NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Like a monster escaped from its cage, Black Friday is already rampaging through the retail village.
The "holiday" once seen as the day when retailers' books went into the black, and then as the official start of the Christmas selling season, has morphed into mobs of hungry, angry shoppers storming the gates of stores such as Wal-Mart (WMT).
The action, which once was in the ad-filled pages of newspapers dumped on lawns the day after Thanksgiving, has moved to what's left of those papers' editorial pages, and onto the TV.
To keep up the sales momentum while also keeping shoppers safe, more stores than ever this year will open on Thanksgiving itself. Because this year's holiday buying season is short, others are showing off their Black Friday pricing right now.
The likely result is that the horrors of past years will dissipate. The question is whether that will affect overall sales. Chances are it won't. People will spend what they intend to spend. They have their plans set.
No company illustrates the conflicting trends of Black Friday more than Wal-Mart.
Full disclosure: In years past I was part of the madness. If you didn't storm the gates of the store right when it opened, at 6 a.m., you'd find the best stuff picked over and the whole place looking like a tornado had just come through by 7 a.m.
This escalated into scenes uploaded to YouTube such as this, from 2011, and this, from 2012. These are the kind of scuffles that have injured shoppers.
So to avoid that, Wal-Mart says it's putting Black Friday prices on selected goods starting this Friday and opening its stores for three hours on Thanksgiving evening.
Macy's ( M), Target ( TGT), JCPenney ( JCP) and BestBuy ( BBY) will also have stores open all night on Thanksgiving.