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Avoid legal problems during Black Friday rush

Published On: Nov 26 2013 10:34:38 AM CST
Black Friday mass of shoppers

Jonathan Alcorn / Reuters

By attorney Paul Finizio, Special to THELAW.TV

According to a preliminary Thanksgiving weekend shopping survey from the National Retail Federation, approximately 97 million people plan to shop on Black Friday this year. This raises the common risks for shoppers and employees and generates new ones that are usually not present. This article will identify those risks and try to give some advice for both shoppers and employees so they can enjoy a safe Black Friday.

You and your family must be especially aware of the common risks a trip to the mall offers. Spills on the floor or items incorrectly stocked in high shelves are particularly dangerous during the chaos generated by this event. The increased number of shoppers not only elevates the probabilities of encountering spills on the floor and items put back insecurely in shelves, but also diminishes the probabilities that employees will spot those hazards and signal or eliminate them, because they are too busy. It will definitely pay off to pay special attention during Black Friday shopping to those potential risks, because the last thing we want is to end up in the hospital after our trip to the mall.

You and your family should be particularly aware of the risks posed by other shoppers. The stress and aggression levels during this kind of event are much higher for the average person. This can lead to arguments and confrontations caused by situations that would usually go unnoticed or given no importance. Be aware that getting bumped into or stepped on is much more likely during Black Friday because of the large number of shoppers trying to find that special item with an amazing price cut. Also, cutting in line or fighting over the last 50 percent off a widget can create high risk situations. It is important to always keep composure and avoid escalating arguments, as they can lead to assaults, batteries, or even worse. Every year, Black Friday atrocities are reported. In 2012, two individuals were tragically shot outside a Walmart in Tallahassee, Fla., on Black Friday.

All of the risks associated with large crowds are also present during Black Friday. It is important to pay close attention to children, monitoring them constantly, and not letting them wander off; it is easy for a child to get lost in the crowd. Try to emphasize the importance of this to the children, so they behave as much as possible. Also, keep an eye on the amount of people around you, especially at exits and entrances. Try to avoid massively overcrowded areas, as well as trying to enter buildings and stores right when they open. In 2008, a worker was trampled to death when shoppers rushed through the store entrance to take advantage of the holiday sales. It is a good idea to wait some time and then enter.

In addition to all the potential threats that shoppers are exposed to, employees are also exposed to some particular ones. Employees must be prepared for the long shift ahead of them during Black Friday, especially if they are scheduled for the a.m. hours. The physical toll of working for such a long period of time overnight must be considered, particularly following a day of celebration and compulsive eating. It is important to make sure that one is in good shape before getting into his or her car and driving home. The risks of driving while tired or sleepy are similar to the risks of driving under the influence. It would be advisable to have someone come pick you up, as long as it is possible, but if family members must drive, be aware that you might not be driving in optimal conditions so use extreme care. Hopefully this quick advice will help you enjoy a safe Black Friday. Happy Thanksgiving!

The author, Paul Finizio, is a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., personal injury attorney.

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