It wasn't your Daddy's Black Friday. The 2012 Christmas season kicked off with wild Black Friday events from coast-to-coast that featured a bit of everything. Black Friday may never be the same again.
Mark 2012 as the year when Black Friday actually didn't begin on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Thanks to a sluggish recessionary economy and ever-increasing pressure from online retailers the doors to America's stores opened on Thanksgiving night. The news was met with jeers by holiday traditionalists and cheers by anxious shoppers seeking bargains.
Many questioned whether the Thanksgiving opening strategy would work. Editorials in newspapers across the country denounced the idea and social media commentary heavily leaned against the practice. But as night fell in cities and towns nationwide the crowds showed up.
And the news was not always pretty.
In the Los Angeles area 400 Walmart employees, union organizers and protestors attempted to disrupt Black Friday at a local Walmart. Nine people were eventually arrested.
In Tallahassee, Florida two Walmart shoppers were shot in a scuffle over a parking spot. At a Walmart parking lot on Thanksgiving night in Covington, Washington, two people were run down by a driver police suspected of being intoxicated. The 71-year-old driver was arrested on a vehicular assault charge after the incident, spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West of the Kings County Sheriff's Office said.
This was the scene in a Wisconsin Walmart in a frenzy over phones:
Despite these and other discouraging reports retailers, such as Walmart, are giddy with the early results. Walmart is claiming this is their "best Black Friday ever".
Black Friday is not only a huge selling opportunity for retailers it also poses challenging operational logistics for retailers. After all, how to you handle thousands of shoppers descending on a store at one precise moment? And how to do effectively handle and process those sales?
That was the crux of most of the complaints we have received in the past 24 hours about Black Friday. In most locations the violence and even surliness most commonly making media headlines is not the norm. But the sheer madness of rushing crowds and packed cash registers concerns most people more.
"The wait to get out of the store was worse than the line getting into the store," shared Nick Cromwell, who waited outside a Kmart store in Salt Lake City, Utah. "You never notice it in Kmart on a regular day but they really don't have that many cash registers. They had all the registers open and the lines went to the back of the store."
That sentiment was shared by shoppers from all over. At a Target in Anaheim, California shopper Anna Gomez waiting almost two hours to get out of the store. "Why don't they have these registers open? People need jobs, Target needs sales. But they only had about half the registers open and lines snaking all over the place. It took the shine off shopping there for me."
The extended hours and many different sales caused lots of confusion and frustration for many shoppers. Rebecca Smith, a stay-at-home-Mom from Reno, Nevada, selected Kmart as her Black Friday destination due to their prices on certain toys. She was frustrated to wait in a long line more than an hour with several toys that would not be priced at what she wanted to pay until the 5am sales event later the next morning. "They had the toys, I had the ad but they wouldn't give me the price. They told me I had to come back later," Rebecca said. "Black Friday is Black Friday, I didn't know they had sales at different times for different things. How silly is that?"
Feedback has been strong on social media all day long as users with smart phones posted videos, photos and commentary all day long.
As of this hour retailers are posting nothing but rosy comments about the new face of Black Friday. We expect that to change as time goes on.
What we don't expect to change is the strong opinions folks have -- both for and against -- Black Friday and what it means to Thanksgiving, workers, shoppers and Christmas shopping as a tradition.