The tale of ‘Black Friday’ plus 9 safety tips

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11/26/2019

Did you know the first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” was used to describe a financial crisis in the 1800s? How’s that for some Thanksgiving trivia to share with family and friends around the turkey this year? 

History of 'Black Friday'

As the story goes, the gold market crashed on Friday, September 24, 1869 when two notoriously ruthless Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, teamed up to buy as much of the nation’s gold as they possibly could, according to the History Channel. Gould and Fisk hoped it would drive up the price of gold so they could sell it for bewildering profits, but instead, the conspiracy unraveled, sending the stock market into a free-fall, bankrupting everyone from Wall Street barons to farmers. 

More recently, and more related to the modern-day “Black Friday,” is the story of the Philadelphia police in the 1950s, who used the term to describe the chaos that ensued the day after Thanksgiving when hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city prior to the big Army-Navy football game. Philly cops were forced to work extra-long shifts to deal with the additional crowds and traffic, and shoplifters, who would take advantage of the pandemonium in stores to make off with merchandise. 

By the early 1960s, the term “Black Friday” had caught on in Philly, as the city’s merchants tried desperately, but to no avail, to change it to “Big Friday” to remove any negative connotations related to the day. But it was the 1980s to the rescue! Retailers reinvented Black Friday by offering one-day sales, freebies, fun family events, etc. and since, it has morphed into a four-day event, spawning even more shopping-related holiday extravaganzas including “Cyber Monday” and “Small Business Saturday.”  

Shopping safety tips

Needless to say, present-day shoppers have more risk to manage during their retail therapy experiences, not only physically but digitally. Mat Newfield, CISO of Unisys, offers some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe while shopping, with added commentary from yours truly: 

  1. Only shop with official retailers and websites you trust. If you haven’t verified that a website is who they portray to be, even if they’re offering the top toy of the year at a whopping 75 percent off, move on to a trusted site. 
  2. Make sure the website shows the security padlock icon in the browser and that the address begins with “https://”. (Remember “s” in the addy means “secure.”) 
  3. If shopping away from home, for example, in a local coffee shop while sipping on your favorite beverage, be sure your mobile device is updated and avoid unsecure Wi-Fi networks. 
  4. Keep your phone charged at all times in case of emergencies. Consider bringing along a portable charger to avoid plugging into a random USB port you may find. 
  5. Check local authorities’ alerts. Sign up to receive updates on traffic or news of any potential disturbances with local news and/or radio stations. 
  6. Where ever you choose to shop, especially if you are going at it alone, let someone you trust know your destination plans. 
  7. As soon as you walk into a store, survey your surroundings and make sure you know the location of all exits. 
  8. Stay alert. Have fun and enjoy, but be vigilant for suspicious activity happening around you. 
  9. In an emergency, stay calm and move to the edges of crowds. Don’t allow yourself to get caught in the middle of something unsafe.