Black Friday, AKA the day after Thanksgiving, provides joke fodder just as easily as it inspires panic-stricken think pieces and reports of horrible behavior. But how did it come to exist? What are the most intense Black Friday moments, and how bad can it really get? Read on to find out.
1. Global Importance
While Black Friday will always be associated with the United States, it’s far from the only country that observes the day in its calendar. Other nations that have it include Canada, Mexico, and Germany.
2. Day of Urgency
In the US, Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the entire year, and it’s officially been that way since 2005.
3. Same Name, Different Day
The United Kingdom has a Black Friday, but don’t go over there to shop it in November. In the UK, “Black Friday” does not refer to the day after Thanksgiving, but rather the Friday before Christmas. Due to so many people being out and about that Friday night, emergency services have to brace themselves for the extra workload.
4. I Didn’t Need to Know This…
Since Black Friday naturally takes place after the feasts of Thanksgiving, it’s actually one of the busiest days of the year for…plumbers. Just think about it.
5. This Was a Happy Place…
In 2008, a Toys R Us became the site of tragedy. After two families furiously argued over the limited merchandise, two men pulled out weapons and attacked each other in the crowded store. Both men’s lives were ended during the exchange, and the other customers created a stampede while fleeing the chaos. To make matters worse, many children were also traumatized.
Up until the late 2000s, Black Friday traditionally began at 6:00 AM, when the stores opened early. This changed, however, when stores pushed their opening times to 5:00 AM or even 4:00 AM. Incredibly, this still wasn’t enough for retailers and shoppers, so in 2011, stores opened as early as midnight of Thanksgiving Day!
7. Chaos Reigns
In 2008, one of the first Black Friday tragedies occurred. A Walmart employee actually died after a crowd stampeded past the doors. The worker got caught up in the rush, and even when police officers tried to intervene, it was no use. Not only was the employee killed, but several other people were also injured in the chaos, including a pregnant woman.
8. The Millennial Malibu Stacy
Reportedly, one of the most popular items sold during Black Friday is: pajamas. In 2015, one spokeswoman for Walmart admitted that “Some locations sell out of pajamas and other household items.” As a result, Walmart has proceeded to stock up on millions of pajamas in anticipation for their high demand.
9. Hitting the Big Time
As we said, Philadelphia was the first American city to use “Black Friday” as a term in the 1950s. On a nationwide scale, however, the term didn’t gain much traction until the 1990s.
10. Sleeping Bag Not Included
The holiday has gotten so big that Black Friday shoppers have started sleeping overnight outside stores, all so they get quicker access to the merchandise they want to purchase. Of course, due to the hazards of a line of people camping outside stores, some cities have banned people from camping out prior to opening hours.
11. My Door Is Always Open
If you thought that opening at midnight was a radical way to prolong Black Friday, it gets even worse. In 2012, Walmart tried to set a new record by setting an opening time for 8 PM on Thanksgiving Day. Although workers tried to protest this extension of hours into a holiday, Walmart was joined by a bunch of other stores in 2014.
12. Shut It Down
The question of whether a retail store can begin Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day has been answered with a definitive “NO” by three US states. Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island all forbid stores to open their doors during the holiday.
13. Not What You Think
The first use of “Black Friday” to mean the day after Thanksgiving can be found in the year 1951. Except, believe it or not, it actually had a pleasant meaning. “Black Friday” was used as a term for workers taking the day after Thanksgiving off so they had a four-day weekend.
14. Door Busters
The highest recorded number of shoppers who shopped during Black Friday in the US occurred in 2013. Nearly 250 million people packed their way into department stores to grab the items they wanted. What’s more, that same poll recorded that the average person in that crowd spent around $407, leading to more than $57 billion in sales.
15. Close Call
In 2010, a man in Georgia stole a laptop from Best Buy on Black Friday. As he fled the store, members of the US Marine Corps confronted the shoplifter. When he saw them, his response was horrific. The man actually stabbed one of the Marines in the ensuing scuffle. It didn’t help: He got caught, and the Marine made a full recovery.
16. Would You Like Your Receipt?
Despite 2013 witnessing the highest number of shoppers, it wasn’t the highest recorded amount spent during Black Friday: That belongs to the year 2012, with almost $60 billion spent.
17. Eat, Pray, Buy
One place where Black Friday has struggled to take hold is in India. Due to the country’s size and diversity, shopping seasons are different depending on which region you live in. Moreover, the shopping sales that draw crowds to retail stores usually last a week rather than a single day, so there’s no need to bust down to your local Walmart.
18. Data Deal
In more recent years, a Black Friday contender has emerged. Since many people are too busy (or too sane) to go shopping on Black Friday, they instead shopped online for bargains from the comfort of their own home. Fittingly, this day is now called “Cyber Monday.”
19. The Red Meddling
Though regular people may disdain Black Friday, merchants obviously love it. Accordingly, in the 1980s stores repurposed the word and tried to turn it from a negative into a positive. According to them, the “Black” in Black Friday referred to retailers getting out of “the red” and finally turning a profit at the end of the year for the holiday season. Whatever you say, guys.
20. Money for Nothing
If you’ve ever heard of the classic game Cards Against Humanity, you’ll know that one thing they do well is humor. One year for Black Friday, the company behind the game offered their customers the chance to give them $5 “to buy nothing from us.” Incredibly, a bunch of dum-dums really did it. The company made more than $71,000 from their customers!
