Black Friday: Better Bring Your Pepper Spray

OK. Full disclosure. It’s unlikely that I’ll get into a queue these days for much of anything, especially for a product or service I can order via the Internet. So don’t expect to find me participating in Black Friday — the shopping equivalent in the USA that mirrors the Running of the Bulls in Pamploma, if the runners there were waving credit cards and carrying big-screen TVs.

And, thank you very much, but if I’m going to be pepper-sprayed I prefer it to happen while sitting with students and faculty at the University of California Davis or similar venue and not standing outside a Wal-Mart. Here’s from an article in the LA Times, “Wal-Mart customer in Porter Ranch pepper sprays other shoppers; 20 hurt“:

At least 20 people suffered minor injuries Thursday night inside a crowded Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch after a female customer used pepper spray on other shoppers attending a Black Friday sale.

At least seven people were examined after being hit with the pepper spray. The 10:10 p.m. incident forced employees to evacuate part of the store, police said.

“This was customer versus customer ‘shopping rage,’ ” said Los Angeles Police Lt. Abel Parga.

He said police were seeking a female suspect. Parga added that it was unclear what prompted the confrontation.

Fire officials said they were treating about 10 people with minor injuries at the store, which is on Rinaldi Street near Corbin Avenue in the San Fernando Valley.

Shawn Lenske, a Los Angeles fire spokesman, said the injuries, all minor, were due to “rapid crowd movement.”

No arrests have been made.

Oh, boy.

Still, for many, shopping on Black Friday has become as much a part of the Thanksgiving tradition as pumpkin pie. Here’s from WaPo, “New research reveals the reasons we shop on Black Friday“:

The National Retail Federation estimates 152 million people will shop between Friday and Sunday after Thanksgiving, up from the 138 million last year. That means nearly half of Americans will lose sleep, crush into stores and wait in eternal lines in order to take part in holiday shopping. But far from being mass synchronized temporary insanity, the Black Friday ritual has distinct psychological underpinnings.

Sigh. I believe my world is becoming smaller and smaller. Who wouldn’t want to “lose sleep, crush into stores and wait in eternal lines” to save a few bucks?

But what if the best deals are available not on Black Friday but later in the holiday shopping season?

Here’s from the NYT, “Friday’s Deals May Not Be the Best“:

Oren Etzioni writes articles about artificial intelligence for scholarly journals, is a renowned expert on data mining and gained fame when Microsoft paid $115 million for Farecast, an airline-ticket price predictor he founded.

Now, Professor Etzioni, who teaches computer science at the University of Washington, has directed his considerable intellect at the American ritual of shopping for bargains on Black Friday. After examining billions of prices of consumer electronics, he has decided to spend the busiest shopping day of the year scuba-diving in Bali.

Why? It is not until early December, Professor Etzioni’s research shows, that prices are likely to be the lowest for electronics, products that are among the biggest sellers on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

“The bottom line is, Black Friday is for the retailers to go from the red into the black,” he said. “It’s not really for people to get great deals on the most popular products.”

What the professor has determined with a complex computer algorithm for consumer electronics, others have found through less scientifically rigorous means for other products, including clothing and toys: despite all the ads that suggest otherwise, the lowest prices tend to come at other times of the year.

In the case of toys, stores actually offer the steepest discounts in the weeks immediately following Thanksgiving because they want to unload the inventory not swept up on Black Friday, said Dan de Grandpre, who has tracked deals for 15 years at

For those of you shopping today, remember to follow the advice of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues: “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”

And just so you don’t think that I’m sitting here in South Carolina doing nothing but munching on turkey and drinking Jameson, here’s a report and photos of Thursday’s Piggly Wiggly 10K in Hilton Head from my daughter, Jessica, on her blog: budajest.

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