Black Friday Safety
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
"Black Friday" refers to the annual day-after-Thanksgiving sale among retailers. Not to be confused with the 1869 stock market crash that occurred on a Friday, "Black Friday" gets its name from retailers who claim their largest profits of the entire year on that day.
During "Black Friday", retailers offer deep sales and discounts on hard- to-find and limited supplies of advertised consumer items, such as laptops, audio equipment, toys, and other gadgets. As such, millions of U.S. consumers plan the bulk of their shopping experience during this time -- hoping to score the latest gift or gadget at a discount.
Many large retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and Amazon - to name a few - spend hefty advertising dollars, and hire thousands of part time, temporary, and seasonal employees, to get consumers to spend money in their stores. In addition, hundreds of online coupons/ads, twitter feeds, and even websites are devoted to promoting Black Friday sales. Some stores offer discounts for the entire week, day, or even a few hours, and some open as early as midnight on Friday morning.
Black Friday Safety Risks and Responsibility of Stores to Keep Shoppers Safe
Because of a shopper's eagerness to find a bargain - especially during tough economic times - crowd management and safety is a concern for many shoppers and retailers. In 2008, a 38 year-old New York Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death after a stampede of "Black Friday" shoppers rushed into the store after eagerly waiting outside. Almost one year later, in the wake of the WalMart tragedy, OSHA issued crowd control guidelines for retailers.
Under the theory of "premises liability", store owners have a responsibility to keep their premises safe and free from known hazards that might cause injury to shoppers. Common injuries that occur on store premises include slip and fall accidents, injuries stemming from falling boxes or merchandise, and exposure to toxic chemicals, but may also include injuries due to poor planning and inadequate security.
In certain instances, a store may be legally responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on its property. Shoppers who are injured on store property may file a claim against the owner of the store for contributing to a person's harm, or for failing to keep store premises safe.
Identity theft and fraud -- especially credit/debit card fraud -- are other safety risks associated with "Black Friday" and the holiday shopping season in general. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, the number of reports about lost and stolen wallets peak in the November and December months. Steps you can take to help minimize the risk of identity theft and fraud may include clearing your wallet of social security numbers (or other documents) and being vigilant in crowded places. For more tips on avoiding identify theft, visit the FTC's website.
Cyber Black Friday/Cyber Monday
Cyber Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the online equivalents to Black Friday -- occurring on the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving respectively. According to 2009 research by comScore, consumers spent $595 million in online holiday shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and another $887 million on Cyber Monday - largely due to the large number of shoppers opting to avoid the usual shopping crowd, and instead make purchases from the comfort of their internet.
Because of the increased activity during the holiday shopping season, shoppers should adhere to the laws concerning consumer shopping and spending. Shoppers should also keep in mind that employees use of company time to shop is not a good idea, and in some cases, may lead to penalties and one's firing. In addition, under some company internet security policies, a company may be legally permitted to monitor how employees spend their time online - so employees should check with the policies of their particular company before visiting other websites.
Visit the workplace health and safety center for more information, or if you, or someone you know, have been injured while shopping, or believe you're a victim of identity theft or fraud, you may wish to speak with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in your area.
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