The Black Friday craze has made its way across the pond in recent years. But while most people see it as fun way to kick off the holiday season and make a steal, the shopping spree has occasionally turned sour. From babies being forgotten at store parking lots to shoppers macing each other, Black Friday has gone dark and bizarre plenty of times over the years.
So where did it all go wrong? To answer that question, it’s a good idea to venture back in time and remember where all the fuss comes from. The term Black Friday is believed to have originated on September 24 in 1869, when investors Jay Gould and Jay Fisk caused a crash in the American market.
A second early recording of the term comes from the 1950s. At the time, some employers used it to refer to the fact that workers pulled a sickie the day after Thanksgiving to create a four-day weekend. However, it didn’t really catch on at the time.
In the 1960s, the Philadelphia police coined the term Black Friday to describe the traffic congestion caused by the kick-off of the holiday shopping season. Hundreds of cops had to work overtime to cover the crowds that entered the city during the day. Even though retailers enjoyed the bump in profits, they disliked the negative associations the term Black Friday had and would rather people used to term Big Friday. Eventually they stopped fighting against it and fully embraced the label. That’s how the term really took off in the 1980s to mean the time when companies made a profit or went in the black.
But even so, it’s safe to say the new soubriquet hasn’t prevented the shopping frenzy from causing some awful, crazy and truly odd headlines over the years. Here are seven of the worst and weirdest examples of how people have behaved in the past.
(1) Death doesn’t stop shoppers
For one unfortunate Walmart worker the Black Friday of 2008 was to be his last. Queues had built throughout night, causing doors to be forced open to the store just before 5am. Workers tried to stop the impending crowds but to no avail. Employee Jdimytai Damour was killed in the stampede, which also injured an eight-month pregnant woman, the New York Times reported. After a short closure, customers resumed shopping in the store at 1pm. Seems like nothing prevented these shoppers from making a bargain.
(2) Towels too tempting to resist
When Reddit user Lineman72T responded to a request for the most bizarre retail stories, he recalled a time when one couple waited in line for over roughly 14 hours. Rather than selecting from the wide range of bargains available, the couple – who were first in line – filled their trolleys with towels that were priced at $2. Not electronics or toys. Towels. But really, they needn’t have gone through the bother of waiting as a supply of towels still remained at the store at the end of the day.
(3) Those that wait will reap rewards
Another Reddit user who worked at store remembered a hilarious moment when a guy had mistaken a service station for a register. The customer believed he could pay there and avoid the three-hour long line to the actual till. He couldn’t. After an argument with a service tech person, the guy realised his mistake and had to join the real queue. Here’s where the fun really starts. During the argument another person had spotted the guy waiting at service station and had lined up behind him, thinking it was a new till. Seeing the shorter line, people joined the queue that eventually ended up running around the entire store and the guy who originally caused the confusion actually ended up joining the line which he had started – after failing to find the right queue. “We almost had a riot when a manager had to tell 100 people that they weren’t in line and had just waited an hour for nothing,” the Reddit user IntentionalTexan said. “That same year we had several scuffles at points where the register line had forked into two lines. From then on we marked off a huge register path and had several employees just manage the line.” At least they learned from their mistakes.
(4) Aching to get into Asda
Flashback to November 2014. Eager shoppers waited outside an Asda branch in London to fill their trolleys with bargains. The moment the doors opened, racing purchasers tripped over each other, stamped and knocked people over in their desperate attempt to buy the most discounted products. Maybe it would have been better to stay safely tucked in bed and shop from the comfort of home.
(5) Toy shop turns deadly
Black Friday is all about making a steal. However, in 2008 the consumerism holiday turned into murder when two men shot each other at a Toys “R” Us in Palm Desert, California. The Los Angeles Times at the time reported that a witness saw two fighting women, both of whom were accompanied by men. Suddenly, the two men drew guns and shot each other. Nevertheless, Toys “R” Us later claimed that the shooting incident wasn’t Black Friday related. “Our understanding is that this act seems to have been the result of a personal dispute between the individuals involved,” the statement said. “Therefore, it would be inaccurate to associate the events of today with Black Friday.”
(6) Pepper spraying woman gets the goods
Some people will stop at nothing to make a bargain. For instance, on Black Friday in 2011 a woman pepper-sprayed ten fellow customers fighting for discounted Xbox consoles at a Californian Walmart. The woman managed to get away with her purchases and even paid before the police arrived, CNN Business recounted. Police launched an investigation into the enquiry and business later resumed as normal.
(7) Forgotten child in Black Friday frenzy
Back in 2012, a man from Massachusetts faced potential child neglect charges after leaving a two-year-old in a car at a Kmart car park. He was believed to have left the child inside the vehicle whilst he went inside the store to hunt down a 51-inch television set. Authorities found the child in the car and broke inside to get him out, later taking the child to a hospital for a check-up. Once the authorities found the child’s carer, they questioned the man – who said he’d been babysitting for his girlfriend – as he had not reported the child missing. He claimed that he had taken the child into Kmart with him.