The year was 1996. Robert Waller, a Walmart employee in Fredericton, New Brunswick, was minding his own business during a Midnight Madness Sale, when he was suddenly trampled by a stampede of 300 crazed shoppers. The item the pack was trying to get its hands on? A little furry, giggly red doll called Tickle Me Elmo, which had suddenly become all the rage for kids all across America and beyond. Tickle Me Elmo, originally priced under $30, went on to fetch hundreds and, in a couple cases, thousands of dollars, when people resold the in-demand doll.
Though Black Friday sales have been a popular way to shop for years, it wasn’t until the likes of Cabbage Patch Dolls and Tickle Me Elmo that bargain shoppers and retailers really stepped up their game. The idea of missing out on a good deal, or worse yet, a must-have item after it sold out, became abhorrent. The old fashioned notion of circling your favorites in the JC Penney toy catalog and patiently waiting for Santa to arrive became a thing of the past.
These days, those in-demand items have moved from popular stuffed toys to the hottest electronics, including gaming consoles, digital cameras and flat-screen TVs. People camp outside places like Best Buy for days before the big sale in hopes of snagging a good deal. At Walmarts and other stores around the country, folks push, shove and even injure each other in the process to toss their bargains into the cart.
Though much of the sale madness is in good fun, it can sometimes turn ugly, or even deadly. In 2008, two Palm Desert people wound up dead after a gunfight on Black Friday. Last year, a woman injured 20 people with pepper spray in a Porter Ranch Walmart. Does it seem we have gone too far to get our hands on these must-have holiday goods?
In a down economy, retailers are more than eager to do anything they can to encourage Black Friday shoppers. After all, it isn’t called Black Friday for nothing. This year, many stores, including Kmart, Walmart, Sears and Toys R Us will open their doors on Thanksgiving evening instead of early Friday morning, giving shoppers a jump start.
Popular items like the iPad Mini, Halo 4 and Nintendo Wii U will be offered at great prices, and Toys R Us will introduce more than 200 doorbusters, a record for the chain store. But is it worth giving up family time, a good night's sleep and possibly even your life to secure the latest video game or toy?
Hosts of the popular morning talk show “The View” discussed Black Friday this week. They agreed, almost unanimously, that they would much rather linger by the fire with their families and a last slice of pumpkin pie instead of making a mad dash out to Walmart when the store re-opened Thursday night. Others on the blogosphere agreed, saying retailers seem to push holiday shopping earlier and earlier every year instead of waiting for the turkey to be trimmed.
“I think Black Friday has gotten out of hand,” a mother of three wrote. “I found that I was able to find all the deals I wanted by shopping online in my pajamas instead of rushing out to the store.”
On Facebook, others shared the sentiment of Black Friday overkill with this quote: “Black Friday: Because only in America people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.”
As for me, I’ve never been much of a Black Friday shopper—for only one good reason. I’m not a morning person, and the idea of getting up before the crack of dawn to snag a bargain sounds about as exciting as a golf marathon on TV.
While I love a good deal as much as everyone else, it would be difficult to rouse me in the incident of an earthquake, much less to score a cheap flat-screen TV. But I have friends who make it tradition, grabbing their Starbucks and making a mad dash to the stores while the kids still sleep soundly at home. Though I’m more than happy to hear about their deals, I’m also just as happy when I roll out of bed after the sun’s come out and I’ve enjoyed a full night's sleep.
Parents, are you Black Friday shoppers, or do you prefer to wait for the sales? Have you ever camped out for an item or showed up hours early at a store to snag your child’s must-have toy?
Do you think Black Friday sales have gotten out of hand, or do you think it’s all in good holiday fun?