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Black Friday sales up 7% – was it worth this?

I figured that there would be stories about Black Friday melees, as shoppers camped out to be first in line as big retailers hyped up specials. I also expected a few stories of violence and frenzy. Well, first, the “good” news:

The holiday shopping season got off to a strong start on Black Friday, with retail sales up 7 percent over last year, according to the most recent survey. Now stores just have to keep buyers coming back without the promise of door-buster savings.

Buyers spent $11.4 billion at retail stores and malls, up nearly $1 billion from last year, according to a Saturday report from ShopperTrak. It was the largest amount ever spent on the day that marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season, and the biggest year-over-year increase since 2007. Chicago-based ShopperTrak gathers data from 25,000 outlets across the U.S., including individual stores and shopping centers.

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. broke its Black Friday record for shoppers, thanks to a decision to open at midnight for the first time. Around 210,000 visitors came to the mall on Friday, up from 200,000 last year, according to mall spokeswoman Bridget Jewell.

Online shopping was strong as well, with a 24.3 percent increase in online spending on Black Friday, according to IBM, which tracks sales at 500 online retailers.

The bad news — people are becoming more savage over shopping each year. CBS even referred to this as “competitive shopping.” WTF?

Woman Pepper Sprays Rival Black Friday Shoppers at Calif. Walmart

Gunfire at North Carolina mall in early morning of Black Friday

Customer Tasered in Milford, CT Walmart

Man Tazed at Florence, Alabama Wal-Mart

* Shoppers unfazed as man dies at WV Target: fellow bargain hunters reportedly walked around — and even over — the man’s body.

What kind of society engages in this? Is the 7% increase in sales really worth this madness? As litigious as this society is, I expect some of retailers to be on the receiving end of (mostly frivolous) lawsuits charging fomenting violence related to the Black Friday sales hype. I guess that’s just as all-American as our sense of greed. Here’s a BBC report on Black Friday violence:

UPDATE: More evidence of the fall of American society – #BlackFriday: people destroy a display at a TX Wal-Mart, nearly crushing a woman.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding