11/24/06 — Ready, set, hunt ...

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Ready, set, hunt ...

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 24, 2006 1:45 PM

Holly Mitchell has been planning her post-Thanksgiving shopping schedule for weeks now.

So when her sister, Debbie, came knocking at 4 this morning, she wasn't angry. It was all a part of the game.

"I made the coffee because she had to wake up a few minutes earlier than me this year," Holly said. "We take turns. Next year, she gets to sleep a little longer."

The Mitchell sisters were among thousands of Wayne County residents who drove to local stores with tired eyes this morning, each one hoping to take advantage of the Christmas season's first sales -- and to get a few items scratched off those lists, too.

"It just makes more sense this way," Debbie said as she walked through Berkeley Mall -- keeping an eye out for the next great deal. "The guys got to watch their football until late last night while we were sleeping. Now, we get to play while they sleep."

Across town at Target, another pair of sisters was seeing their shopping plan come to fruition.

Faye Davis and Elizabeth Rose said they "enjoy the hunt" and have been swiping their credit cards and piling packages into the back seat since midnight -- hitting stores from Smithfield to Goldsboro along the way.

"It's really quite a sport," Elizabeth said.

A sport that began at close to 6 a.m. for Michelle Nation, who knew what she needed to accomplish today long before she woke up.

She was among those at the front of the Kmart line when the Berkeley Boulevard store's doors opened.

"I'm here for the camera and the portable DVD player," she said.

Keeping your eye on the prize cuts down on time, she said.

Another shopper, Lisa Lands, agreed. She and her son, Robert, hit the "early-bird" sales every year, she said.

"I get what I want and go on," Mrs. Lands said. "I don't look at anything else. We're getting ready to go home. We're through for the day."

Others, like Michelle Dixon of Princeton, weren't post-Thanksgiving shopping veterans at all.

"It's our first time (doing the early shopping)," she said.

Still, when she arrived at Target with her niece and nephew in tow, the first-timers found they had beaten the seasoned shoppers.

"My sister talked to somebody who said the lines would start around 4 (a.m.). I think it was about 3:57 (a.m.) when we pulled into the parking lot," she said. "I overslept. I probably got up about 3:25 (a.m.), but there was no traffic."

Ms. Dixon said she came for the deals -- and a digital camera.

"It's one of the better deals this year," she said.

Tim Pheiffer of Goldsboro echoed her sentiments from a few spots back in line.

"It's one of the biggest items," he said.

Target was Pheiffer's first stop. He arrived before 5 a.m.

But for others, like Goldsboro resident Melanie Hiatt, it was their second, third or fourth stop.

"Wal-Mart was insane," she said. "The line wrapped around the store."

Still, her crew had gotten what they needed there and moved onto the next crowd.

"I'm just hoping to succeed here now," she said, her sister-in-law Jamie Clark and daughter Sara Rouse by her side.

Other members of her family were shopping, too -- stationed at different locations across the city.

"All day long (Thursday) we all figured out what stores we wanted to go to, what we wanted to buy and who we wanted to go where," Mrs. Hiatt said.

It promised to be an exhausting day for family members, but some, like the Tara Best and her mother-in-law Pam, said it was well worth it.

"You don't really get exhausted until the afternoon," Pam said. "You've got so much adrenaline rushing during the shopping. It gets you into the holiday spirit."

Pam, though, had a different view of that spirit.

"Yeah, it's fun. The fighting, the arguing, the pushing, the shoving. I had to abandon my buggy at Wal-Mart," Tara said with a laugh.

The day was also chaotic for store employees.

Wal-Mart cashier Ashley Hart had never worked on Black Friday before and said while she attested to a throng of people at the outset, by 7:30, she admitted it had gone better than she had anticipated.

"It's been all right," she said. "No problems. Customers have been polite and nice."

Toy department manager Debbie Irvin said the employees had to be in place by 4:30, and already customers were waiting for the sale to begin.

"We just opened the freight up when they started coming in," she said.

Among the popular items being sought in her department were Bratz and Dora the Explorer, Spongebob and Dora TVs with DVD players and remote control trucks.

"The people have been just great," Mrs. Irvin said. "We're trying to make it convenient finding the items because they're scattered all around the store. (But) you have to get in the spirit to enjoy it."

Suzanne Jackson works in the store's men's department and said when the day began it was "crazy."

She has been a part of similar scenes at the store for the past 16 years and said the crowds have become seemingly predictable.

"There are certain items a lot of the crowd comes in for," Mrs. Jackson said. "Once they get them, they go to the next store."

Chip Thompson of Goldsboro was one of them.

He said he had seen some items advertised he wanted -- digital cameras and radio-powered cars -- that prompted him to set out at 7 this morning.

"I said if they give out, they give out," he said. "The bad part is I'm finding a whole bunch more things I didn't plan on. But while I'm here I might as well get what I can get."

Ben Green drove all the way from Wilson for the special sales and to browse -- picking up the printer that he needed before roaming the aisles. He said the experience turned out less hectic than advertised.

"It wasn't too bad," he said. "It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be."