Early Black Friday Reports Mixed: "Rowdy," Hopeful, Lethal

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Black Friday has been promoted in recent years from a cheerful shopping holiday to a day of reckoning and wrath, on which the nation waits breathlessly for portents of its economic fate and the first shopping-related casualties.

So far one death has been reported at a Wal-Mart on Long Island -- a temp worker was knocked down and trampled -- and cops were called to quell "rowdy" crowds in Illinois' Gurnee Mills mall.

As to sales volume, reports are mixed: Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Los Angeles have seen brisk early activity. "I am at King of Prussia mall right now at 6am and it's already packed!" reported a Pennsylvania shopping correspondent. "This year seems to beat any other in terms of the sheer numbers of people," said the manager of a Roseville, Minnesota Kohl's.

But the Wall Street Journal describes shoppers as "subdued." AP said mall shoppers in depressed Michigan are "wary" and the parking lots "far from full." In Springdale, Ohio, "Sales Not Bringing Lots Of Early Buyers," reported WLWT; an interviewee recalled lines "halfway down the side of the building" the year before. But now, he said, "there's no good deals."

Some columnists, clearly nervous, are practicing a little boosterism. CNET's Don Reisinger sounded a patriotic call to commerce: "I want to do what I can to help the economy... By buying as much as fiscal responsibility allows this year, we're not just doing businesses a favor, we're doing each other a favor -- higher business revenue leads to higher employment." Even the normally prudent Jacqulelynne Floyd of the Dallas Morning News said, "Let's don't black out 'Black Friday'... Maybe more than in other recent years, we can really use a little joy and fun this season."

Never fear, say others; the kids will save us on Cyber Monday. Wall Street did okay in a short session -- though retail stocks weren't so hot -- but it remains to be seen if today's and this weekend's sales sessions will dispel the retail gloom that's been spreading for months. If you're out there shopping, people, the best we can advise is that you watch your wallets -- in every sense. (photo ABC News/AP Marcio Jose Sanchez)


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