Incidents widespread on latest Black Friday

In this Nov. 25 photo, Customers shop at a Best Buy store in Burbank, Calif. “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, became known as the day merchants turn a profit or operate “in the black.”
Associated Press

By Jessica Foreman

Saving money is on the minds of most Americans these days in a recovering economy, but how far is too far when it comes to seeking Black Friday’s slashed price tags? The day-after-Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza is becoming increasingly infamous and increasingly violent as shoppers used elbows, line-cutting and this year, even pepper spray to make sure they left with the items they came for.

Even for a holiday weekend all about overconsumption, first with turkey and later with shopping, the 2011 shopping weekend ended with record numbers. With store openings as early as Thanksgiving night, this year’s Black Friday had an estimated $11.4 billion in total sales, a rise of 6.6 percent from last year, according to the retail-data consultant ShopperTrak. While ShopperTrak also reported a rise in foot traffic at shopping malls, the site said that Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend, is expected to see a growth in sales this year as well.

Cyber Monday is more reserved for those looking to avoid the long lines and claustrophobia of the holiday weekend shopping by going online for purchases. After the physical incidents of Black Friday, the virtual Cyber Monday is a safe haven. Experts are saying more consumers are warming up to the idea of shopping with a computer instead of shopping with the thousands.

In light of the past weekend, this may be a good idea.

Arguably the most widespread commotion from this year came in the form of pepper spray. A mother of three had her eye on an Xbox 360 at a Walmart in the Los Angeles area.

Once employees uncovered a crate of game systems, the woman then began shooting pepper spray to clear a path to her prize. Twenty people suffered minor injuries. The Associated Press reported Saturday that the woman later turned herself in, and authorities are discussing if battery charges may be applicable.

Michael Summers, a Baylor freshman from San Francisco went with his family to San Francisco’s Union Square for shopping on Friday. Occupy Wall Street protesters also shared Union Square with Summers, adding an interesting element to an already chaotic shopping scene.

“Black Friday was absolutely crazy, especially with the Occupy Wall Street people there,” Summers, a business major, said. “They occupied a Macy’s and they were protesting in the streets. Black Friday I wouldn’t do again because there are too many people.”

Black Friday ferocity continued all over the country with reports of fights breaking out over Victoria Secret yoga pants in Pennsylvania, Walmart’s $1.88 bath towels in several locations, and $2 waffle makers in Little Rock.

In San Leandro, Calif., a man was critically wounded after being shot for not giving up his purchases, and in Rome, N.Y., a woman was shoved down and kicked in the face over a Walmart smartphone.

However, one of the most wrenching images from Black Friday was of an elderly man laying in his own blood after being tackled by police in a Phoenix, Walmart on Thursday evening. According to Jared Newman, 54, and his 8-year-old grandson, the duo was out shopping for a video game. According to the arresting officers, Newman was attempting to shoplift.

The tearful grandson, Nick, told ABC News that his grandfather had no intention to steal.

“I only got one game and people were trying to take it away from me and [Newman] put it under his shirt so no one would take it,” Nick said.

CNN citizen iReporter David Chadd witnessed Newman being taken down by police and said it appeared he was unconscious for several minutes.

“It was like a bowling ball hitting the ground, that’s how bad it was,” Chadd told online magazine The Week.

For others, Black Friday operations ran more smoothly. The Waco Sam’s Club on E. Waco Drive opened its doors at 5 a.m. for almost 200 excited customers. Sam’s Club staff gave free breakfast for early bird shoppers and had pull tickets for electronic sale items that could be given to the cashier upon checkout. Many local retailers and restaurants reported that they experienced the same ease.

Still for others, Black Friday is something never to be experienced.

“There’s no way I’d ever go Black Friday shopping,” said El Paso senior Alex Bell, “I’d probably rather pay double online than go out then. People are crazy.”