Black Friday History

In between Halloween and Christmas there is another major holiday that is happening in U.S. We are talking about Thanksgiving, which is happening on the last Thursday of November. It is when Americans say their thank you and spend a day filled with feasting, watching football and spend the day with family. The day that follows is always a Friday and is famously known as Black Friday, which in the recent years has spread across the Atlantic and been adapted in most European countries. It is the sales bonanza of the year, when most retailers and stores have amazing deals and offers for their customers. This is also the time when most people kick off their holiday shopping and purchase their first Christmas presents. But what is the history about Black Friday and how did it get its name? The history might not be what you think..

History of Black Friday

The history of Black Friday traces all the way back to the late 19th century, but back then Black Friday was associated with financial crisis and not sales weekend that we think about today. The first time the term was used was to describe a financial crisis in 1869. It was two Wall Street financiers Jim Fish and Jay Gould who together bought so much gold hoping to drive the prices high and then sell it for profits. The gold market crashed and eventually the stock market was sent into a free-fall bankrupting everyone from Wall Street people to farmers.

Where did the name come from?

The first time Black Friday referred to a shopping day, as we know it today, was the day after Thanksgiving in 1961 in Philadelphia. Police officers in the city first used the term to the describe the following Thanksgiving Day as Black Friday. Large crowds of tourists and shoppers flooded the city in advance of the Army-Navy football game held on the following Saturday. The shoppers would create chaos, traffic jams and shoplifters would also take advantage of the busy day. The Philly cops would not be able to take the day off, they often had to work extra-long shifts to control the crowds and traffic, hence described as Black Friday. Since then, Black Friday has become the biggest shopping event of the year, when many shops cut their prices on a range of products, in order to boost profits and officially kick off the festive season.  Retailers often continue their sales throughout the weekend, concluding with offers on Cyber Monday.

Sale phrases to help you shopping on Black Friday

Shopping Hours

Opening Times: we know that opening times on Black Friday are often longer than normal, with many retailers opening their doors in the early hours of the morning. ‘Opening hours from 4.00am to 10.00pm’ is a Black Friday phrase we might hear quite a lot.

Black Friday Weekend: retailers know when they are onto a good thing. Why limit a big sales day to just a Friday if you can extend it? And because of that, Black Friday has changed the meaning of the term ‘weekend’. Normally, this applies to Saturday and Sunday, traditionally the days when workers could rest. But Black Friday weekend means Friday to Sunday, or even Friday to Monday when stores start running offers for Cyber Monday.

Finding Items

There are many similar phrases shoppers can use to find out information from sales assistants. The normal way of starting such a question is with ‘Excuse me…’

Then, ‘Do you have any…?’, ‘Do you sell…?’, ‘Where can I find…?’, ‘I’m looking for…?’ are all terms that can be used on Black Friday, but also when shopping at any time.

For example: ‘Excuse me, do you have any socks?’ or ‘Excuse me, do you sell hair bands?’. Perhaps a question will be phrased ‘Excuse me, where can I find the shampoo?’ or ‘Excuse me, I’m looking for the trouser department?’  This last one does not start with a question word, such as ‘How’, ‘What’ or ‘Where’ but should still be phrased as a question, with an upturn of pitch at the end.

Deciding Whether to Buy

Shopping on Black Friday, just like any other time, means making choices.  The first shop might not be the best place to buy something.

Have you got anything cheaper?’ is a good question when choosing a present or a non-essential purchase.  ‘Do you stock this item?’ where you cannot find what you are looking for.  ‘Do you know anywhere else I could try?’ might get some help if the shop in which we are searching does not sell the item that we want to buy.

It’s The Thing for You

So, we have decided on the item you wish to purchase, what next?  ‘Where can I pay for this item?’ will direct us to the tills. ‘Do you deliver?’ will help you decide whether you will have to carry larger items around with you. ‘Can I have a bag with that/those, please?’ for multiple or hard to carry items, although be aware that in the UK most stores are required by law to make a small charge for shopping bags. (It is a scheme to try to reduce the number of plastic bags polluting our planet.) ‘I’ll take it,’ tells the shop assistant that we are ready to make the purchase.


In the lead up to the big day, we will hear lots of advertising and retail related terms that are not just Black Friday phrases, but are used in shopping in general.

Guarantee’, a good seller’s term.  It means that there is some security provided with the purchase should it break down or fail to work.

Money back guarantee’ means that the seller guarantees to return the cost of the purchase if there is a fault with it.

Extended warranty’ means that the goods will come with a longer than legally required guarantee to try to convince you of the quality of the item you are thinking of buying. It is worth noting, as well, that in the UK, sales come with statutory guarantees, depending on the item. Anything you buy must do the job for which it is sold, and it must work properly. It should not be damaged at the time of purchase (unless advertised as such.)

Black Friday is an important time for sellers – and buyers; as well as getting some bargains, students of English can practice and learn the language with careful attention to the shopping terms and phrases that they hear in the lead-up to the day.

Article related: English in the shops.