Three people were killed in two separate incidents at retail stores during the busiest shopping day of the year.
At 5:00am EST on Friday, a mob of customers in Valley Green, New York on Long Island broke down the doors of a Wal-Mart and trampled a 34-year-old employee to death. Four other people were injured in the incident including a pregnant woman. Witnesses stated that the doors were taken off the hinges and more than 200 people rushed the entrance.
There were more than 2,000 people waiting outside the popular suburban Wal-Mart location. Shoppers were lined up for deals on items like a 50 inch Samsung Plasma TV for $798 and a Magnavox Blu-Ray Player for $128.
On the West Coast, two teenagers opened fire and killed two people inside a Toys-R-Us in Palm Desert, California at 11:30AM PST. There are conflicting reports on the motivation for the shooting, but the local newspaper The Desert Sun reports that the two people reported dead were the two men who opened fire on each other. Witnesses told The Desert Sun that 3-4 shots were fired. Customers ran from the building in throngs. Others sought to hide out inside the store fearing that a random shooter was after customers.
The Friday after Thanksgiving has long been a symbolic day for retailers, marking the official opening of the holiday shopping season. With the recent sharp downturn in the U.S. economy, retailers are counting on a shopping surge to rescue many stores on the verge of bankruptcy. With tensions regarding finances running high, many consumers are counting on Black Friday deals to allow them to keep buying big ticket items despite tightening their financial belts in other areas.
At the Circuit City near my home on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, customers were camped out at the entrance as my husband and I drove home from Thanksgiving dinner at 6:30pm Thursday night–nearly 12 hours before the store was scheduled to open. When I drove by the store around 9:00am today, there were hundreds of people in a line surrounding the building waiting to get inside. Circuit City recently announced plans to file bankruptcy after the holiday shopping season. Circuit City was featuring deals like an HP Pavilion Laptop Computer for $399 and a Sony 30GB Hard Drive Handycam for $349.