Today is called Black Friday or as it used to be known, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. It is not an official public holiday though many government employees and a select number of private companies do take the day off. Schools are generally out as well so a lot of kids from grade school to college have the day off. The day after Thanksgiving has been a major retail event for decades. And the term “Black Friday” likely came from such overwhelming numbers of people and vehicles filling the streets, sidewalks, and malls on this particular day.
Until fairly recently most retail stores were closed on Thanksgiving Day. Only a limited number of stores, often grocery and 24 hour restaurant or retail operations, would be open. Usually stores would open around 6:00am the next day but a few years ago some big retailers like Target started opening up at first late at night but now open at 6 pm. It has not been without controversy as workers get a limited Thanksgiving with their families. Most retailers if they are wise will pay extra for the inconvenience but they are not required to. Federal law does not mandate extra pay if you work on a holiday or on weekends. Overtime pay for most non-exempt (meaning hourly workers)is only legally required once you exceed 40 hours,
The sheer masses of people trying to get into stores or malls creates hazardous situations. People being stomped on or worse have occurred. Criminals like to take advantage of the situation to rob shoppers, stores, or break into cars. It bears remembering that if you leave anything visible in the car such as backpacks, bags, GPS devices and mobile phones that it may trigger a smash and grab. This has become quite an problem in San Francisco when tourists leave such gadgets plainly visible in their car.
Black Friday is often used to measure consumer spending for the upcoming Christmas season. Merchants use the data from the sales made to forecast what the projected seasonal earnings will be. If modest or low, it tells them the rest of the season will be lackluster unless they step up their marketing. If sales are booming, then retailers are looking forward to a prosperous Christmas season.
Of course if you want to avoid the whole Black Friday mess and have access to the internet, you can shop from the comfort of your home. Why stand outside a store for hours when you can order the very product you want, often with the same discount, when you can do it at home? That is something likely to get stronger if the present trends hold up which is why there is now a Cyber Monday.