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Retailers First Used The Term Door-Buster Sales Decades Ago

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

OK, it's Black Friday, and you know what that means.

(SOUNDBITE OF STAMPEDING CUSTOMERS)

MONTAGNE: Stampeding customers crashing through doors, elbowing and shoving to get in on some incredible bargains.

(SOUNDBITE OF STAMPEDING CUSTOMERS)

MONTAGNE: These kinds of door-buster sales are not a recent phenomenon. It turns out crowds were lining up for deeply discounted items as far back as the 19th century. We asked linguist Ben Zimmer to look into the history of the term door-buster. He says one story traces it back to the 1890s and a Philadelphia-based department store called Wanamaker's.

BEN ZIMMER: They were selling calico for a penny a yard, so that was a big savings. And it happened to be at a time when calico dresses were very popular

MONTAGNE: Shoppers couldn't wait to get in on the deal.

ZIMMER: So there was a big crowd that rushed in to buy the calico. And in the process, the window of the door to the store got smashed. And the story goes that a store official there at Wanamaker said that bargain certainly was a door-buster.

MONTAGNE: So in the 21st century, if you want to avoid this...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I just got hit in the face with a bag.

MONTAGNE: ...Or this....

(SOUNDBITE OF STAMPEDING CUSTOMERS)

MONTAGNE: Not that I'm recommending it, but you could skip the brick-and-mortar and shop online. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.

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