Holiday shopping can be fun – and dangerous

People everywhere have begun decorating their homes with holiday decorations and lights, and radio stations have already pulled out the classic Christmas music. Pretty soon, holiday shopping will be in full swing and people will be frantically searching for sales and stuffing their shopping carts with gifts and goodies.

One of the busiest shopping days of the year is the day after Thanksgiving. This day, also known as Black Friday, is known for its big discounts and massive crowds, but along with the crowds comes some dangerous chaos.

“Black Friday is an extremely fun day for a lot of people – if you’re aware that some people aren’t out for fun,” said Fairmont Resource Officer Joe Ferrell.

Ferrell shared a story about his wife who was out shopping with friends on Black Friday a few years ago. On that day, there had been one or two male suspects walking up to women and demanding that they turn over their purse.

“My wife was sitting on a bench outside a store her friends were in at the Dayton Mall and a man came up to her and said, ‘Give me your purse and I won’t hurt you,’” Ferrell said. Ferrell’s wife saw a group of women she didn’t know and quickly confronted them like she was a part of their group to escape her dangerous situation.

Safety in numbers

Ferrell strongly emphasizes going shopping with a group of friends. “There is safety in numbers,” he said.

 One of the many holiday shopping tips offered by websites suggests not carrying a purse or wallet into a store and keeping cash and credit cards in your front pockets. “The less you take into a store the better,” Ferrell said. “If you don’t have a purse, there’s less temptation for the bad guy.”

During the holiday season, stores and malls aren’t the only places that attract criminals. “Banks are hit much more on a regular basis during the holidays,” Ferrell said. “Fifth Third Bank at the corner of Wilmington pays extra around the holidays to have an armed security guard standing in the lobby. Bad guys want the easiest option, so they won’t go into a bank with an armed guard.”     

It’s a tradition for many people, including Fairmont students, to go shopping on Black Friday with their friends and family. “I’ll get up around 5:30 a.m. or 6 a.m., eat breakfast and then go shopping,” said senior Megan Ontko.

Like Ferrell’s wife, Ontko ran into some trouble of her own one year on Black Friday. “We were walking into Target drinking Starbucks and out of nowhere a car starts backing up when I was standing right behind it,” Ontko said. “It was coming at me so fast, I freaked out, spilled my coffee and started to run away.”      

Parking lots are especially dangerous

Parking lots are a source of danger and chaos during the holiday season. “A person’s biggest chance of having a problem is going into a store or out to the car,” said Ferrell.

But people can take precautions to avoid harmful situations. “Have a cell phone with you and be aware of your surroundings,” said Ferrell. Ferrell also suggests scanning the area where you have to park and asking store security for help out to the car if need be.

But Black Friday and holiday shopping isn’t all about looking out for criminals and dangerous situations. For most, it’s a fun day with family and friends. “My family and I leave around 7 a.m. and we go to McDonald’s for breakfast and get Cinnamelts,” said freshman Damian Hughes. “Then we go to the Fairfield Mall and shop at places like Sears and Macy’s.”

Ferrell agrees that holiday shopping can be an enjoyable experience, as long as shoppers stay smart.

“If you have a funny feeling, listen to your instinct,” he said. “If it doesn’t seem right, it’s not right.”

For tips on safe holiday shopping, click here.