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Black Friday – An American Tradition

Updated on December 8, 2015
Black Friday - An American Tradition
Black Friday - An American Tradition

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When Did Black Friday Begin?

The day after Thanksgiving has become something of a phenomenon; an American tradition. Part of this new tradition includes family members sitting around after a sumptuous feast of turkey and all the trimmings, devouring advertisement circulars from dozens of stores. Items are circled, and lists made of all the – good buys and great deals. Then a strategy made according to what time a store opens, which items are of interest, and who gets to sit in the parking lot all night.

The term Black Friday seems to have surfaced sometime in the 70’s, but it did not gain widespread popularity until the early 2000’s. The term was predominantly used by retail accountants, to indicate when the books would attain a positive status. It was also a term used by retail workers, scheduled to work on the busiest shopping day of the Christmas Holiday.

When, stores started opening early is not clear. Some stores started opening earlier to offer a longer time for shopping, in an effort to elevate crowding. As Black Friday became more popular, stores began opening earlier and earlier. Then they began to add – special buys, to entice shoppers. Of course, the intention was to bring in larger volumes of customers who brought in larger volumes of cash.

Stores are opening earlier and earlier each year. In 2010, some stores opened at midnight, and in 2011, they are advertising Black Friday sales beginning as early as 9:00 p m. Shoppers are delighted, but some store employees are voicing their displeasure. After all, when do they get time to spend with their families?

And now, in 2014, stores have started Black Friday sales as early as Thanksgiving morning. Although many stores will open at 6:00 pm and remain open until Friday night. This has sparked some debate as to whether society has totally forgotten the meaning of the Holiday and abandoned traditional Family Values for blatant commercialism. The fact remains, there will be shoppers standing in line before the doors open regardless if it's Thursday or Friday. Many people have made the proclamation that they will boycott the stores and sales of those opening up on Thanksgiving Day.

Who gets to sit in the parking lot all night?
Who gets to sit in the parking lot all night?
Mob rushes, fights and even death on Black Friday.
Mob rushes, fights and even death on Black Friday.
Out of line behavior by adults!
Out of line behavior by adults!

Isn't Christmas all about giving?

Every year there are news stories about mob rushes, fights, and, unfortunately, deaths during Black Friday. It can be unsettling to witness out-of-line behavior by adults, especially at the beginning of a holiday whose focus is on unity, giving, and peace on earth.

Black Friday had never held any interest for me. I thought people were, out of their minds, to get up at 4:00 am and go shopping. Then, one Thanksgiving, me and my daughter were perusing the sale papers and found some sweet deals. My finances were very tight that year and I wasn’t sure how I was going to afford Christmas presents. I saw how her eyes lit up with some of the sales papers, and then I saw the prices.

The next morning we were up, dressed, and out the door by 4:30 a. m. We headed toward our local Wal-Mart, whose sale was to start at 5:00. I was shocked to see the parking lot full of cars. It looked like it had, in the few days leading up to Thanksgiving, when shopping for turkey and all the trimmings was the focus of everyone in the store.

There were no crowds waiting outside the doors; this Wal-Mart was open twenty-four hours a day. I wondered how they would keep the specials from being purchased long before the advertised 5:00 am start of Black Friday. A friendly Wal-Mart greeter handed us a map of where all the specials would be located as we entered the store. I had to wonder what incentive she was promised to be so bright, cheery and helpful at such an hour.

Is Black Friday smart shopping or total madness?

We studied the map and found the locations of the items we were interested in quite easily. This is where the fun began. The main isles in the store were cleared, and large pallets wrapped in black plastic, strategically placed throughout the isles. This is where the masses of people gathered. Groups surrounded each pallet waiting for the unveiling of the items they had come to seize. A single blue vested employee stood guard over each pallet, and I was a bit fretful that there might be violence.

A voice over the loudspeaker announced that the Black Friday sales would begin in 5 – 4 – the crowds grew closer – 3 – 2 – the blue vested employees stepped toward the pallets, box cutters readied – 1. They sliced through the black plastic, and – people began picking up the items they wanted. There was no pushing or shoving; I even noticed one woman who was unable to move away from the pallet, passing items to others who could not get close enough. People were helpful and friendly.

Yes, it was crowded, and some places were more difficult to navigate through, but for the most part, we were able to get the items we had specifically come for, go through the check out smoothly, and exit in a little over an hour. It takes me longer to get groceries!

My daughter and I were quite pleased with how we fared, and excited about heading for the next store on our list. Our experience in each store was much the same, people were friendly, helpful, and no one was rude.

