Why Is It Called Black Friday?

Everyone knows the day after Thanksgiving is a huge day for shopping, but why is it called Black Friday?

A busy mall on Black Friday

Another Black Friday is almost upon us and you know what that means.  Throngs of anxious shoppers pushing, shoving, and trampling each other to decide who will be the lucky one who gets the deeply discounted video game, flat screen TV, or Elmo doll.

Millions of people get up early (or stay up all night) and camp out in front of stores like Best Buy, Walmart, and Target in the hopes of getting the best deal possible.

Personally I think they’re all nuts.  I’d rather pull my fingernails off with a pair of rusty pair of pliers than go to the mall during the holiday shopping insanity, so I do most of my Christmas shopping right here in front of my laptop and have everything shipped right to my door.

Of course you might love shopping and look forward to this time of year.  But have you ever wondered why it is called Black Friday?

There are actually two different explanations for the history of Black Friday so I’ll share them both with you and then you decide which you prefer.

In 1966 Philadelphia police coined the term Black Friday to describe the frequent traffic jams, disorderly conduct, and other clashes that took place between the police and the crowd of rabid shoppers.

This version of the origin of Black Friday is clearly a negative one as the police force obviously looked upon the day with dread.

The Black Friday origin story that I’ve always heard was all about accounting.

Yup accounting.

It all comes down to the accounting convention of using red ink to indicate negative numbers (in other words debt or operating loss) and black ink to indicate positive numbers which would mean a profit.

The idea is that profit margins at many retailers are so low that they actually operate at a loss for much of the year.  The shopping bonanza known as Black Friday is profitable enough to push them into the black.

Which explanation do you think is more likely?  Or do you know of another reason why it is called Black Friday?

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