The History of Black Friday

imagesNovember 25, 2016 – If you’re someone who pays homage to the day after Thanksgiving by shopping, you probably familiar with the term “Black Friday” as the day of the year that retailers “go into the black” and make a profit. What you might not know is that you’re only half-right.

The term is also used to describe the crash of the U.S. gold market on Friday, September 24, 1869. The crash sent the stock market into free-fall, bankrupting everyone in the country from Wall Street tycoons to farmers.

Black Friday’s ties to the retail industry are more commonly known, but the “black” part of Black Friday wasn’t always associated with profits. Back in the 1950s, Philadelphia police coined the phrase “Black Friday” to describe the chaos that occurred on the Friday after Thanksgiving when suburban crowds would come into the city to watch the annual Army-Navy game, traditionally played the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Large crowds would arrive the day before for holiday shopping, with some taking advantage of the masses to shoplift, which often caused riots.

Philly’s Finest referred to that day as “Black Friday” because of the extra manpower needed to control the crowds. The term didn’t spread to the rest of the country, or take on a positive spin of retailers going from red to black, until several years later when it became a common holiday shopping day nationwide.

It seems that many firsts have roots in Philadelphia.

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You ruined Thanksgiving!

NOT1462884_10151776343336545_119739668_nNovember 26, 2015 – There’s an ongoing joke in my family that if the slightest thing goes wrong anytime on December 25, whether it involves dropping a fork on the floor, bumping into someone’s chair, or having your cell phone ring during dinner, the person responsible is told, “Great, now you ruined Christmas.”

That same message should go out to the retailers across the country regarding Thanksgiving, the very ones who make their employees to work on a day that should be spent with family and friends. Retailers wouldn’t do this if people didn’t shop. This is supposed to be a non-commercial holiday!

If you make it through the turkey and pumpkin pie without leaving the dinner table to shop, I applaud you. It may not be easy since many retailers have done everything in their power to lure you away from the family table (and the Trivial Pursuit tournament that follows dinner in my family) to snag the deals they claim to offer. What prompts people to camp outside of stores, or worse yet, shop on Thanksgiving, is beyond me.

It has been estimated 195 million Americans make Black Friday part of their holiday tradition. Isn’t that enough? The problem is retailers get greedier each year. I haven’t seen a bargain yet that would make me change my mind about shopping on Black Friday let alone Thanksgiving.

It you’re tempted to shop today, think about this. It’s been reported in several publications in recent years (including The Wall Street Journal) that Thanksgiving or Black Friday isn’t necessarily the best time to shop, anyway. The best deals often come deeper in December, especially if holiday sales start to slump.

That is something a retailer is never going to tell you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

You ruined Thanksgiving

AngryManNovember 29, 2013 – There’s an ongoing joke in my family that if the slightest thing goes wrong anytime on December 25, whether it involves dropping a fork on the floor, bumping into someone’s chair, or having your cell phone ring during dinner, the person responsible is told, “Great, now you ruined Christmas.”

That same message should go out to the retailers across the country regarding Thanksgiving.

If you made it through the turkey and pumpkin pie yesterday without leaving the dinner table early to shop, I applaud you. It may not have been easy since many retailers have done everything in their power to lure you away from the family table (and the Trivial Pursuit tournament that follows dinner in my family) to snag the deals they claim to offer.

What prompts people to camp outside of stores, or worse yet, shop on Thanksgiving evening, is beyond me. So much for giving thanks. Unless you are giving away a large flat screen television or computer, I won’t consider shopping on Thanksgiving, and even then I probably wouldn’t do it. I don’t have a death wish to mingle with crazy shoppers or sales clerks who are forced to work on a family oriented and supposedly non-commercial holiday.

I prefer the appeal of Cyber Monday, and the retailers who place their Black Friday deals online prior to Thanksgiving. I finished my Christmas shopping last week and never visited a store.

Still, an estimated 195 million Americans make Black Friday part of their holiday tradition. If that is what makes you happy, go for it. The problem is retailers get greedier each year. It used to be that stores opened at 6 a.m. on Friday morning. Then they moved it up to midnight. Now, it’s 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, which means that many workers will have to miss a Thanksgiving meal with their families to get to the store and prepare for the crowds (that I hope don’t arrive).

I haven’t seen a Black Friday bargain yet that would make me change my mind. All of this Black Friday talk just charges people up and makes them believe they are getting the best deal. It’s been reported in several publications this week alone (including The Wall Street Journal) that Black Friday isn’t necessarily the best time to shop, anyway. The best deals often come deeper in December, especially if holiday sales start to slump.

That is something a retailer is never going to tell you.

Is Black Friday really worth it?

November 27, 2011 – Some media sources have reported that Black Friday sales were flat, while others say they were strong.

According to USA Today, sales were at least 7% stronger than in 2010, and it was the strongest overall start to the holiday shopping season since 2007.

That’s certainly good news for retailers and the economy, but what will ever prompt someone to go to a mall at midnight or to stand in line for a store to open at 4 a.m. is beyond anything I can comprehend. I’d even read a report that a shopper pepper sprayed a bunch of other shoppers just so she could get whatever she wanted. Sadder yet, she got away with it.

I’m proud to be a Black Friday anti-shopper, and vow never to go near a mall or a chain store on that particular day. Why should I? I’m even more convinced those so-called best bargains are all hype conjured up by the retailers just to get you there, and that the best deals will still come as we inch closer to Christmas. Besides, I just don’t have the stomach for a fight to the death.

As the weekend winds down, and we settle back into the norm, I’m happy the shopping frenzy of Black Friday is history.

Tomorrow is my day. I’ve always been more of a Cyber Monday kind of a girl.

Interesting idea, but it’s not on my Christmas list

November 25, 2011 – Writer’s beware!

If you’re not spending enough time in front of your computer crafting your version of the Great American Novel, here is a little something that promises to keep you motivated.

Write or Die software claims it helps writers put the “prod” back in productivity. The Web application encourages writers who have a tendency to avoid writing to keep going and going and going. And if you don’t, prepare to suffer the consequences.

Of course, you set those consequences by entering your goals and choosing the amount of suffering to bestow upon yourself if you don’t keep up the pace. Your choices: “gentle mode”, an instant message reminder to keep going, “normal mode”, which continuously plays unpleasant sounds until you start again, or “Kamikaze mode”, for the bravest of the brave, which threatens to delete everything you’ve written if you don’t get started again immediately.

So, if you use this tool to help you keep writing, no longer will you wander off into a daydream or bothered by any distractions. However, I would rather have one good paragraph and lots of interesting daydreams that may inspire me than pages of dribble I typed just because I didn’t want to get snagged by Write or Die (sorry NaNoWriMonth, which shares the same quantity over quality concept).

Here’s a thought; if you’re not writing, perhaps it’s for a reason. Writing should be a positive experience, and if you have to feel shamed into doing it, you need to look for another passion. As clever as Write or Die might seem on the surface, it removes the fun and emotion and turns writing into a task. And that’s something I always try to avoid.

So if you’re out there shopping for the perfect present for me on this Black Friday, take a pass on this one.