Black Friday – one US import we don't need?
Fist fights over toasters, screaming fits over cut-price calculators, men waiting for three days in the cold for plasma TVs: this is the reality of Black Friday in America, the last Friday of November and the day after Thanksgiving, when every retail store in the country offers one-day-only deals to herald the start of the Christmas season.
The US phenomenon sees shoppers pitted against each other to secure the first of the holiday deals, which can often see retail items as much as half in cost.
Despite most other "black" days, like Black Monday, Black Tuesday, Black Wednesday, Black Thursday, Black Saturday, and Black Sunday, having been disasters like stock market crashes, forest fires and presidential assassinations, Black Friday is heralded by the retail industry as the day when they finally break even, or go "into the black".
However, for most actually involved on the frontline, the sense of a disaster might seem slightly more appropriate.
A recent thread on Reddit invited retail employees to share their "Black Friday Horror Stories" ahead of the coming consumerist feeding frenzy.
"Working in the electronics dept. A little old lady punched a teenage boy in the face to get the last radio he had picked up. She snatched it up and ran," posted one user.
"Might as well put a sign up that says 'riot starts here'," posted another.
Many retail stores have been pushing back their opening times further and further in an effort to gain the upper hand on their competitors, some even opening on the evening of Thanksgiving, to the horror of their employees.
So why should we care?
Well, because Black Friday could be creeping over to the UK as we speak, due to the borderless nature of online retail. Amazon this week announced that it would be offering so-called "lightning" deals throughout the week.
"Black Friday deals are here!" Amazon announced. "You shouldn't have to stand in a long line to get a great deal. We've been searching for the best Black Friday deals everywhere - including Black Friday deals other stores are planning - so we can bring them to you even earlier."
The rolling, week-long deals is probably a response to the disappointment that surrounded Amazon's attempted one-day deals in previous years, which typically saw all the deals sell out in seconds.
Not only that, but Apple has been planning a deals day of its own.
In a post on its online Apple Store, the company stated, "The one-day Apple shopping event is Friday, November 29," in typical laconic style. The deals will apparently be available both online and in-store.
One thing's for certain: other retailers in the UK will be watching these tentative rumblings very carefully. And who knows? Maybe in a couple of years we can all get in on the Black Friday scrum.
Image: Flickr (Mahat Tattva; Steve Rhodes)