11/23/07 — Bargain hunt: Capturing a deal on a holiday gift

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Bargain hunt: Capturing a deal on a holiday gift

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on November 23, 2007 2:15 PM

With the sky still pitch black, but the line in front of the door growing, JCPenney store manager Karen Witt decided it was time for a last-minute pep talk before opening the doors at 4 a.m. today.

Reminding her employees that breakfast and coffee would soon be in the break room and that their snow globes and Santa hats were waiting, she exhorted them to put "a smile on every aisle" and to enjoy the onslaught of eager holiday shoppers.

"We're excited about this," she said. "We have some awesome deals and some fantastic doorbusters. Our associates are geared up for this, and we are 100 percent set up for the holiday season."

Outside the store doors, where the temperatures this morning hovered in the low 40s after an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving, three women were laying claim to the front spot in line -- some of the earliest holiday shoppers in Wayne County as JCPenney opened its doors before anybody else.

"There's a particular Christmas tree we want, and we're scared it'll get gone," said Gail Newell of Pikeville. "We're standing here watching it."

She had been waiting there for four of the pre-lit Christmas trees since 3 a.m. with her mother, Katheryn Edgerton of Pikeville, and her sister-in-law, Beth Jones of Rosewood.

"I can't believe we're doing this," she said. "My daughter just drove by. She said we look like hoodlums standing here."

As hardy as the trio might have been, though, there were others still more determined to get the best bargains.

Up the street, an inexperienced Kenneth Jones of Seven Springs ensured his top spot in line by cutting his Thanksgiving short to arrive at Staples at 10:30 p.m. for a $349 laptop computer. The store didn't open until 6 a.m.

"This is my first time doing this," he admitted from his director's chair.

But at least he had been sitting still.

Several people, like Melissa Cole and Eliza Weaver, both of Goldsboro, made the trek to the Pottery in Smithfield.

There for the midnight opening, the pair shopped all night before heading back for Target's 6 a.m. opening. They were among the first in line at 3:30 a.m.

Cold and starting to drag a little bit, they were looking forward to a cup of hot coffee once the doors opened.

"We haven't been to bed yet," Ms. Cole said.

But once they finished there, Ms. Weaver added, they were "going home and taking a nice long nap."

Sharon Robbins of Goldsboro, on the other hand, was still going strong -- of course, that might have just been her beginner's high.

"This is the first year I get to do this. I used to work retail at Target. I'm enjoying what it's like on the other side," she said.

Others, however, sacrificed their post-holiday slumber, not for fun, but purely for the savings.

"I'm just trying to save a little bit of money because everything else is so high," said Doug Richards of Mount Olive from outside Sears. "The poor people have got to get up early and stand out here in the cold just to save some money."

For many, though, the challenge of waking up early, fighting the crowds and grabbing the hot buys is a yearly ritual.

"After we eat (Thanksgiving dinner) we lay all the papers out on the table and start planning," said Angel Webb of Snow Hill while waiting in line at Belk for a chance at a $5,000 gift card. "It's a tradition."

And, as all veterans know, the key to surviving the day is to have a plan.

"You make a list, go to the highest item store on the list first, to get the best deal. You just go from there, and you don't shop around for any other items," Roma Wilder said.

It's also good, her daughter, Christina Wilder said, to have a backup plan "because you might be disappointed if you come for one thing and they're out of it."

Fortunately for Rhonda Poplin of Princeton and her sister, Donna Gerald of Wake Forest, that wasn't a problem.

"We always come home and do this. It's been a family tradition for 10 years," Ms. Poplin said as they left the Rosewood Wal-Mart 30 minutes after it opened, two full shopping carts in tow. "We've divided and conquered. Our parents are at the mall."

Planning for such contingencies, though, was especially important for those people looking for electronics this year -- anything from digital cameras to cellphones to digital picture frames to televisions to video game consoles, especially the extremely popular Nintendo Wii.

In Kmart, the line to the electronics section stretched through the store, while back in the Berkeley Mall, several people took advantage of the department stores' early opening times to get in front of GameStop where only 18 Wiis waited behind the locked gates. The store opened at 7 a.m.

"If they come in anywhere, they're gone within two hours," said Michelle Silvey of Fremont. In line since shortly after 5 a.m., she was looking for one for her 8-year-old son. The boy's father, who lives in South Carolina, also was out this morning.

"I like it because it's interactive," she said. "He's in a wheelchair, so we thought this would help give him some physical activity. If I can get one, it'd be worth getting up and in line so early."