Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 24, 2012

Big crowds hunt big bargains locally

Black Friday shopping starts early Thursday for many

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

— Allexander Barrick warmed his hands in front of a portable heater Thursday night as he entered hour 45 of his camp-out in front of Best Buy.

He, Eric and Teresa McMillan sat in lawn chairs next to their tent. Store advertisements, empty fountain drinks and pizza boxes littered the ground around them.

The trio were first in line for the store’s Black Friday sale, which began at midnight.

They pitched their tent in front of the store at 8 p.m. Tuesday to secure their place at the front.

It didn’t bother them that they missed Thanksgiving to do it.

“We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving,” Teresa McMillan said. “We celebrate Black Friday.”

Just four hours before the store’s midnight opening, though, few people waited in line for deals.

The people who normally crowd the line for Best Buy were busy shopping at stores that started Black Friday much earlier, Teresa McMillan said.

While shoppers still packed area stores Friday morning, many started searching for the holiday’s best deals early Thursday.

Michael Hood’s holiday shopping began at 3 a.m. on Thanksgiving. He said he wanted to be near the front of the line when Kmart opened at 6 a.m.

He and his wife squeezed in Thanksgiving dinner between shopping trips. Hood said he had about an hour to eat and catch up with family members before he had to take off again.

“I hate it,” he said.

He said there really isn’t much of a Thanksgiving anymore with stores opening so early, but he has to follow the deals.

That led him to Target Thursday afternoon.

He got there at 2:05 p.m. and was third in line. Hood was after one of the store’s hot items. He wouldn’t say exactly what, though. It was a gift for a family member, and he wanted it to remain a surprise.

It was worth the nearly seven-hour wait, he said.

Felicia DeWitt stood in line behind Hood. She arrived at Target at about 2:15 p.m., even though she had no real reason to be there.

“I came here on a dare,” she said. “My daughter said I wouldn’t do it.”

Yet there she was, taking her photo in front of the Target sign for proof. She didn’t really need anything from the store, she said. But she’d probably buy something anyway – maybe a DVD for the television she bought Wednesday, she added.

DeWitt was just having fun socializing with the people in line around her, she said. And she knew it would be even more fun once she got inside, she said.

“Once you get in there, it’s like run everywhere, get everything,” she said.

Hood agreed that the shopping was an adrenaline rush he’s come to enjoy.

He said his wife got him involved three years ago.

“Now I’m addicted,” he said.

Hood’s wife wasn’t having as much fun Thursday.

While Hood was waiting at Target, she was fighting the crowds at Walmart for Christmas gifts for their children.

She got knocked to the ground as she went after an item, Hood said. She got what she wanted in the end, though.

“It’s crazy,” Hood said. “I told her not to go there. She insisted.”

Walmart’s entire parking lot was full by 8 p.m., and people were parking across the street at Indiana Wesleyan University’s Kokomo campus.

It was just as busy at Target. A few minutes before the store opened at 9 p.m., Hood looked back at the line.

“I’m glad I got here when I did,” he said.

The line snaked all the way around the building. There were 683 people waiting, and more were joining them.

When the doors finally opened, it took 22 minutes for the whole crowd to make it inside.

According to data gathered by the National Retail Federation, about 147 million people planned to shop at stores across the United States this weekend.

Eric McMillen said it’s one of the biggest weekends of the year, and he wouldn’t miss it for anything.

“I go even if I’m not buying anything,” McMillen said. “It’s a social event.”

His group planned to buy televisions, Blu-Ray players, tablets and laptops this year.

Teresa McMillen said it’s nice knowing they won’t miss out on the big-ticket items since they’re first in line.

“You know you’re getting the best deal,” she said. “You look back at all the other people in line and think, ‘Too bad. So sad.’”