With so many people crammed together in one space competing for the same merchandise, things tend to go crazy. The day we call Black Friday has been one of the busiest shopping days of the year since deal hunters first celebrated retailer’s favorite holiday beginning of the 20th century. But, it was not until the ‘90s when shoppers started pouring into megastores in record numbers and bringing trouble with them.
Sure, everyone loves a bargain, but there have been extreme cases in which shopper’s take their enthusiasm too far. From trampling employees to pepper spray, check out the worst Black Friday from each of the past five years.
2008: Greeter Trampled to Death and Gunfight in Toys “R” Us
The holiday season of late 2008 had one of the most tragic Black Fridays on record. In Valley Stream, NY, a Walmart employee named Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death by the sudden rush of crowds entering the store as it opened for Black Friday.
In the resulting legal settlement, Walmart created a crowd management plan for future sales, at the order of the state of New York, give $1.5 million to nonprofit groups, and set up a $400,000 victims' compensation fund.
Meanwhile, in Palm Desert, CA, two men thought it was a good idea to bring their guns Christmas shopping, along with their beloved wives and children. After meeting in the aisles of Toys “R” Us, an altercation erupted between them. They started running around the toy store and shooting at each other while terrified customers streamed out the front doors. No one was hurt but both men were arrested. The police did not release their names.
It is important to note that they were not fighting over merchandise, so technically the Toys “R” Us Black Friday sale was not at fault.
2009: Walmart Offers Laptop Computers For Under $200
In 2009, it was a quieter Black Friday, but retailers still went through a fair share of shoppers’ rage anyway.
Walmart pledged to stay open for 24 hours as part of their new crowd management plan to avoid any more trampling deaths of its employees. Despite taking extra precautions, in the Upland and Rancho Cucamonga, CA, suburbs of Los Angeles, stores had to summon local police when fights broke out in the electronics section around 3am. At the time, the retailer was offering laptops for $198 and GPS navigators for $59.
2010: Threatening Other Shoppers With Firearms
The worst incidents of 2010 were scattered all over the country. In Buffalo, NY, Keith Krantz stumbled and fell underneath a crowd of customers at the entrance of a Black Friday sale. Krantz later told the press, “At that moment I was thinking, I don't want to die here on the ground.”
At the same time, a woman in Madison, WI, decided that the best defense for a Toys “R” Us sale was a good offense. She cut in line in front of hundreds of people. When they protested, she threatened to shoot them with a concealed gun. Police could not find a weapon on her, but she was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
In Palm Beach, FL, one man shopping at Walmart really did have a gun with him. He also had a 30-round magazine of ammunition, two hunting knives, a pepper grenade, and over 100 prescription pills. When he was arrested he claimed to be a federal agent.
2011: Pepper Spray Is Not Okay
This year was another tough Black Friday for Walmart. Representatives faced at least nine separate Black Friday accidents and 24 injuries across the country.
In one incident, a 33-year-old woman used pepper spray to get an edge over other shoppers. It was just past 10pm in LA, and Walmart had recently opened its doors for the annual event. When the plastic coverings were removed from the pallets of boxes containing the Xbox video consoles she wanted, she sprayed about 20 people to skip to the head of the line. She actually paid for her items and left. She turned herself in approximately 24 hours later, possibly because they were broadcasting the security footage on the evening news.
In North Carolina and Alabama, police had to physically incapacitate a few rowdy customers. The police used pepper spray to subdue a man who was fighting at a Kinston Walmart. In Florence, AL, police used a taser instead.
Meanwhile in Northern California, at a San Leandro Walmart, one family was walking to the car with their purchases, when they were confronted by four armed robbers. When the father refused to give up their stuff, a fight broke out and they shot him. Other members of the family managed to apprehend one mugger at the scene. Two others were later arrested and charged with attempted murder and armed robbery.
2012: When Extreme Couponing Goes Wrong
By 2012, armed robberies outside of Black Friday sales had emerged as an unsettling trend. In Arundell Hill, MD, a 14-year-old was mugged by a group of men outside of Bed Bath & Beyond. But the madness continued inside the department stores as well.
Kmart/Sears had its fair share of misfortune. A San Francisco man threatened to stab someone in line at Kmart. In Springfield, Mass. a man left his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son alone in the car so he could buy a TV at Kmart. And, at a Sears in San Antonio, TX, a man pulled out a gun when another shopper threatened to punch him.
Customers are not the only ones under tons of stress around Black Friday. The day before Thanksgiving of 2012, the manager of a Dollar Store in Tennessee punched a customer named Melissa Mozzo-Mart in the face. ABC reported it was because she attempted to use too many coupons at once.
If the last five Black Fridays have shown us anything, it is to expect the unexpected on the day after Thanksgiving. This holiday shopping season, please exercise common sense and courtesy towards your fellow bargain hunters. If all else fails, wait to save at the Cyber Monday sales from the comfort of your own home. Have a safe, enjoyable Christmas and a Happy New Year.