Black Friday: Horror Stories From the Trenches
Getting that perfect gift can drive people to do rash things. And the struggle to nab that gift at a low, low price can make people go even more berserk. That’s why Black Friday — with its limited-time deals and midnight openings — remains the perfect storm.
However, the need to get the latest and greatest gadgets has gone way too far, resulting in terrible behavior toward customer service folks, stampedes that rival The Lion King (1994) and, in some cases, violence. Take a look at some of the wildest stories from the Black Friday trenches.
Customer Stuffs Lobster Down Their Pants
Sam’s Club and Costco might not seem like obvious Black Friday "go tos," but if you can get wholesale items at even deeper discounts — why not? Reddit user Nickdubs recalls working at Sam’s Club during Black Friday, and, well, things got weird.
Off-Duty Police Officer Gets Arrested
In Kinston, North Carolina, police officer Gordon Jackson found himself off duty on Black Friday in 2011. Instead of enjoying his day off, he ended up getting arrested — a real "do as I say not as I do" situation.
A Power Outage Strikes a Store During the Shopping Frenzy
Circuit City, RadioShack, Tweeter. All of these electronics stores have one thing in common: they’ve permanently gone dark. A few years ago, another popular electronics store also had some trouble keeping the lights on — though it was a temporary blackout situation, not bankruptcy.
Credit Card Systems Go Down
All retail employees have their fair share of nightmarish stories from Black Friday. Sometimes the horror stories are about rude customers with unrealistic expectations, and other times the true terror comes in the form of long hours. One year, however, the day turned stressful thanks to some technical issues.
Florida Grandma “Stepped on Again and Again”
Sure, you’ve heard of "Florida Man," but this next Black Friday shopper makes a great case for a new meme: Florida Grandmother. Her origin story dates back to Black Friday 2005 and involves BrandsMart and a disturbing mob mentality.
Customers Arrived a Little Too Early
In 2008, a Walmart shopper was tragically killed during a stampede to get inside the store at opening. To avoid lines and door rushing, a Walmart in Upland, California, remained open all night the following year. However, this tactic led to some unforeseen problems.
A Walmart Crowd Knocks Down the Doors & Stampedes Inside
If you’ve ever had a frustrating Black Friday experience — disappointment, long lines, no sleep, elbowing through crowds — you should consider yourself lucky. Sadly, Black Friday turned fatal at a Long Island Walmart in 2008. Over 2,000 eager shoppers forced open the doors five minutes before the official early opening.
Eager Shoppers Wait in Line for…Towels
Although the Black Friday frenzy is easy to mock, there’s no denying that a good deal is a good deal. And sometimes that one item you really, really need — or, more likely, really, really want — is worth the chaos, endless queues and coffee-less morning.
Angry Customer Calls 911, Another Sues
Unfortunately, retail employees who work Black Friday witness a lot of terrible behavior. Redditor eddiemarsattacks remembers that a shopper called 911 because Best Buy couldn’t price match the product she wanted. When the police showed up, they arrested her for abusing the emergency line.
A Television Falls on a Shopper
If you thought Black Friday horror stories were contained to the U.S., think again. Nowhere is safe. In 2014, police in Greater Manchester were called to several Tesco shops to help control crowds because the UK-based supermarkets lacked the necessary security to handle the swell of people.
Shopping Turns Violent at a San Leandro Walmart
It’s well known that Black Friday shoppers start their trek to shops earlier and earlier each year — or, at least, that’s how it seems. And these pre-dawn start times illustrate just how desperate folks are to claim a deal.
Furby Purchase Ends in a Fistfight
Every holiday season has an "it" toy that hits shelves — and then quickly vanishes as eager shoppers snatch it up. In 1998 and 1999, that must-have toy was the Furby, a little electronic hamster-owl-looking robot that seemingly learned things over time.
Oblivious Shopper Accidentally Snags Deals
Every holiday season, certain unavoidable things crop up in the news — like the "Baby, It’s Cold Outside" discourse or the "Is Die Hard (1988) a Christmas movie?" debate. And earlier and earlier each fall, we also become painfully aware of holiday sales and decor.
A Young Child Is Trampled by Crowds
In 2013, Black Friday shoppers at a New Boston Walmart took the deal craze to a whole new level when they disregarded the safety of a young girl. The 11-year-old child became another victim of the nightmare shopping day when stampeding customers trampled her.
