Black Friday — One Weird Day in The USA

Photo: Scott Shaw/The Plain Dealer/AP

“Black Friday – When people trample others for cheap products mere hours after being thankful for what they already have.”

So goes the popular meme making the rounds on the Web this time of the year.
Black Friday is the proverbial train wreck. I’m mostly inclined against it, since holiday season isn’t about consumerism, but I don’t pretend to be outside it. I will walk the streets of Seattle with a cup of coffee in hand today, not shopping, just observing. I guess I’m more mystified by its proliferation and hype. Ugh. I don’t want to look, but somehow I can’t help but sneak-a-peek from behind my hand. The crowd-psychology of it, the mass-media manipulation, the down-right savage nature of hardcore consumerism is, in a word, weird. While I don’t completely understand it, there are some interesting photos floating around that give a snapshot of Black Friday in America. I’ll highlight them here without an abundance of adjacent analysis. They just “are”. Below: present and past.

From Digital Trends Story, "How to Win Black Friday," By Micah Abrams

If you’re planning to go out there into the madness, remember to bring a buddy, shop safely and take breaks for water. My take would be to leave the pepper spray at home – call me crazy but I value my fellow human more than the $99 flat screen. But in case you want to go in “strapped,” our friend Micah Abrams over at Digital Trends wrote a tongue-in-cheek (I think) piece on “How To Win Black Friday”

I’ve always thought this to be a truly odd day in America. I’m going back to my turkey leftovers and peace and quiet now. Enjoy your day off wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

Photo: Joseph Kaczmarek

Photo :Charlie Reidel/AP

Photo: Tony Dejak

[Additional Reporting by Ben Hardy]

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35 Responses to Black Friday — One Weird Day in The USA

  1. mark November 23, 2012 at 11:06 am #


  2. Jonathon November 23, 2012 at 11:13 am #


  3. Marlene Andrade November 23, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Wouldn’t go even if it was free! Crazy people, great pictures!

  4. Frances Ware November 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    This is so unamerican and unhuman behavior. But I can’t help feeling the retailers are to blame in part. If they are wanting to have exerptional sales on black friday, why not give every shopper an equal chance? Not just the rude and bullies or stronger ones. I like bargains same as any one else but would not dare go into a store on black friday. I an a 77 year old widow and not very strong, besides loving to treat others as I want to be treated an instructed in the word of god.

  5. Karina Lau November 23, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    This is American stupidity as its best.

  6. Bram November 24, 2012 at 2:02 am #

    For all us Europeans out here: could someone explain what a Blitz line is? Is that basically like a free-for-all shopping moshpit? Thanks for sharing Chase, America sure is fascinating :)

  7. Jan Puerta November 24, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    crisis? What crisis?

  8. faisal November 24, 2012 at 6:00 am #

    Everybody loves a deal, and Black Friday is testimony to that.

  9. Anon November 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Hi Chase,

    Interesting post but I do have to say I’m somewhat conflicted with your attitude towards Black Friday. It’s easy for a man with a lot of money to make a statement you did about the Black Friday frenzy.

    The truth is, many Americans live on the poverty line and this is the once chance in a year for them to get the items they want, and perhaps great Christmas gifts?

    100$ isn’t much for you and me, but for a Mother with two kids working full time at a minimum wage job, it’s a lot.

    • Elizabeth November 25, 2012 at 6:09 am #

      I am going to respond to this not to start an argument but to show a different side of being broke… I am a married mother of two whose husband can’t work due to a brain injury sustained when hit by a car on his bicycle…I work at a Walmart in Canada I work 4 graveyard shifts a week despite a $20,000 education for a career that didn’t quite go the way it was supposed to lol such is life sometimes, but needless to say we are low income. You would never in a million years catch me at a Black Friday mob scene or even a boxing day mob scene…cuz that’s what they are, not sales…mob scenes. Hubby and I are doing our best to raise our children to understand that “stuff” is not nearly as important as people, memories, love, support, self respect, and decency. We are teaching them to find happiness with what you have. $100 is a LOT in my world but it’s not worth it if I have to choose to behave like a crazed animal to get it. My self respect is worth far more than any dollar amount I could save on something not needed to sustain my life or my families lives. Yeah as an amateur photog I would LOVE to have a higher grade Nikon than my used D80 and the 3 lenses I have managed to acquire used to go with…but I’m not about to beat someone in order to get it, I enjoy the equipment I have now and don’t really spend a whole lot of time thinking about what I could do if I had bettter stuff…cuz I don’t believe the equipment is gonna improve my photography anymore than I think an iPhone, iPad, Xbox, bla bla bla are going to improve the lives of my children Acting like a lunatic to save $$ to get your kids the latest and greatest merely teaches them greed and that it’s ok to physically harm a person to get what you want…not values I want my kids to have. The behaviour i see on Black Friday is a choice those people make to be like that using the excuse of wanting to make their children happy…that’s CRAP!!!! You want happy kids-spend QUALITY time with them, take an interest in what they enjoy. Ask them how their day was and really listen when they tell you. Kids don’t need all the crap that the media would have us believe they do, and neither do we need the newest, flashiest, most expensive whatever…just my opinion. :-)

      • Steve November 26, 2012 at 10:26 am #

        Nicely put Elizabeth. Children learn by example. What’s the lesson here?

  10. Matt November 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    I understand people wanting a great deal & to save money . . . but, for the life of me I do not understand why on earth anyone would stand in line for hours/days to then risk being trampled and harmed when everything being sold in all the retail stores can be found online at the same exact prices, and typically even cheaper, with no sales tax.

    Seriously, do these people know there’s this thing called the internet ;) I’m not joking, I would love to ask them why they don’t just shop online.

    For instance, look at this “riot” that took place in a Walmart over smartphones:

    I would love to ask these individuals did they not realize all those phones were on sale online at the same exact cost? . . . actually let me take that back, for less then Walmart was selling them.

    For example, All the retailers were selling the Sprint & AT&T versions of the Samsung Galaxy S3 for about $50 in store (like at BestBuy). In fact, even BestBuy offered the same price online with free shipping (so you didn’t have to wait in line). But here is the kicker, no retailer offered the Verizon equivalent . . . only at full price. However, on Black Friday sold the Galaxy S3 (Verizon) for $59 frree shipping & no sales tax. Thus you could get the same deals online + better deals that local retailers would not offer themselves.

    SO why on earth would someone fight over a new smartphone in Walmart on Black Friday when they were just as cheap and better online? I honestly don’t get it, it’s insane, and sort of stupid to be frank.

    P.S. Anon, if they shopped online they would save more money . . . and the time spent waiting in line could be spent with their kids or working to earn more money, i.e. one has to factor in their gas & time spent to determine their “savings”.

  11. Scott Shaw November 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    How nice to see you showing my photo. I get your blog via email daily and love your work!

    Background: when I took the photo the man had been camping five days and it was still three days until he would get in for his stuff. It was his tenth year doing this.

    • Bram November 26, 2012 at 1:56 am #

      Amazing. Think about the money the guy could’ve made if he’d just flipped burgers at McD during those days, I bet that would negate the savings he’s craving. And no I’m not talking down, I have in fact flipped burgers myself for a couple of years when I was younger :)

  12. Michael November 26, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    I live in Germany, I could never imagine anything like that happening here.

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