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Fun on Friday: Why Is It Called Black Friday?

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Well, it’s another Black Friday and I didn’t go shopping.

That’s my tradition.

I know a lot of people who have Black Friday traditions. My grandmother always got up and went out at the crack of dawn with one of her friends. I know some people who like to get up at like 3 a.m., eat breakfast at Waffle House, and then hit the stores.

No thanks.

I have never gotten up to join the Black Friday hordes. There isn’t a Walmart deal ever conceived that can entice me to go shopping at 5 a.m. I like to sleep more than I like saving a few bucks.

My Black Friday tradition is to stay in my house as far away as possible from the mall and the mass of angry shoppers.  I have zero desire go out at the butt-crack of dawn, fight traffic, elbow through a smelly mass of humanity to get into a retail store, risk a fistfight over the last discounted laptop on the shelf, stand in a long line to pay for said discounted laptop, fight traffic some more and then go home exhausted only to find out my el-cheapo laptop broke in the melee.

No. Thank. You.

Too peoplely!

I bet a lot of people will adopt my tradition in the year of coronavirus. I’m sure many people will be nervous about the crowds and others just won’t want to deal with the mask hassle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about stopping someplace and then said, “Naw. I don’t feel like putting on a mask.” I can’t be alone in this sentiment.

Anyway, while we’re on the subject, do you know why they call it Black Friday?

Because it’s an awful day, that’s why!

Now, you’re probably thinking I’m just being a bah-humbug Scrooge saying that. But no – it’s true.

You have probably heard that the name derived from the fact that the busiest shopping day of the year gets retailers out of “the red” and into “the black” financially for the first time during the year. But this is pretty much propaganda put out by the retail industry because they don’t want negative connotations attached to one of the most important days of the year.

The first reference to this financial explanation for Black Friday was in the Philadelphia Enquirer in 1981. (According to Wikipedia, which we all know is never wrong. Plus there is a footnote. I didn’t read it. But a footnote means it’s a real fact.)

But the earliest known use of “Black Friday” predates the Enquirer article by three decades. The term was used in the journal, Factory Management and Maintenance in 1951, referring to workers calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving. At about the same time, cops in Philadelphia started using Black Friday and Black Saturday to describe the crowds and traffic congestion as the Christmas shopping season kicked off the weekend after Thanksgiving.  In 1961, a public relations expert recommended rebranding the days, “Big Friday” and “Big Saturday.” That went nowhere. The New York Times started using Black Friday to describe the busiest shopping and traffic day in 1975. You’ll notice traffic is a recurring theme here.

So, there ya go. It’s Black Friday because it’s an awful day.

Here’s an interesting sidenote: Black Friday isn’t the busiest shopping day of the year. According to USA Today, since 2014, Black Friday has yielded its mantle as the busiest shopping day of the year to ”Super Saturday,” the last Saturday before Christmas.

Well, anyway, enjoy Black Friday in whatever manner you choose. If you do go out, we’ll remember you as you were. Also, be considerate of your fellow shoppers. Say you’re sorry as you shove people out of the way. And make sure you turn your phone horizontal before you video any Black Friday fist-fights!

Fun on Friday is a weekly SchiffGold feature. We dig up some of the off-the-wall and off-beat stories relating to precious metals and share them with you – with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Click here to read other posts in this series.

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Photo by Powhusku


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About The Author

Michael Maharrey is the managing editor of the SchiffGold blog, and the host of the Friday Gold Wrap Podcast and It's Your Dime interview series.
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