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Black Fridays of yesteryear turned Mrs. Doubtfires Into vicious animals able to make Ma Barker cringe
A piranha — the official fish of hardcore Black Friday shoppers of yesteryear.

Black Friday will find me avoiding any retailer that tries to lure holiday shoppers with $45 color TVs, $100 computers, or $10 blenders in extremely limited quantities.

Instead of battling hordes of sleep deprived and caffeine jacked up shoppers hunting down bargains I’d rather be face-to-face with a rabid mountain lion in a remote Death Valley canyon.

And given my last Black Friday experience in 1994, I’d say my chances of returning home safe are greater dealing with a starving and irked mountain lion than stressed out bargain hunters  that have been forced to huddle in a 100-foot line in mid-30s temperatures for hours so they can save the equivalent of one hour’s pay for a burger flipper on a “must have” item.

 We had gone to Walmart at some ungodly hour only to find a thousand or so other people already in line. Our plan was simple. Cynthia would head for the $45 TV and I was to seek out the latest “must have” Tickle Me Elmo creation. I drew the short straw which meant I had to grab a shopping cart.

The second the door opened the running of the bulls started as the Black Friday locust descended on strategically placed loss leaders. You either moved or got trampled. Much of that morning remains a blur except for an encounter in the toy section.

The Walmart equivalent of gridlock occurred between carts and shoppers and I was still a good 20 feet away from the Tickle Me Elmo display. Then it happened. I was hit in my back with a shopping cart. Before I could turn around I heard a guttural “move.”

To say I was irked would be a slight understatement. But when I finally turned around my annoyance turned to shock. Standing there was a 5-foot-2 gray-haired lady that had an uncanny resemblance to Mrs. Doubtfire with a death grip on the handle of the gray and blue Walmart cart. On her face was one of the nastiest looking scowls I’d ever seen.

I told her there was nowhere to go.

Then she growled the eight words that caused the mouths of two woman shoppers to our right to drop wide open, “Then get the f--- out of my way.”

One of the two women pulled her cart into a side aisle and the lady hell-bent on getting a Tickle Me Elmo muscled her way past us.

For the past 28 years I have steered clear of any store on Black Friday with the exception of a convenience store.

The mayhem created by those shoppers with reptilian tendencies that descended like piranhas on a stack of Black Friday deals strategically placed to encourage record setting 100-yard dash times into the bowels of stores has largely dissipated.

Much of it has to do with a few people so full of the the spirit of Christmas giving they would push, shove and — in the case of several stores back East such as Walmart and Target where hordes had spent the night shivering in subfreezing temperatures for a chance at grabbing a Black Friday bargain — slam others to the ground who were in their path.

Cell phone video footage of such incidents looked like something you’d see on a police officer’s body camera rushing to break up a one-sided fight where someone is whaling on an unwitting stranger.

Even the outlaws that roamed the Sierra foothills 173 years ago during the Gold Rush frenzy trying to seize the hard-gained  small flakes that miners worked often for months on end to find were more civil.

And just like the Gold Rush, most of those caught up in the frenzy ended up getting little or nothing of the elusive prize. Meanwhile, merchants taking advantage of the rush made out like bandits.

As a whole they struck is significantly bigger than the actual miners by helping fuel the frenzy with everything from staples and equipment to food.

And just like the Gold Rush, the bargain nuggets that created the Black Friday frenzy of yesteryear  proved to be elusive to the shopping hordes.

Yes, there was a sense of community in lines that started forming outside stores even while Thanksgiving turkeys were still  in freezers waiting to be thawed.

People watching small battery operated TVs with antennas, sharing coffee and cookies, or simply engaging in conversation with complete strangers while literally chilling in the  2 a.m. standing in a long line in an asphalt parking lot had a sense of community.

But it was a tradition not rooted in the spirit of the season but driven by efforts to enhance the bottom line on what is historically the busiest retail day in modern American history. Black Friday marks the zenith of the  fourth quarter where retailers are sprinting to the finish line to make — or further pad — a profitable year.

Since the Black Friday hype has been dialed down, you will notice that Walmart is still standing as is Target. Even companies such as  Best Buy that the experts wrote off as dead not once but multiple times are still kicking.

To be honest, the much heralded Black Fridays  of the last three decades of the 20th century didn’t create a good look for capitalism.

There were many that looked forward to the Black Friday of yesteryear as an outing with family or friends. That’s cool. But there were way too many instances of people who got carried away battling for items as if they were the last loaves of bread in an old Soviet Union collective grocery store.


Online options have prompted traditional retailers to spread enticing deals throughout the holiday shopping season. That in itself has reduced much of the pressure on Black Friday to generate stratospheric sales.

And while you can’t blame retailers for the behavior of out-of-control shoppers on Black Friday, they certainly don’t help things with insanely deeply discounted loss leaders.

Personally, I’d much rather watch my step keeping an eye out for scorpions in the Mojave Desert than deal with less than merry holiday shoppers brought together in cattle drive style prodded by out-of-control individuals.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at