Tales from Black Friday

November 25, 2011|The Baltimore Sun

As shoppers find the best Black Friday deals and swipe their credit cards, The Baltimore Sun shares their stories.

Deals 'better than what we thought'

Shortly after 9 a.m., drivers circled the multi-level parking lots at Towson Town Center looking for spots, shoppers lugged around bags past stores promoting discounts of up to half off and food court tables filled up with an early lunch crowd.

Macy's had opened at midnight, and about two dozen mall stores opened with the department store or as early as 3 a.m. Annie Wildasin, the mall's senior marketing manager, said one of those retailers, who she could not identify, ushered 1,200 people in the doors between midnight and 2 a.m., while another said it did three days worth of business in two hours. At 6 a.m., mall workers handed out 500 scratch-off prize cards in 15 minutes, offering chances at some big prizes, among them a Tiffany & Co. necklace and an Apple I Pad.

Marguerite Burton of Gwynn Oak had been on the hunt for bargains for hours by that time with her sister, Erin Burton, and cousin, Robin Gaskins. They started Thursday evening at Walmart, stopped at Game Stop then took a break at home to sleep for an hour. By mid-morning all three women toted bags full of clothes and shoes, some for themselves, but mostly gifts for their nieces and nephews, through Towson Town Center, where they had started at 6:45 a.m.

"I got some deals here today," Marguerite Burton said.

"Yeah, better than what we thought," added Gaskins.

A line of some 80 people was waiting when American Eagle Outfitters opened at midnight. By mid-morning shoppers browsed the racks and lined up at the register. Customers were entertained by two store employees who danced while listening to music through the headphones built into their hats and earmuffs– one of the store's specials at $12.40.

"I found what I wanted in the first store I went into," said Jackie Horton of Towson, who bought a jacket for her son and, at American Eagle, one of the headphone hats. "This is the first time I've enjoyed my (Black Friday) shopping. I'm finished and it's not even 10 o'clock."

For Macy's department stores across the country, a midnight opening was a first.

"We did not know what to expect, but we had hundreds of people come in," said Jain Trader, a vice president and store manager of Macy's in Towson Town Center. "We had great business for a couple of hours, then it died down and we replenished (the shelves) before the mall opened. We did this in response to what customers asked for. We gave them more time to shop."

The department store's earliest Black Friday customers headed first to the specials such as children's coats for $16.99, and boots, fragrances and cosmetics. Trader said the department store also did brisk business on discounted luggage.

Lorraine Mirabella

Quick stop before work

Near the Inner Harbor, employees stopped by stores to pick up bargains on the way to work.

Isaac Klein, a criminal defense lawyer in downtown Baltimore, picked up a 37-inch flat screen at Best Buy before heading to his office nearby. Klein said a friend of his was among the first in line on Thanksgiving Day at the Best Buy, which opened at midnight.

"I slept in," the lawyer said. Even so, he managed to get the TV he wanted for $200 less than the usual price.

Eileen Ambrose

Sleep in, still save

Last year, Sandy Phung and her mother hit Walmart around 4 a.m.

"It was just horrible," Phung recalled. "I got good deals … but people were pushing to get in the stores and stepping on each other."

This year, the 20-year-old cafeteria cashier slept in until 7:30 or so before heading to Best Buy near the Inner Harbor. She managed to get one of the few remaining Samsung laptops, paying $299 and saving about $500. She saved $50 more buying three pairs of shoes for her niece and nephew.

Eileen Ambrose

Monitoring the wallet

Cynthia Eley of Baltimore sat in the lobby at The Gallery at Harbor Place around 10 a.m., taking a break from a shopping trip that started at 7:30 a.m.

A phone operator for a state agency, Eley said her goal is to spend less this holiday season than a year ago, although the deals are tempting. She said she shops with cash to avoid overspending. "If I don't have the money for it, I am just not going to buy," she said.

Eileen Ambrose

What recession?

Shoppers began lining up outside the Best Buy near the Inner Harbor in Baltimore around 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving. By the time the electronics store opened at midnight, more than 350 shoppers were in a line that snaked around the corner.

"The line was eight times larger than last year," said Ron Mara, general manager of the downtown store.

Mara said shoppers were enticed by the deep discounts, such as a 55-inch Samsung for $999. Mara bought the same model last year for $1,899.

Many of them wore Ravens jerseys, he said, coming straight from the game to the store.

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