Once upon a time, Black Friday was a magical, mysterious night, a yearly tradition that landed somewhere between trick-or-treating and midnight mass. For shoppers with a mercenary bent, it offered a hint of danger, the thrill of the hunt, and the chance to save a few bucks on Christmas shopping.
Over the last few years, however, the late-night lineup to the shopping season has transformed from a playfully combative evening into a full-bore retail hellscape, a "Mad Shopper Beyond Thunderdome" free-for-all, complete with cuts, scrapes, stabbings, arrests and the occasional fatality.
Tales of retail danger notwithstanding, Black Friday doesn't seem to be going anywhere. As we head into this year's bout of retail combat, we wanted to reflect on where it came from, and recap some of the worst tales to come out of the annual shopping frenzy. With that in mind, we offer our Black Friday Pop Quiz. Think you're an expert on America's biggest retail holiday? Take a peek!
Pop Quiz: A Brief and Bizarre History of Black Friday
C. Pepper spray bomb
D. Brass knuckles
In 2010, a Florida man was arrested while waiting in line for Walmart to open its doors. Upon investigation, police discovered that he was attempting to bring a handgun, two knives, a pepper spray grenade and illegal pharmaceuticals into the store. He was not, however, packing a set of brass knuckles.
A. New York
D. Los Angeles
By the early 1960's, police officers in the City of Brotherly Love had begun referring to the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday, in honor of the heavy foot and automobile traffic that the sales brought.
A. $61.75 billion
B. $52.5 billion
C. $45.3 billion
D. $37.9 billion
A. Death by trampling
B. Death by shooting
C. A miscarriage
D. Full paralysis due to dragging
While there is no record of any Black Friday shoppers suffering from full paralysis, the holiday has had a stunning level of bizarre and brutal injuries associated with its sales. 2008 was an especially bad year: In Palm Desert, Calif., two men in a Toys R Us shot each other. On the opposite coast, a Walmart worker in Nassau County, N.Y., was trampled to death and another shopper suffered a miscarriage.
A. 4 a.m
B. 1 a.m.
D. 8 p.m. Thursday
For the last few years, retailers have been sliding up the start times for their Black Friday sales. This year, DailyFinance's Matt Brownell reports, some Walmart and Sears stores are starting their big sales at 8 p.m on Thanksgiving Day.
A. It's the darkest day for retail workers
B. It's the first big late-night shopping day of the year
C. It's the date on which retailers begin to profit
D. In Southern cities during segregation, it was the day set aside for African-American shoppers.
As early as the 1980s, a rumor began to spread that Black Friday was so named because it was the day that most retailers began to see a yearly profit -- or "get into the black." (That rumor, it should be noted, was apparently started by retailers and advertisers.)