Exhausted Retail Employee Gets in an Accident
After working an undoubtedly long and tiring day in 2011, a retail employee left for the evening. But her Black Friday horrors didn’t end when she clocked out. Instead, she ended up going from her night shift at Target into a 20-foot-deep canal.
Shoppers Brawl Over Beanie Babies
People’s online publication ran an article in 2018 that collected Black Friday horror stories from industry insiders. While all of the horror stories are notable, an anecdote about Beanie Babies really stood out.
A Child Has an Accident at the Register
Sometimes parents have no choice but to bring their kids along for the ride. Ashton David relayed their story on Facebook — and later to Buzzfeed — regarding a run-in they had with a child on Black Friday.
Pepper Spray Makes for “Competitive Shopping”
By its very nature, Black Friday is extreme. But in 2011 a shopper at the Walmart in Porter Ranch, California, took the event way too far. In fact, things were taken so far that Walmart employees had to call in the Los Angeles Police Department for backup.
A Shopper Gets Too Righteous About Her Purchases
Emmay Friedenson, an employee at a popular retail chain, posted about a truly frustrating Black Friday experience. During the shopping spree, the checkout line became about 200 people deep. One woman with two carts in tow tried to cut the line.
Two Shoppers Suffer Fatal Wounds in Palm Desert
When you picture Palm Springs, you probably see palm trees, poolside daiquiris and mid-century modern restaurants. It might seem like the closest things get to "wild" is Coachella-season behavior. Well, think again. In 2008, Black Friday turned fatal in nearby Palm Desert.
Employee Gets Spat On at the MAC Counter
If you’ve ever walked into a Sephora or MAC, you’ve probably experienced very effusive customer service with folks offering to show you samples or dig up just the right mascara. However, there are some things customer service reps just can’t control — including long lines.
Shoppers Ignore Fallen Man
Laser-focused Black Friday shoppers often become quite oblivious to the world around them — sometimes to the detriment of others. This was certainly the case a few years ago at a West Virginia-based Target.
Employee Receives Death Threats Over a Sweater
On Black Friday, most shoppers don’t take chances, which leads to long lines and post-Thanksgiving campouts on sidewalks. Redditor des recalled a customer who started off as an extra-cautious shopper but turned into an utter nightmare.
Retail Worker Sprayed by Nightmarish Customer
Retail workers experience some of the worst threats and attacks — both verbal and physical — of the holiday season on Black Friday. Redditor rachelb4dfe9cbb5 posted about an incident between their coworker Mira and a shopper.
Petty Customer Goes Too Far With Video Game Trade-Ins
PSA: Black Friday is about grabbing bargains, so sometimes stores can’t accommodate all of your regular needs while customer service folks are swarmed by deal-hungry crowds. Former GameStop employee spookydelight posted about a particularly frustrating Black Friday encounter on Reddit.
Victoria’s Secret Maced & Robbed
As we’ve seen, some (would-be) customers resort to aggressive and dangerous shopping tactics. Reddit user heatherb4f75e9ba5 worked at Victoria’s Secret one Black Friday and posted about an encounter with shoplifters who wanted to steal the store’s entire launch table just two hours after opening.
Pregnant Woman Gets Trampled
We’ve all heard stories of fatal stampedes, but often those panics occur in settings like riots or evacuations. However, Black Friday has strangely become associated with these dangerous charges as well — all for the sake of a discounted coffee maker or a flat-screen TV.
Customers Literally Knock Down the Doors
While working at a popular retail store, Redditor HaberDasherA experienced a terrifying door rush. A minute after midnight, their fellow employees were still setting up signs. Shoppers outside got antsy and started pushing the door and cursing.
Customer Defends Child From Black Friday Chaos
The year the Xbox 360 launched, Reddit user Ruckus55 spotted a young kid and a middle-aged woman eagerly waiting in line for a 360 bundle. The employee at the register handed the kid the last console bundle and, as the exchange happened, a grown man charged in.
Customers Brawl After a Stroller Is Flipped Over
Redditor sureiguess posted about a fight they saw on Black Friday while working at a Walmart. Reportedly, a scuffle broke out between two women. Over what, sureiguess wasn’t — well — sure. As they fought, one woman flipped over the other woman’s stroller with the baby still strapped inside it.