There were plenty of opportunities for area residents to take part in the madness that is Black Friday, and from the looks of three of the biggest stores in Howell, countless people did just that.
While most stores did not even open their doors or start their sales until midnight on Friday morning, there were plenty of consumers ready to take advantage of the discounts and specials offered.
At the Best Buy on Route 9 even as of 9 p.m. on Thursday night the line of people wrapped around the building. Many of the people there had brought their own chair and blankets to keep them warm. For some, they had been there since Midnight the previous day hoping to get the best deals possible. That meant at least one tent ont he sidewalk so they could get a little rest and privacy before the shopping began.
One of those people was Yasmin Verdi of Jackson who said she is always out on one of the biggest shopping nights of the year. Not only is she a regular in the activities, but she said she is also among the first to show up on a regular basis.
At the Best Buy location, employees came out before the store opened, first with a map of where the deals were and then tickets so the featured items could be claimed before shoppers walked in the door. Verdi said she figured before her shopping time was done there she would leave with more than a dozen items.
And since she spent the entire holiday at the store, she said her family was nice enough to bring her food to her. She added that during her time waiting for the store to open, she also made new friends while reconnecting with old ones. "When you meet people you become friends," she said. "It's more of a party."
The Howell location was also not her only stop as she planned to head over to the Jackson Premium Outlets and other shopping opportunities in the area. Having left her home at 11 p.m. on Wednesday night, Verdi said she would likely not return there until close to 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. "We save all year for this," she said. "All year long we put money aside and then we go shopping."
There were shoppers of all ages at the store, including 16-year-old Bryan Volker who got to the store at 9:30 on Thursday morning. He was hoping to leave the store with a new big screen TV before figuring out what his next stop would be.
Not all shoppers were as eager as Verdi to wait out in the cold, including Linda Lembo a native of Great Britain and current Howell resident who called the environment, "insane." Looking to get an XBOX for her daughter, Lembo said she wondered whether waiting in line was worth the discount. Having arrived at the store at around 9:30, Lembo was the start of the curve around the back of the store. Because of that, she admitted she was not sure if there would be enough of the video game system to make it to her place in line.
She added that when she talks to her friends across the ocean they do not understand this uniquely American tradition. "All my friends I talk to think I'm insane," she said with a laugh. "We don't have anything like this. We don't even have Thanksgiving."
It was a much different story at Walmart where the store was already open and would be open for another 24 hours. At 9:30 shoppers were still working their way into the store waiting for the first set of sales to start at 10 p.m. And by the time the magic hour arrived, the building was at capacity with more people waiting in line to get their hands on their desired items. Many of them were there for the second set of sales which was not scheduled to commence until midnight.
Everything from pajamas to electronics were hot items for sale with lines forming throughout the aisles for different items. Ruth Appice, who lives in Mount Laurel but is originally from Jackson said her and her sister were there to get what they needed and to get out. That was no easy task as the store's parking lot quickly filled up with more cars spilling over to the old Southard School.
Meanwhile, across the street at Target, the first shoppers arrived at the store by 3 p.m. even though it did not open until midnight. Jerry Gonzalez, the second person in line said he got there at 5 p.m. with the goal being to buy a new TV. He said he had gone to Walmart in the past but this was his second year going to Target.
Like its competitors, Target also had a plan for how to handle the rush of customers. Those waiting in line were told that when the store opened they would be admitted in groups of 30 at 15 second intervals. With their store maps in hand, even two hours early there was a definite eagerness to get in the building.
By 10:30 p.m. the line at target had started to wrap around that building as well. Well after Gonzalez but before the corner of the building Jackson resident Cathy Banbor said she is a seasoned veteran when it comes to Black Friday shopping.
And while the deals are a highlight of the night, Banbor said it is also a social experience. "It's a lot of fun," she said. "You stand in line, you chat, it's a good time." Having arrived at Target at 8 p.m. she said after leaving that store she was considering heading over to Walmart before going home to rest. After that she planned to get back out some of the later opening stores in the area. She said she expected to be back in her house for good by around noon on Friday.
Whether their carts were stuffed to the gills with televisions and clothing or they were anxiously awaiting their store of choice to open, there was a definite determination from everyone involved to get the best deal possible.