Thanksgiving is a time for family, a time for food — and for a growing number of Americans, a time for camping outside of a Best Buy or another store in order to save a few hundred dollars on electronic gizmos.
For many years now, Thanksgiving Day headlines across the country have highlighted tales of aggressive shoppers injuring their fellow deal seekers while trying to secure a Black Friday bargain.
This week, the Louisiana Workforce Commission is making the rounds to retailers in an attempt to keep Louisiana out of those headlines by reminding them to implement crowd management safety plans.
On Monday, LWC officials met at Best Buy, one of the most popular Black Friday destinations across the country.
The hot deal this year at Best Buy on Bluebonnet Boulevard is a 50-inch Panasonic flat screen TV for $200. Robert Garner, Best Buy operations manager, said he expects people will start lining up outside the door on Wednesday evening in anticipation of the Thursday night sale.
“Some of them will have tents,” Garner said. “They bring their Thanksgiving dinner with them.”
Garner said there will be no stampedes or dangerous trampling at their store. Customers wait in a single-file line, and some will have to wait outside until others have left in order to mitigate crowding.
All 140 employees, which include 40 seasonal workers hired just for the crazy shopping days, will be working shifts over the two-day sale. In the back room of the store, managers have diagrams of the stores with markings and stickers, resembling a coach’s playbook, indicating where customers will be directed and where each employee will be stationed.
Last year was the first year Best Buy opened on Thanksgiving Day at 6 p.m. This year, it will open an hour earlier at 5 p.m. and stay open until 1 a.m. Then it will reopen at 8 a.m. on Black Friday.
While unpopular with some workers who would rather spend the holiday at home, Corey Gaines, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration consultant with LWC, said spreading the sales across a few days and opening on Thanksgiving, rather than just offering the deals on Friday, can dilute some of the frenzy.
LWC has visited with other store managers, including some at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl’s and Sam’s Club, and plans to meet with other hot spots, including Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s.
They’re bringing each of the stores a small elf doll called Sam, the “Safety Always Matters” elf, to promote safety plans for crowds.
Gaines said while Louisiana stores haven’t seen many serious injuries related to Black Friday trampling, there have been instances of fights breaking out at some stores.
In 2008, a New York store worker was trampled to death at a Wal-Mart after its 5 a.m. opening on Black Friday. In 2011, a California woman pepper sprayed 20 shoppers at a Wal-Mart in an attempt to prevent them from grabbing an Xbox she was after.
Baton Rouge shopper Robyn Sah, who was shopping on Monday with her daughters Rylie and Skylar, said this year she’s having a Thanksgiving “brunch” so she and her sister can drive to Gulf Shores on Thursday to shop at the outlet mall.
She said sometimes the crowds are too overwhelming, and it’s hard to get into the stores, but she’s motivated by a good deal.
“The Christmas shopping is really it,” she said of her motivation. “I’m trying to get my list taken care of and make sure I’m not doing last-minute shopping while looking for a great deal. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish.”
Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.
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