Blog: Have you realized just how much Black Friday has evolved over the years?

Nothing like driving around the mall parking lot for an hour looking for a spot

A Black Friday shopper wearing a face mask shops at the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, Calif., Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu) (Ringo H.W. Chiu, Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

There are people who are so excited for the holiday season to get started that they take matters into their own hands and set up their Christmas lights as soon as Halloween ends. The same can be said about shoppers lining up in the days ahead of Black Friday, looking to snag a good deal.

At least that’s how it used to be.

It was a time when things were easier. The only pandemic going on was the line of tents outside Best Buy. Far and wide across the country, department stores were bracing for mayhem. Black Friday was... kind of a holiday -- a dangerous one, if that. Even the television series South Park poked fun at the crazy holiday back in 2013.

For starters, there were no online ads coming out a month in advance to preview Black Friday deals. Kohls, Walmart, Best Buy, you name it -- all sent out paper ads just a few weeks before Black Friday. That meant as long as you didn’t throw the ads away, everyone had a fair shot at what they could expect come the day after Thanksgiving. In fact, Black Friday is so special to so many people that there’s a website dedicated to Black Friday ads dating all the way back to 2006.

The good old days of crazy Black Friday lines at your local Walmart.

Reminiscing on the good old days

I remember during my teen years the excitement I felt once my Thanksgiving feast wrapped up. I was so giddy, knowing that I would get to hang out at Twelve Oaks Mall after midnight. The anticipation of my friends’ mom coming to pick me up to head out and scour the deals was the cherry on top.

I was a night owl when it came to Black Friday shopping. There was no way I was going to wake up at six in the morning. What held me back was I wasn’t even old enough to drive, so I had to rely on my parents or my friends’ parents to get me to where I needed to go.

Now, I was never crazy enough to grab a tent and make the Best Buy sidewalks my home for a few days. Most people were out there waiting for the highly anticipated game systems, which coincidentally would always be released during the holiday season. The Xbox 360, Wii and PlayStation 3 all came out in November 2005 and 2006.

Black Friday becomes dangerous

The emergence of social media changed the game when it came to the craziness that stemmed from Black Friday. Shoppers from across the country would share videos of people wrestling over televisions, screaming and swearing at one another and, worst of all, people being trampled by the overwhelming rush of crowds.

Suddenly, Black Friday became dangerous. Between 2006 and 2018, according to The Hustle, 44 different incidents on Black Friday left 11 people dead and 109 people injured. The sad thing is, that didn’t hold anyone back from a good deal. In fact, Black Friday spending levels increased year after year between 2017 and 2020 (Source: Adobe Analytics).

Thankfully, I never experienced any of those nightmare-ish experiences. Last year, COVID gave those scary statistics a break in the action, as everyone did their holiday shopping online, which leads me to:

A new-look Black Friday

COVID has turned Cyber Monday into a darn-near thing of the past, leaving everyone to do their Black Friday shopping online. When you combine that, along with the global supply chain shortage, what Black Friday might look like this year is anybody’s guess.

All of the major department stores have been running their best Black Friday sales for the past three weeks, completely eliminating the need to wait for the day after Thanksgiving. While Black Friday shopping has always felt like a competition to some, several of the top retailers have given shoppers the advantage, but for a cost. The Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X have been in and out of stock for more than a year, and Walmart, Amazon and Best Buy have had some restocking events for the systems.

The catch is, you can only access those restocking events if you are a paying member of their subscription services. So if you don’t have Amazon Prime, Walmart Plus, or Best Buy’s “totaltech,” you won’t be able to try to get your hands on those systems. Walmart took it one step further, allowing their Plus members access to their Black Friday sales four hours prior to the general public. Grinch move, if you ask me.

This year, most retail stores will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, but they will be back up and running at various times on Black Friday. More stores will open up around 5 a.m., so you’ll have to worry about getting out of bed early instead of staying up late to do your Black Friday shopping.

I would do anything to drive around town to witness the Black Friday madness again, but something tells me it might never look the same as it used to.

It’s hard to stay socially distanced when you’re fighting someone over an air-fryer.

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