The day after Thanksgiving, which was yesterday is known as Black Friday, and it is the biggest sales in all of America. On this day, Millions battle for bargains as the biggest shopping day of the year has got off to a flying start despite bad weather, giant crowds and fights in the supermarket aisles.
The first giant scrum started at a Walmart where families elbowed each other to get their hands on a pair of $5 headphones, while paramedics rushed to help a Dick’s store cashier who passed out.
With sales on Black Friday expected to soar by 3.8 per cent this year to a staggering $11.4 billion, thousands of shoppers queued around blocks before stores opened. As many as 11,000 lined around Macy’s flagship store in New York City’s Herald Square before it threw open its doors.
And immediately, the chaos began.
In the most shocking outburst of violence, a man and woman were shot after a confrontation outside a Walmart of Apalachee Parkway in Tallahassee, Florida just before 1pm.
Police have not released details about what led to the shooting, but both victims have non life-threatening injuries.
Trouble also escalated at a San Antonio mall after a shopper allegedly pulled a gun on another man who had tried to cut to the front of the line at a Sears, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
The man had rushed into the store when it opened Thursday night to get to the front of a line and started arguing with people as he tried cutting in front of them.
A man who was punched in the face during the scuffle pulled a gun and shoppers scattered. But the man had a gun permit and has not been charged with a crime.
One potential source of chaos was a series of protests planned by Walmart employees, but the proposed strike seems to have been a bust, with no more than a few dozen workers taking part.
In one Walmart, fights were underway within minutes of opening – as captured on a video posted to YouTube by a father who brought his two children along to the sales.
The youngsters are filmed sitting in a shopping trolley as the person with the camera asks them if they’re ‘here for the craziness’ adding that they are about to watch people fight over a $5 deal for a pair of headphones.
A large crowd are standing in a circle around the box of headphones waiting for the go-ahead from the Walmart staff.
The cameraman, posting on YouTube as David Quigley, struggles to keep his camera steady as the deal drops and the crowd goes wild, throwing themselves over the box.
Men, women and children are seen mercilessly elbowing each other as they shove to grab a pair.
There was also drama elsewhere. One shopper from Juneau, Alaska tweeted a picture of a woman being carried from a Dick’s store on a stretcher as crowds focused on the shelves.
‘Cashier passed out at Dick’s,’ Stevie Hendrix tweeted. ‘Black Friday was too much… No one cared, it was kind of sad, they just wanted their stuff.’
In Woodland Mall in Kentwood, Michigan, two teenagers were arrested after a brawl broke out between 15 men outside a JC Penney at 1.30am. Witnesses said pepper spray was used.
At a Walmart in Altamonte Springs, Florida, 28-year-old Samantha Chavez was arrested after being disruptive in the traffic line, and allegedly bullying the officer directing vehicles.
Once inside the store, she allegedly threw merchandise on the floor.
Witnesses, who caught the arrest on video, claimed she only made a scene after losing her sister in the store and becoming scared, CFNews13 reported.
Police also responded to reports of shooting at 1am in In Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska, where nine people were killed five years ago.
Authorities later learned that while a fight had broken out, witnesses had heard trash cans being knocked over, rather than gunshots. There were no arrests.
An hour later at nearby Oak View Mall, police got into a scuffle with a shoplifter who allegedly tried to spray mace at store security guards.
Another video from Black Friday shows hundreds of girls and women storming the entrance of a Victoria’s Secret Pink store at Oak Park Mall, Kansas as it opened at midnight.
And as crowds swarmed the parking lot of a Covington, Washington Walmart, two people were ploughed down by a driver police believe was drunk.
A woman was pinned beneath the car, driven by a 71-year-old, and flown to hospital, where she was listed in serious condition. A man was also hit but is in good condition.
In another incident in Springfield, Massachusetts, Anthony Perry, 34, was arrested after he allegedly left his girlfriend’s two-year-old in his car so he could by a 51 inch television from Kmart.
Security notified police about the boy sleeping in the Nissan Venza, broke into the vehicle and took him to hospital for a check up.
Police found Perry at his home in Springfield with his new television, but do not know how he got there without his car. He claimed the youngster was in the store with him and became lost but will be charged for reckless endangerment of a child.
In a parking lot in Maryland, a 14-year-old boy was robbed of his Thanksgiving night purchases by five men outside a Bed, Bath and Beyond.
The shopping frenzy got off to its earliest ever start as the nation’s customers put down their turkey and headed straight to the malls, with some stores opening as early as 6am on Thanksgiving.
Shops typically open in the small hours of the morning on the day after the national holiday – named Black Friday because it is traditionally when they turn a profit for the year.
But openings have crept earlier and earlier over the past few years and this year, stores such as Target and Toys R Us opened on Thanksgiving evening, while retailers from Macy’s to Best Buy opened their doors at midnight on Black Friday.
