’t care for the term “Black Friday,” and they attempted to re-brand it as “Big Friday.” However, the name didn’t catch on.
When Philadelphia merchants realized that Black Friday was going to stick around, they decided to, as Don Draper would say, “change the conversation.” The merchants decreed that Black Friday referred not to the dismal circumstances the police were dealing with in the shopping districts, but rather how the sales the Black Friday shoppers were providing would move the financial situations for the stores from the red and into the black.
The trick worked. The term Black Friday slowly spread across the major cities of the United States until Black Friday became a cultural fixture by the 1980’s across the entire country.
The total fatality count from Black Friday between 2006 and 2014 is seven deaths and 98 injuries. As far as the deaths go, only two of the deaths included in the Black Friday count have been a result of people being “trampled” by aggressive deal seekers. Two more were a result of a shooting in a 2008 Black Friday incident at a Toys ‘R Us in Southern California. The other fatalities were a result of car crashes that were deemed to be a result of Black Friday shopping.
The injuries are largely a result of either Black Friday “stampedes” or as a result of Black Friday shoppers fighting over items they’d waited hours in line for, often in blistering cold temperatures. Two particular Black Friday incidents, one at a Los Angeles-area Walmart and another in North Carolina, both involved pepper spray. In 2011, an off duty police officer used pepper spray on Black Friday North Carolina shoppers, injuring 20 people. Twenty people were also inured in the L.A. Walmart in 2011, in what was simply termed as a “pepper spray attack.”
Clearly, Black Friday is not something to be taken lightly.
[Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images]