Mary Gallardo, 22, of Tempe, Ariz. sits in her tent Tuesday while waiting for Black Friday deals outside Best Buy at Tempe Marketplace. She's been waiting since Monday night.(Photo: Michael Chow, The Arizona Republic)
PHOENIX -- The moment of truth for Black Friday shoppers comes when the doorbuster deals are firmly in hand.
moment of truth for retailers arrives minutes before when they open
their doors to massive, sometimes-unruly crowds of shoppers who have
been waiting in line for hours or even days.
Retailers planning for the kickoff of the holiday shopping season focus on security almost as much as the deals they offer.
to avoid ugly confrontations, they have beefed up security for Thursday
night and Friday and plan tactics ranging from increased police
presence to strategically placed merchandise to keep crowds under
Last year, Arizona attracted national attention on Black
Friday when a grandfather caught in a Walmart melee was knocked
unconscious by Buckeye, Ariz., police trying to control a mob of
shoppers snatching up discounted video games.
Crowd-control issues in other states also have led to injuries and, in one case, death, in the past five years.
most shoppers make it through without injury, except perhaps to their
pocketbooks, the crowds and excitement can be daunting.
"It's too rough out there," Heather Kerr said on the Facebook page for The Arizona Republic,
mentioning that she has shopped on Black Friday in the past. "I will
never do that again. It was difficult to even get from one area to
another. I feel sorry for people that feel the need to go out there for a
good deal on a gift when they could be spending the holidays with their
Many shoppers report pushing and shoving and tussles over merchandise.
places attempt to make it safe and have varying successes," Ruben
Fernandez said on the Facebook page. "Some of the big box stores are
unsafe regardless of effort. People attempt to cut and shove their ways
in when the door opens."
In 2008, a 34-year-old Walmart worker in Long Island, N.Y., was killed by a crowd pushing through the doors when the store opened for Black Friday, and several other people were hurt at the store.
That same year, two men shot and killed each other in the checkout area of a California Toys "R" Us store although that fight was apparently not over merchandise.
safety of our customers and associates is always a top priority for
us," said Delia Garcia, media director for Walmart. "We try to make it
so it is not just a free-for-all."
Walmart officials know they need to make shoppers feel secure.
wants to go into an event when they are risking injury for a video
game," said Josh Phair, a Walmart public-affairs and
The company has consulted with crowd-management experts to set up Black Friday security plans for its 4,000 stores.
key strategy will be to disperse crowds by spreading the hottest items
around the store. Instead of closing the stores on Thanksgiving and
reopening to massive crowds, the company now keeps its stores open, when
local ordinance allows, to prevent door-busting.
are much more comfortable now," Phair said. "People used to line up at
the door and elbow in. Those days for us are over."
Once inside, customers find the hot-ticket items stacked on sealed pallets. They go on sale at set times.
which have been known to cause the roughest rumbles, will be sold to
customers who line up between 10 and 11 p.m. Customers will get a ticket
for the item that guarantees the discounted price.
retailers use a variety of tactics, ranging from in-store
asset-protection workers to hiring off-duty police officers to help
Managers at malls and retailers have been meeting
this week to make last-minute preparations for Black Friday and to train
workers on how to defuse dangerous situations and avoid safety issues,
"The safety of our shoppers is our top priority,"
said Neal Kleinman, vice president of property management for Macerich.,
which owns and operates malls in the western United States.
will open at midnight Friday. Like Walmart, the properties try to
dissipate crowds and may even let people trickle in to the property
early to avoid stampedes.
Also, like Walmart, they rely heavily on an increased police presence.
work with reinforcements from our local police departments," Kleinman
said. "They can respond to situations where shoppers need assistance."
police departments make their officers available for hire for off-duty
work if they are not already scheduled to work a given shift, and Black
Friday creates a bonanza of opportunity.
The Tempe, Ariz., Police
Department has seen about double the number of requests from retailers
for officers to work Thursday, reflecting the trend for stores to open
on Thanksgiving rather than on Friday.
The off-duty officers hired
by retailers are paid for by the stores, so taxpayers are not paying
for the increased security, Tempe police Lt. Mike Horn said. The
officers work in their regular uniforms and are patched into the same
radio-dispatch system to coordinate with other officers, if needed.
spokesmen also said the increased presence at retail stores during the
holiday does not pull away resources from drunk-driving patrols, which a
different group of officers usually handle.
Ryan Randazzo, The Arizona Republic