Despite the YouTube videos, many shoppers claimed the crowds were largely peaceful, avoiding the riots seen in previous years.
Many stores had an unusually heavy police presence, and there were some reports of scuffles between customers in packed-out shopping aisles.
And amid the shopping frenzy, two customers – a husband and a wife – were hit by a car in the parking lot of a Walmart on the edge of Seattle on Thursday evening, with the wife being airlifted to hospital after the accident which saw her pinned under the vehicle.
Stores from Target to Toys R Us opened their doors on Thanksgiving evening, hoping Americans will be willing to shop soon after they finish their pumpkin pie.
Target opened its doors at 9pm on the holiday, three hours earlier than last year. Sears, which didn’t open on Thanksgiving last year, opened at 8pm on Thursday through 10pm on Black Friday.
Toys R Us opened at 8pm, an hour earlier than last year. And others such as Macy’s are opening at midnight on Black Friday.
When Macy’s flagship Herald Square store in New York opened its doors at midnight, about 11,000 shoppers showed up.
Overall, about 17 percent of shoppers plan to take advantage of Thanksgiving hours, according to a International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers.
It is estimated that sales on Black Friday will be up 3.8 percent on last year, to a total of $11.4billion.
Michael Prothero, 19, and Kenny Fullenlove, 20, were even willing to miss Thanksgiving dinner altogether for deals. They started camping out on Monday night outside a Best Buy store in Toledo, Ohio, which was slated to open at midnight.
The friends, who were waiting to get 40-inch televisions, videogames and a tablet computer, came early to make sure they got the deals advertised by Best Buy, even though the next person in line didn’t arrive until almost 24 hours later.
‘Better safe than sorry,’ Prothero said.
‘I ate my turkey dinner and came right here,’ said Rasheed Ali, a 23-year-old student in New York City who bought a 50-inch Westinghouse TV for $349 and a Singer sewing machine for $50. ‘Then I’m going home and eating more.’
Retailers are trying everything they can to lure consumers into stores by making shopping as easy as possible.
In addition to expanding their hours into Thanksgiving, many are offering free layaways and shipping, matching the cheaper prices of online rivals and updating their mobile shopping apps with more information.’Every retailer wants to beat everyone else,’ said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, a research firm based in Charleston, South Carolina. ‘Shoppers love it.’
There were 11 shoppers in a four-tent encampment outside a Best Buy store near Ann Arbor, Michigan. The purpose of their wait? A $179 40-inch Toshiba LCD television is worth missing Thanksgiving dinner at home.
Jackie Berg, 26, of Ann Arbor, arrived first with her stepson and a friend Wednesday afternoon, seeking three of the televisions. The deal makes the TVs $240 less than their normal price, so Berg says that she’ll save more than $700.
It’s her first time camping out for the specials, and she’s not sure she will do it again. Relatives will bring her some holiday dinner, but she’ll miss eating her dad’s stuffing right as he cooks it.
‘We’ll miss the actual being there with family, but we’ll have the rest of the weekend for that,’ she said.
Anticipation: 11,000 people were thought to have lined up outside Macy’s in New York
Carey Maguire, 33, and her sister Caitlyn Maguire, 21, showed up at Target in East Harlem neighborhood of New York City at 7pm.
Their goal was to buy several Nooks, which were on sale for $49. But while waiting in line they were also using their iPhone to do some online buying at rival stores.
‘If you’re going to spend, I want to make it worth it,’ said Caitlyn Maguire, a college student, who spent a total of $175 on Amazon, Best Buy and Radio Shack during her two-hour wait.
With 41million people predicted to have shopped on what has been dubbed ‘Gray Thursday’, police responded to fights and threats between bargain-hungry customers, some of whom have camped outside stores for days.
The spats added to the discontent surrounding the stores, with employees frustrated about working on Thanksgiving, and Walmart workers threatening to protest over their pay, schedules and benefits.
Outside a Kmart in Indianapolis, which opened at 6am on Thursday, officers responded to a brawl between shoppers as some attempted to sell vouchers the store had handed out for limited items.
‘Everybody started going crazy about it, and then the cops got called in and it just became a madhouse,’ one shopper told News 8.
And at a Kmart on Stockton Boulevard in South Sacremento, one shopper threatened to stab people while waiting in line for K-Mart’s doors to open and told people he ‘wasn’t joking’.
Police arrived at the scene shortly after the threat – made after shop staff came outside to hand out ‘doorbuster deal’ vouchers to the first in the line – to help control the crowds.
In a bid to minimize trouble, the Los Angeles Police Department deployed helicopters over some malls, while a cavalry of police officers on bikes and horses monitored from streets below.
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