A shopper in Los Angeles pepper-sprayed her competition for an Xbox and scuffles broke out elsewhere around the U.S. as bargain-hunters crowded stores in an earlier-than-usual start to the madness known as Black Friday.
For the first time, chains such as Target, Best Buy and Kohl's opened their doors at midnight on the most anticipated shopping day of the year. Toys R Us opened for the second straight year on Thanksgiving itself. And some shoppers arrived with sharp elbows.
Near Muskegon, Mich., a teenage girl was knocked down and stepped on several times after getting caught in the rush to a sale in the electronics department at a Walmart. She suffered minor injuries.
This video at a Wal-Mart in an unspecified location indicates that this rush was for, of all things, $2 waffle makers. It was posted to Twitter by @HurrAKAneCam19.
On Thanksgiving night, a Walmart in Los Angeles brought out a crate of discounted Xboxes, and as a crowd waited for the video game players to be unwrapped, a woman fired pepper spray at the other shoppers "in order to get an advantage," police said.
Ten people suffered cuts and bruises in the chaos, and 10 others had minor injuries from the spray, authorities said. The woman got away in the confusion, and it was not immediately clear whether she got an Xbox.
On Friday morning, police said, two women were injured and a man was charged after a fight broke out at an upstate New York Walmart. A man was arrested in a scuffle at a jewelry counter at a Walmart in Kissimmee, Fla.
Meanwhile, at the H&M in Tysons Corner...well, the video speaks for itself.
Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's biggest retailer, has taken steps in recent years to control its Black Friday crowds following the 2008 death of one of its workers in a stampede of shoppers. This year, it staggered its door-buster deals instead of offering them all at once.
Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter said Black Friday was safe at most of its nearly 4,000 U.S., but there were "a few unfortunate incidents."
The incidents were attributed to two converging Black Friday trends: Crowds are getting bigger as stores open earlier and stay open later. At the same time, cash-strapped shoppers are competing for deals on a small number of gifts that everybody wants – tablet computers, TVs and game consoles like Xbox, Nintendo 3S and Wii.
In Pearl City, Hawai'i, it seems like this scramble was over printers.
In Hurst, Texas, some people get crazy over cheap video games.
That's a shift from years past, when there was a wider range of must-have items.
"The more the people, the more the occurrences," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with market research firm The NPD Group.
A record number of shoppers are expected this weekend to take advantage of discounts of up to 70 percent. For three days starting on Black Friday, 152 million people are expected to shop, either online or in stores, an increase of about 10 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
Thanksgiving weekend, particularly Black Friday, is huge for retailers. Over the past six years, Black Friday was the biggest sales day of the year, and it is expected to keep that crown this year, though shoppers seem to be procrastinating more every year, and the fate of the holiday season is increasingly coming down to the last few days before Christmas.