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There’s a decent chance some of our regular readers won’t get to the newspaper until later today, having been up since midnight, camped in front of their favorite local retail store.

It is, after all, Black Friday, which in recent years has morphed from anomaly to sort of a sub-holiday event.

On the other hand, maybe a lot of folks stayed in bed, given the fact that many retailers finally figured this out— why wait until the day after Thanksgiving to offer mind-blowing deals on all sorts of goodies, when they could basically start the Black Friday process around Halloween, which is what many of them have done.

And so ends the cultural phenomenon known as Black Friday. Or, perhaps not. Shoppers will be shoppers, and they tend to go where the bargains can be found.

The first evidence we could find of a Black Friday sales event happened the day after Thanksgiving 1961, the name given by local law enforcement officials to describe crisis-level traffic.

Several states have officially declared public holidays for state government employees on the day after Thanksgiving, including Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

As one might expect in huge crowds of hyped-up shoppers, blood has been shed, and people have died. Human stampedes have killed several hopeful shoppers. A jittery women at a Porter Ranch, California, Walmart used pepper spray on her competitors, in hopes of getting an edge. A waiting shopper was shot outside a big-box store in San Leandro. The list goes on.

It’s easy to see why retail experts might want to change the Black Friday culture a bit, shift the emphasis to a longer period of good deals, rather than dangling them in front of customers for only a few hours.

Let’s face it, nothing tamps down the cheerful holiday spirit quite like a fist fight in a long line before sunrise. It’s also not so good for business, as retailers have come to understand.

It’s a bit late to offer safety tips to those fully involved in Black Friday, but the principle remains the same throughout this vigorous — retailers can only hope — holiday shopping season. Here you go:

Women shoppers, keep you purse close to your body at all times. Men, put your wallet in your inside coat pocket or the front pocket of your jeans.

Try to use only one credit card, which makes the accounting much simpler, and reduces the risk of multiple cards being compromised. Think the Target card breach in 2013.

When you reach the shopping destination, park your car in a well-lit area. Be ever-watchful when entering or leaving your vehicle. Keep your purchased items out of sight, locked in the trunk if possible.

On the way to and from shopping, be extra vigilant in traffic. This is one of the more distracted-driving periods of the year. And, as always, keep an eye out for children dashing around the store parking lot.

See, missing the Black Friday pre-dawn openings wasn’t so bad after all, was it. The sales are still going on, and will be right up to the closing bell on Christmas Eve.

And if you missed all of today’s retail excitement, there’s always Cyber Monday coming right up. The Monday after Thanksgiving has become an online gold mine. It started in 2005, and has grown exponentially. Sales next Monday may hit close to $10 billion.

Whew!

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