GREEDY retail bosses' chase for profits reached new heights yesterday as police across Britain had to protect staff and customers caught up in a chaotic US-style "Black Friday" frenzy.
Shop workers did their best to marshal the pre-Christmas sales but faced insults and threats from some of the shoppers incited by big-name chains to stage mini-riots.
Observers likened the TV coverage to the plot of Hollywood trilogy the Hunger Games, in which working-class people are forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of the wealthy.
Left Economic Advisory Panel spokesman Andrew Fisher branded media coverage of the day as "consumerism as perverse entertainment.
"It's like the Hunger Games for shopping."
Communist Party of Britain general secretary Rob Griffiths said the firms responsible hoped to prolong the seasonal "shopping frenzy" to line their own pockets regardless of the impact on an already debt-laden public.
"It's just an attempt to try to squeeze yet more money out of people regardless of the consequences for people and their families," he said.
"Instead of it being a consumer frenzy that lasts from December from January, now it starts in November."
Police accused retail bosses behind the chaos of cutting corners on staffing after luring people in with promises of huge discounts.
Manchester Police Chief Constable Peter Fahy said the scenes were "totally predictable."
He said: "Stores did not have sufficient security staff on duty."
In an Asda store in Wembley, north-west London, scantily clad cheerleaders hired by managers to greet shoppers were swept aside by a crush of people lunging forward to grab one of a stack of wide-screen TVs.
Staff had to call in police to stores as far afield as Dundee, Glasgow, Cardiff, Leeds and London.
In Manchester disturbances were reported at seven Tesco shops, with more than 100 people staging a sit-in in one and scuffles breaking out in others.
At least three were arrested in the city in morning violence, one on suspicion of assaulting a woman in a fight over a TV that left her with a broken wrist.
The Black Friday phenomenon hails from the United States, where in past years people have been murdered in fights over cut-price goods.
It was given the name in 1960s Philadelphia by the local police department as it struggled to deal with chaos and traffic gridlock.
But amazingly, despite the frenzied scenes, analysts predicted that the British version would be of limited benefit to the firms responsible.
"All Black Friday is likely to do is bring forward business from December, reduce gross margins and undermine consumers' willingness to pay full-price again before Christmas," retail expert Nick Bubb claimed in the Financial Times.