By the time we returned home, about 10:00 that morning, we had successfully acquired each item on our list, saved a lot of money and had the most amazing mother / daughter bonding experience ever. We were hooked on Black Friday. The next year my oldest daughter, who had experience Black Friday from the employee side, was able to join us on the shopping side. She had some good insight and knew just how to get in, get out, and get just what we wanted. What an assett!

We haven’t gone every year. We take a good look at the sale papers to see what is being offered. Then, we ask our selves if there is anything we want or need, and is it really a sale? We make our final decisions based on those criteria.

Observations and Helpful Hints

Some observations I have made in the years we have gone to Black Friday sales are as follows.

Infants and young children do not belong at Black Friday sales. It’s way too early and crowded for these little guys to be going out. They aren’t awake, they are cranky, and parents get impatient with fussy children. It’s dangerous for them on two levels. People can, and have, gotten violent and why would any parent want to put their children in harms way. This is also a breeding ground for germs, it’s bad enough that adults are putting themselves at risk, but why would anyone expose children, especially infants, to whatever strain of illness is going around? Surely, they can spend the night with Grandma, or at least, hire a babysitter.

Dress for changing weather. Usually at 4:30 a.m., it’s pretty chilly outside. It may be raining, snowing or the wind blowing. Layer clothing so as the day warms up a layer can be shed to cool down. It’s always better to have more clothes than may be needed. You don’t want to be wishing you had, when you’re standing in a long line out in the cold.

Make a list of the things you are interested in and stick to that list. Don’t buy just because it’s there and it’s cheap. That’s an impulse buy, and you are playing right into the hands of the retailers. They want your money.

Have a budget and stick to it. My daughter and I have a very strict rule, and that is we take only cash and only a set amount. Credit cards are forbidden on Black Friday.

Buyers beware! If you see an ad that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Many stores lure customers in with a big-ticket item dirt cheep. When the customer arrives they find there were a “limited” number of items, which can be as few as five, and they are all sold out.

The past couple of years I’ve seen websites that offer an early peek at the Black Friday sales circulars. The stores “leak” the information early to whet the appetites of shoppers. This can be to your advantage; you can compare items and prices long before heading out in the cold, dark morning.

If you are one of the many who refuse to join the Black Friday Frenzy, you may be more suited to find great sales and prices on Cyber Monday. I have yet to delve into this latest phenomenon, but the older I get, the more attractive it sounds. No battling the elements, no crazy traffic or hoards of people. Just make sure your Internet has been upgraded to high-speed, or you might find yourself standing in a long virtual line.

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    • miss_jkim profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago


      If I lived in a big city like Atlanta, Chicago or New York, you would NEVER catch me at Black Friday. I live in a very small town in the rural south. Black Friday is more a social event here than hand to hand combat.

      Still, if I don't see anything I'm interested in or the weather is bad, I'm staying in my nice warm bed too.

      Thanks for the read.

    • miss_jkim profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago


      I lived in Europe for over 10 years. The way of life is vastly different then it is in the U.S.. Stores close by 7:00 p m every evening and by 2:00 in the afternoon on Saturdays. Nothing is open, save a few ghasthaüses, on Sunday. People get out of their houses and take walks, bike rides and greet each other.

      I miss that way of life very much, and would trade every Black Friday bargain to go back to it.

      Thank you, my friend for your continued support, even if I am from "south" of the border. LOL!

    • knowitallofnone87 profile image


      8 years ago

      Black friday is a NIGHTMARE! I did it once and will never do it again. To me, that is a day to sleep in :P.

      It's ridiculous how people get. I heard once that someone was killed because of Black Friday. Really? Shopping is THAT important? Yeah, most definitely not my scene.

      So I say good for you for choosing to not be apart of this massacre of a holiday :)

    • epigramman profile image


      8 years ago

      .....I am always so pleased when you contact me - your comments are invaluable, your support is essential and your friendship is paramount.

      We don't have Black Friday up here in Canada - but I know that a lot of Canadians go down/or cross the border to the US to take part in this shopping spree - and as you know - the consumer world is made available to us 27/7 - almost 365 days a year - and that is what makes a country like the United States so great (or not so great - depending on your politics) they can come up with ideas like this called free enterprise - and as they say - Only in America!!!!! The main thing is that we have choice with our disposable income - if we want to stay home fine - and if we want to go out and join the line-up - good luck - it's called hysteria and consumer spending and advertising has always been based on a certain kind of mania ........ I always love to come here to your hubs so on Black Friday I will come here to pay my respects and not at the stores - lol lol


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