Black Friday Returns With A Vengeance

Every Friday after Thanksgiving, stores demonstrate that claims of human evolution may be greatly overstated. From gunshots to smashed doors to stampedes to riots, shopping was again reduced to the lowest common denominator of humanity. The display of conspicuous (and chaotic) consumption is taking place at Walmarts as workers picket for fair wage and treatment outside.

We often discuss the liability issues around these sales in class. As part of the holiday gift-giving to personal injury lawyers, tort and criminal cases sprung up across the country with reports of injuries and attacks. Stores can be liable in such cases, which have resulted in actual fatalities. One of the leading authorities in the area of promotional liability is the Weirum v. RKO decision, holding a radio station liable for injuries caused to a third party when teenagers drove recklessly to find The Real Don Steele in his marked van. The court held that the reckless driving was a foreseeable response of teenagers to the promise of free concert tickets.

What is interesting is the the chaos and televised assaults are viewed as good for marketing — it actually draws more people into stores. The rest of us are left watching and wondering about the future of our species.

34 thoughts on “Black Friday Returns With A Vengeance”

  1. @RWL: Someone help me understand why people would wait in long lines or even outdoors to spend their next month utilities’ bills and/or car payment(s) on something…

    First, I honestly do not understand the disdain for credit cards.

    I would rather pay with a credit card than with cash, even if I were just going to pay the credit card off when the bill came in. I get assurances with a credit card I do not get with cash; if I am mugged my credit card has protections so I do not lose anything (like I would with cash); and credit cards are more convenient to use than paying cash and collecting change.

    On top of that, we routinely buy things on credit like houses and cars, A/C systems that need to be replaced and roofs that need replacing. If something is going to last a few years, it makes sense to pay for it over a few years, or even the minimum expected life of the asset. That isn’t stupid, in my view, it is money management. Although the immediate ownership benefits of a TV, wardrobe, computer system, gaming system or proper tools in the garage and kitchen may not be as apparent as the immediate ownership benefits of a house or car, they still exist.


    As for why people would wait in long lines; it is the same reason they use credit cards: Money management. Most of these people (like my sisters and mother) are buying Christmas presents for friends and family, and they brave the crowds because the the retailers have everything on sale. They are doing work (struggling through crowds, lines, noise, lack of help, confusing pricing and organization) in return for saving money.

    Chaos, in such circumstances, is a pricing signal that a really good deal is to be had. The people (like Gene and myself) that say “No Thanks” just do not think the battle is worth the savings; we would rather pay more to shop in peace.

    Black Friday is the first shopping day of Christmas. Some of these shoppers are out for a good deal for their own personal use; they have been waiting to get the most bang for their buck on something that they think will make their life better.

    Most of these shoppers are going to war out of love for their children and family. Some take that metaphor a little too literally; but the reason they are (or were) out there is that the adversity of shopping translates into saved dollars and for them, in their financial circumstances, that means a bigger Christmas.

  2. As a current employee of Walmart, I enjoy ‘black thursday’ crowds. However, I don’t like how certain walmart stores manage the influx of people. At my Walmart, customers were fighting over sheet sets, and they were arrested. People were behaving exactly like the crowds in this video, and some even forgot their children in the store, while unloading their electronics into their homes. Someone help me understand why people would wait in long lines or even outdoors to spend their next month utilities’ bills and/or car payment(s) on something that they will not use (or throw away) 24-36 months from now? The most significant aspect of the black thursday is how people are paying for these items; this could impact our economy if the majority of these peoples are using credit cards (since credit card spending has been increasing in the US…didn’t we just get out of a recession? Doesn’t anyone see a very bad omen or repeat of 2007-08: credit card spending is up, financing homes by ARMs’-adjustable rate mortgages-have been increasing, Europe is in a double dip recession, states and local governments are threatening the Obama Administration and Congress that if they don’t receive any additional financial help, then massive layoffs of public employees will begin next year?). Apparently, these black thursday shoppers don’t see what is going to happen next year…stay tuned……

  3. Pete:

    The video of the sharks, how fitting.

