Black Friday shopping deals start early in Salisbury
By Hugh Fisher
SALISBURY - Salisbury Walmart, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: Twenty years ago, America would have been sitting down to dinner at this hour, or maybe watching some football.
Now, millions use that time to shop for early Christmas deals.
And it's turning into a family tradition, just as parades and football-watching have.
"What d'you want for Christmas?" Kelly Daniels asked her son, Peyton, age 4.
In a polite, non-demanding voice, almost as if he's singing, Peyton replies: "I want some toyyyys, now!"
He and Jaden, his brother, 21 months old, are along with Mom and grandmother Tamyra Guthrie for the start of Walmart's Black Friday sales.
An hour before the first wave of specials started at 8 p.m., the local store's parking lot was filling up.
The Salisbury store was one of several retailers that either opened early Thanksgiving evening, or at midnight, with special deals for early-bird customers.
For Salisbury Walmart Manager Gary Sixkiller, the evening's event is a grand production that he said took two days to prepare.
"We never close," Sixkiller said. "I mean, we close Christmas Eve so our associates can have Christmas Day off."
But all of the getting ready for Black Friday had to take place with customers in the store.
Sixkiller said he had no way of estimating how many customers would be in the store overnight.
"We only can gauge by how many sales rings we have," he said, and even then, he didn't want to speculate.
But Sixkiller had a good idea of what people were going to want.
"Obviously, electronics are going to be the bigger sellers, the video games," Sixkiller said.
"And believe it or not, the towels that we have in the ad are going to be big sellers," he said.
For Black Friday, shoppers got a special sale paper as they came in the door, showing the items that would go on sale at 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Friday.
He said that Black Friday is "the one time of year where you do your best service to the community," both in terms of prices and quantity of sale items.
About 300 staff members were in the store for the sale.
A number of them, Sixkiller said, will get overtime pay.
7:20 p.m.: A display of coffee makers sits at the end of an aisle.
A cluster of shoppers surround the Mr. Coffee products.
"There's only 24 of them," said Heather Pierce, of Salisbury, standing with her mother, Sharon Morris.
"And they're only $9.44," said Casey Smith, of Norwood. "They're usually, I'd say, $24."
"This gets my adrenaline pumping," Sharon Morris said.
There's no pushing or shoving. Everyone's smiling.
But if there weren't enough coffee makers to go around, the situation might be different.
"Coffee people are serious," Pierce said.
Smith said she's also looking for some other household goods.
"Paula Deen pans, vacuum cleaner, a Crock Pot," she said.
Meanwhile, in the back of the store near the automotive section, another pallet of Mr. Coffees waited for the second wave of customers.
7:27 p.m.: "My mom wants a copy of 'Robin Hood,' " said Tammy Thompson, of China Grove.
Inside a cardboard display, wrapped in plastic film, was a copy on Blu-Ray for $7.96.
"Normally these will run you from $13 to $25. No lower than $10, typically," she said.
Her sister, she said, was in the kitchenware section. "She's getting a griddle."
Unlike many of the hundreds of shoppers in the store, she isn't there for fun.
"With the economy being the way it is, I think Black Friday becomes more of a necessity," Thompson said.
"It's not not about getting a deal, it's about being able to provide Christmas for your loved ones," Thompson said.
Nearby, copies of parts I and II of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" are available for $1.96 each.
7:35 p.m.: Scattered strategically throughout the store, about 10 Salisbury Police officers are working with store loss prevention.
As the lines build, especially around some of the bigger deals - flat-screen TVs, video game systems and such - they are keeping a watchful eye on things.
"We're more of a preventative measure," said Officer B.M. Hodgson, Salisbury Police.
"The more people see of us, the less likely they are to cause trouble."
Around the corner, at the head of the line for video games, are Cass Mattingly and John Beinkampen.
Black Thursday-and-Friday sales come at the right time for them.
Their mission: Buy a copy of "Assassin's Creed 3," marked down to $38.96 from its regular price of $59.
"It's (Beinkampen's) birthday," Mattingly said. "I'm getting it for him."
Mattingly said he and his sister have made Black Friday shopping a tradition.
"It's the deals and getting to be around everyone," he said. "Usually there's camaraderie in the line."
"Until the sale starts," he adds. "And then it usually stops."
From across the aisle, Erica Vedeikis, of Salisbury, overheard their talk about "Assassin's Creed 3."
She tells them she bought it online that day for the same price.
"Man, I don't want to hear that!" Mattingly said. "I'm already here."
Standing beside a stack of ottomans, Vedeikis said she's not shopping for herself.
"I'm helping my sister out," she said.
Her sis was over at the movies, and their father was in line for a laptop.
She said she's doing most of her shopping online, taking advantage of prices similar to Wal-Mart's and free shipping offers.
"At this point in time, it's the deals," Vedeikis said. "You know, when some of the prices are there … if you're shopping for a lot of people, you have to do it, to be able to get what everybody wants."
7:53 p.m.: Shonya Ridenhour is in line for a video game system - Nintendo DSi, to be exact.
They're marked down to $99.99.
"It usually goes for $150, $160, something like that," Ridenhour said.
Actually, Walmart's sale paper said they're usually $129.
It's for her 6-year-old son, she said.
Her niece, Marissa Johnstone, 16, is with her. Asked whether she'd like to be in line for something else, Ridenhour doesn't give her a chance to answer.
"I'm not going to let you stand over there by yourself. Negative!" Ridenhour said, as Johnsone laughed.
Antonio Parker was in line to buy a DSi, but not for a child.
"It's going to be for Miss Heather here," Parker said.
Heather Shoaf, smiling, said she'd probably start with a Mario Bros. game, "and then will come the puzzle games.
Parker said that, after the 8 o'clock sale, they'd get in line for the big-ticket buy: a 40-inch TV priced at $198.
"I hope (the line) is not too bad. It's worth it at that price," Parker said.
8 p.m.: "All right, ladies and gentlemen!" a voice said over the loudspeaker.
Then, words that sound like "Black Friday has begun!"
But the aisles are already crowded, people are already reaching for their deals, and a special brand of chaos settles over the clogged store.
Thousands of people, trying to make their kids' or their loved ones' or their own wishes come true.
Only 31 days 'til Christmas.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor's desk at 704-797-4244.