21. Do You Need Receipts?
So Cards Against Humanity took this money, but what they did with it was even better. The employees spent the money on themselves, and then revealed what they bought. Their spoils included a Playstation, a Lord of the Rings-style longbow, a trip to Disney World, a queen-sized bed, and a 24-karat gold Vibrating Massager.
22. Big Letdown
Back when stores were still fighting against the name “Black Friday,” they made some alternative suggestions for the day. Sadly, “Big Friday” and “Big Saturday” just didn’t stick.
23. Bought in Translation
In 2011, the concept of Black Friday made it all the way to Romania via the stores eMAG and Flanco. Guess what? Romanians like rampant capitalism too! In 2014, Flanco made 22 million euros in sales.
24. Nice Try, But No
For the most part, this effort to keep stores open on Thanksgiving and give shoppers a head start has been a big, fat failure. Now, the media derisively calls the Thanksgiving Day deals “Gray Thursday” or even “Brown Thursday.”
25. Tall Tales
You might have heard the rumor that Black Friday was originally used by the southern US states during the days of slavery, marking the day after Thanksgiving as the day when slaves were sold. This is a bald-faced lie: The rumor was invented in 2013, and Snopes.com debunked the load of phooey just two years later.
26. We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Box Store
We all love deals, but Black Fridays have a dark history. Since 2006, 98 people have been injured during Black Friday stampedes, with another seven people dying. To put it into perspective, more Americans have been killed during Black Friday than from shark attacks. All in all, we’ve got a serious problem on our hands.
27. X This Woman out
It’s not uncommon for people to attend Black Friday while armed, but this story takes the cake. According to police, a frustrated woman at a California Walmart was waiting to pick up Xbox 360s. Annoyed at the line, she pulled out a case of pepper spray and assaulted the people around her “in order to get an advantage.” Did we mention that she had two children with her at the time?
28. Santa: Always Making It About Him
Black Friday often marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, but the Santa Claus connection goes way back. During the 19th and 20th centuries, department stores sponsored Thanksgiving and Santa Claus parades, and they made sure to include the iconic Santa at the end of each parade to symbolically kick off the Christmas season.
29. Let’s Go Shopping, Eh?
In the northern US, many of the shoppers crowding into department stores on Black Friday are actually Canadian. During economic periods where the Canadian dollar was stronger than the American one, it only made sense for Canadians to travel south on Black Friday to get a bigger bang for their canuck buck.
30. Don’t Go Away!
Turns out, Canadian stores weren’t too happy with the Canadians’ unpatriotic actions. To keep Canadian shoppers in Canada, the stores of the North introduced Black Friday prices of their own, even though Canadians actually celebrate Thanksgiving much earlier in the year than Americans. Ugh, get your own holiday, Canada!
31. Fraud Me Once
Brazil has wholeheartedly embraced Black Friday. However, it came with lots of controversy. Instead of giving out deals, sneaky stores and retailers often just inflated prices to give the illusion of a sale when there wasn’t actually one. In response, Brazilians started derogatorily calling the shopping spree “Black Fraude.”
32. Stay Alert
With the rise of Internet shopping, Black Friday doesn’t always have the best sales of the year. Thanks to smarter shopping, people have found better deals at the beginning of November or even the week before Christmas.
33. Let’s Not Lose Our Heads!
Sometimes, the madness of Black Friday can’t even wait for customers to get into the stores. In 2012, a dispute over a parking space resulted in two people getting shot.
34. “Opposite Day” Was Already Taken
While much of the world indulges in consumerism on Black Friday, other parts of the world stage a protest against the show of decadence and greed. The day is known as Buy Nothing Day in defiance of Black Friday’s negative traits. Buy Nothing Day has its origins in Vancouver, though it wasn’t synchronized with Black Friday until 1997.
35. Cooler Heads Prevail
Although so many retail stores have pushed the opening times further and further back to earn more profits on Black Friday, some brave stores have stood firm. Retailers like Barnes & Noble as well as Costco continue to close their stores on Thanksgiving Day so that their employees and potential customers can spend the day with their families.
36. Don’t Put a Ring on It
If you’re curious which stores put on the worst “sales” for Black Friday, look no further than jewelry stores. According to WalletHub, most jewelry items only have a 4% discount at best. This is all despite the ruthless advertising campaigns that jewelry companies create each year before the big day. Uh, no thanks.
37. The Truth Comes out
It isn’t just jewelry stores that are potentially ripping you off on Black Friday. In 2019, WalletHub’s studies revealed that up to 14% of all products had the same price on Black Friday as they did on any other day.
38. Tragic Loss
In 2016, three different shootings happened across the US during Black Friday outside of big chain stores. The shootings resulted in two deaths; one of the victims was 21-year-old New Jersey resident and new father Demond Cottman.
39. Good as Gold
“Black Friday” didn’t always have to do with Thanksgiving—and the origins are much darker. One of the most infamous Black Fridays happened in The Panic of 1869, when two financiers under Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency tried to corner the gold market. Grant found out, released an influx of gold to stop them, and then absolutely crashed the market. Oops.
40. Thanks, Bro
In this 1869 Black Friday, President Grant both made and destroyed fortunes…but uh, he mostly destroyed them. His own brother-in-law was even a victim of the gold price drop.
41. Black and Blue
The modern title of “Black Friday” comes from a surprising place. The first people to describe the crowds of Thanksgiving shoppers as “Black Friday” were the Philadelphia police in the 1950s. After hordes of people disrupted the law and order in the city’s shopping centers, the men in blue coined the term to describe the pandemonium.