    Probably also a better way of cleaning a beach of a dead whale than the below…

  4. I had Thanksgiving at the home of my younger brother and sister-in-law. As always, we had a nice day together- until 4PM, when I had to leave so they could try to sleep for a few hours. They had to go to work at a well-known department store at 11:45 PM and work until 11:45 AM so that crazy people could save a few dollars buying some crap in the middle of the night. And so that the new CEO and the 2 former CEO’s on the board of directors could suck some more money out of their struggling company. My brother and his wife are among the “lucky” ones who still have jobs, although they are no longer allowed to work 40 hours a week. And my sister-in-law has to write down her daily work schedule on a calendar because her start times change so frequently.

    They are among the many victims of Black Friday, and for most of the victims, a.k.a. “Associates”, Thanksgiving night and the following day are truly “Black Friday”.

    As you have probably guessed, I don’t shop on Black Friday and urge everyone else to do the same. I am delighted to see all the comments here from people who share my disgust at this money grubbing event.

  5. OH MY GOSH SHANO! That’s the Walmart on the side of town where I USED to live, instead of the one that’s a mile away from where I live now. People don’t ACT like that in Tallahassee! This is totally weird! But it does look like it was warranted. I mean, the people slammed the guy’s car with a cart! You slam my car with a cart and I’m going to flat out kick your behind! That guy had some backup with him! OK, so it was 2 couples fighting each other, I just found out. Two people were shot, and their names have not been released. If it’s not someone I know, it’ll be someone somebody at work knows.

    I’m glad you posted this; I had no idea it had happened! (Speaking of carts hitting cars, does anyone remember Edith Bunker and the can of cling peaches?)

  6. Professor Turley says “The rest of us are left watching and wondering about the future of our species.”

    The stat I heard is 37% of consumers go shopping today, 37% !!!!

    Well that’s GOOD news!! I could have sworn more than 50% of the country were total LOONS.

  7. I hadn’t gone out of Black Friday for years until today, but I took my ill mother out to a couple of places she “just had to go”. Personally I had had enough of of it working retail in high school and college. It was bad then twenty something years ago. Now? Apparently insanity has been on the increase in this country. Black Friday is evidence that while some individuals of our species may be outstanding, in general, our species sucks. I saw several shoving matches and one outright fist fight.

    Over stuff.

    It’s a good thing I was along to act as her chauffeur, bodyguard and blocker. Way to go, humanity! I’m sure the guy who threw the money changers out of the Temple would be overjoyed at how you act while shopping to commemorate his birthday. And when I say overjoyed I mean saddened and disgusted.

    Never again.

  8. Just think the liquor industry is immune to these stupid lawsuits……. Placement….. Placement…. Placement……

    The rest of the world is left in amazement and awe…..

  9. You could not pay me to go shopping today. Okay, maybe a billion dollars but that’s about it… My daughter is in college. In a few days she is turning 20. She asked for and received several Terry Pratchett books for her Kindle. There isn’t any better gift…5 minutes on Amazon, killed no trees, and no fighting the hordes.

  10. I guess the marketing of the spectacle generates more revenue than the litigation resulting from the injuries from trampling or other incidents.

    One of the reasons I don’t like Walmart which was location of most if not all these images in the video.

    Seeing these thousands of walmartians feverously inundating their mecca to buy armfulls of junk they don’t need, it is obvious that starving people elsewhere in the world will just have to wait, “cause I have to get my Honey Boo Boo mp3 player now!”

    Making money for a business is not wrong, buying things you need is not wrong either, but at the very least show some humility in that people have less so why put salt on their wounds by abandoning all reason and going crazy over stuff that does not matter. In other words live simply so that others may simply live.

  11. I just saw several videos of protests in Greece, Spain and Italy. THOUSANDS of people in each place protesting the problems in their economy. Then I saw several videos of people in this country, rioting over each other on who gets merchandise. It was just mind boggling! Could it be something they put in the water?

  12. I avoid following lemmings if I possibly can.

    My Black Friday tradition? Stay home, take the dog for a hike. And contemplate the joy of not being sold anything..

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