Contrary to the familiar shopping-related history associated with “Black Friday”, the earliest mention of the term is found in relation to the financial crisis that struck the U.S. bullion market on the fateful Friday. Jim Fisk and Jay Gould, two scandalously callous investors of the Wall Street, came together to purchase as much of the country’s gold as they could, scheming to push the price through the ceiling and trade it for staggering profits. On September 24, 1869, the plan finally unfolded, crashing the stock exchange and bankrupting nearly every Wall Street investor and stakeholder.
The most talked about story behind a regular day that went down the history as the as “Black Friday” is, of course, the post-Thanksgiving shopping ritual. According to this story, retailers would evidently make a huge profit (recorded in black) on the day following Thanksgiving. The profits came as a huge respite for the store owners who finally started making good money after running high losses (recorded in red) for almost the entire year. The festival shoppers spent loads of money on on-sale merchandise. Back in the day, the store owners recorded profits in black and losses in red while writing their accounts. This story of the origin of Black Friday is inaccurate but officially endorsed history behind the habit.
However, the actual history behind Black Friday is not as bright as the store owners might have you think. In the 1950s, Philadelphia police used the phrase to imply the bedlam that resulted on the Friday after Thanksgiving, when crowds of uptown shoppers and visitors inundated the city before the prodigious Army-Navy football match organized on that Saturday each year. In view of the spectators flooding the city, the policemen weren’t able to take a leave and had to work longer shifts managing the surplus traffic and visitors. Pickpockets would also exploit the chaos in stores to flee with merchandise, making it strenuous for law enforcement officers. By 1975, Philadelphia cops and bus drivers termed it Black Friday, – the day every year following the Thanksgiving Day and ahead of the Army-Navy Game.
Come 1961 and the term had become so popular in Philadelphia that the merchants and enthusiasts in the city tried in vain to make it “Big Friday” to get rid of the pessimistic undertone. The new term didn’t catch on in the rest of the nation for a long time, and as late as the mid 1980s, it wasn’t used commonly nationwide. So, despite most of the store owners not in favor of the negative term associated with the grand shopping day, it just stuck.
Once again, during the late 1980s, the merchants decided to change Black Friday and reinvent it into something with a more positive connotation for the customers. As a result, the concept of “red to black”, mentioned earlier, was born that described the day following Thanksgiving as the time when the stores in the USA finally made a profit. In reality, stores usually made bigger profits on the Saturday prior to Christmas.
This new story of Black Friday finally stuck and very soon the darker origin of the term in Philadelphia was mostly forgotten. Ever since, the 1-day shopping bonanza has turned into a 4-day event and created other “sale holidays” such as Cyber Monday and Business weekend. The stores opened earlier than usual on that Friday so that the most enthusiastic shoppers can go there soon after their Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanksgiving is celebrated on Thursday and many people regard the following day as the start of the holiday shopping season. While it is not a national holiday, many states declare the Friday following Thanksgiving as a local holiday, allowing many schools and state employees to take the day off. As a result, there is an increase in the number of shoppers. In fact, following 2005, Black Friday is seen as the most active shopping day of the entire year. With stores throwing new deals and extending their hours every year, the shoppers and commotion can’t be kept down. Here are a few stories related to the Black Friday:
Shoppers get aggressive
A flipside of Black Friday is that although the sales are huge and draw shoppers in abundance, the crowd turns aggressive sometimes, with all of them demanding the same offers. There has been news of customers getting bruised and hurt while trying to grab a piece before stocks run out. Some reports of shooting and assaults have also surfaced. Arguments erupting over a parking space are a common sight on Black Friday. Incidents like a shopper spraying pepper spray on fellow customers and a person getting shot while leaving after Black Friday shopping have made it to the headlines.
Cyber Monday, referring to the Monday following Black Friday, became a common term in 2005. The expression came into being considering the trend seen during the previous two years. Many store owners realized that a lot of customers who were too busy to buy during the Thanksgiving weekend used the following Monday to purchase online. The new shopping options and additions such as Black Thursday and Cyber Monday would perhaps ease the crowd on Black Friday and make them feel less aggressive for a certain deal. As a result, the violent behavior during holiday shopping might cease to exist.
For many years, stores would throw open their doors as early as 6:00 in the morning on Black Friday. During the late 2000s, many retailers started opening their gates at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m., extending shopping hours and, consequently, profits. In the following years, some stores began opening at midnight while others welcomed shoppers at 8:00 p.m. and even 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day itself. The explanation for increasing the hours is clear. Chief retailers made billions of dollars on Black Friday.
All said and done, irrespective of its notorious origin and infamous incidents, Black Friday continues to exist as a highly profitable day for shop owners. For the shoppers, it’s a great start to the holiday season!