Black Friday: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; of One of America's Favorite Unofficial Holidays
With commercials all over the web and television, everyone has heard the term Black Friday sometime in their life. Most associate it with the Christmas shopping that often occurs the day after Thanksgiving on that Friday and how the result is many stores "going into the black". However, I wanted to delve into the origins and find out just how the unofficial “holiday” started and what it means for people today. So I took not only to the books but also on a little “field trip”.
Although there are various accounts, it appears the term black Friday was first used in mid 20th century Philadelphia (c.1966) by the Police Department to describe the scores of traffic around the city on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It appears then that various stores took to the name and used it in advertising their new hours for what was appearing to be, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. During the 70’s many stores advertised as opening as early as 6am (as compared to the usual 9am opening times). However in the early 90’s, several big brand stores including JC Penny and Macy’s advertised opening times which included 5am. Since that point, the opening times of most other stores have crept backwards in an effort to match the big department stores and 4 am has become the average opening time for most stores. That is, until the last few years.
During the last few years, and much to the disgrace of many people, many stores have decided to open at midnight on Thanksgiving in order to allow more patrons to shop in less crowded environments. Surprisingly, this has become much of a family event and the malls are often most crowded at this time. I myself went this year and found myself not only having fun (I normally abhor shopping) but also in an environment that one person described “like Costco at Christmas!”. That is to say the mall was decorated, crowded, and generally fun to be in.
However, not everyone is excited about the new changes. Many groups have recently petitioned some of the stores against the new hours saying “they’re ruining Thanksgiving for their employees” and “cutting into family time”. One group even went so far as to start a petition against Target’s new policy of opening at midnight for the 2011 Black Friday. That being said, some stores are going to even more extremes, Walmart (which is a 24/7 store anyway) advertised Black Friday sales starting as early as 10:00pm on Thursday. Sears was open Thanksgiving day and even Toys R Us opened at 9 pm.
While many more traditional Americans may not like it, my little jaunt this Black Friday showed me one thing. This tradition isn't going anywhere, no matter who signs what petitions. The malls were colorful, music-filled, and cheerful and even many of the so called “disgruntled” employees didn't seem so disgruntled to me. In fact, the ones I talked to seemed pretty happy to be there. If you ask me, I think black Friday is to retail employees what Valentine’s Day is to restaurants, one of the craziest, busiest, most stressful, AND also most fun days of the year!
For more information on the history of Black Friday, please See: