Some shoppers, who claimed to be survivors of the “chaos” at the 4 a.m. opening of the Target store in Clifton Park on Friday, were thankful for the dry waiting areas and comparable order of the Walmart in Halfmoon.
“It was a mob mentality,” said Rebecca Clemente of Clifton Park, describing havoc at the Target store. “It was really scary.”
Clemente said her teenage niece had physically claimed a television while they were at Target, but she had her hand pushed off the product by an overeager discount-seeker.
She was happy for the change of pace at Walmart, which began offering special sales at 12:01 a.m. on Friday and started selling big-ticket merchandise at huge discounts at 5 a.m. Shoppers interested in the 5 a.m. sales were corralled at various locations in the store, where they waited in line with one of a limited number of tickets that corresponded to an actual product.
“This is so much better organized than Target. There is no stampeding,” said Clemente.
Stampeding was a major concern for Walmart, where the death of an employee in 2008 had served as the impetus for the restrained approach that put a premium on promptness instead of foot speed.
The fervor among consumers throughout the country was the result of drastically reduced merchandise sold in limited quantities at most small and large retailers on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. The day of sales, which is considered the first day of the holiday shopping season, attracts people looking to do all of their shopping at once or more casual customers just vying for one big score.
Clemente, who planned on going to Staples and Big Lots, was waiting in line for a 42-inch television that was going to be a Christmas gift for her and her husband, even though she was exceeding their budget.
Heather Forchilli, of Malta, was also spending about $100 more than she had planned but was happy to find the savings. Her major concern at Walmart was the logistics of transporting the large television she planned on purchasing, which would be replacing the 32-inch television she bought the day after Thanksgiving in 2009.
Forchilli, who was in her fourth year of bargain-hunting, said she had been planning a shopping strategy during the night instead of wasting time on sleep.
“I took a nap after dinner [on Thursday],” she said.
While waiting at 5 a.m., Forchilli and Clemente bonded over their shared experience at the Target store earlier in the day. The long waits in line sparked camaraderie all over the store. People were chatting up strangers as they joked about the store running out of merchandise and exchanged their horror stories from previous outings.
Other people in line were too busy to bond because they were focused on coordinating their search for savings, which meant they were either barking orders over their phones or debriefing rovers who were trolling the store and assessing other lines.
Jay Lee, of Halfmoon, was able to take a long respite from the monotony of his wait for a laptop computer because his daughter, for whom the laptop was destined, was holding his spot in line. It wasn’t necessary that someone held his spot because they were allowed sporadic 15-minute breaks, but Lee’s teamwork strategy provided him with more leeway.
He and his daughter had gone to sleep around 9 p.m. on Thursday and woke up early so they could take their place in line around 3 a.m.
Lee, who has a history of celebrating this consumer holiday, has previously bought televisions and global positioning systems.
He said, “This year is not busy at all. Last year was so busy.”
It is hard to imagine many more people fitting into the Walmart in Halfmoon, where traffic jams of shopping carts continuously halted the hot pursuit by a never-ending stream of deal-seekers.
Shoppers inside Walmart said they hadn’t been deterred by the rain, with Ryan Hicks, of Malta, displaying his soaking wet advertisements as evidence of his dedication to the pursuit of purchasing personal property.
Right before 5 a.m., employees at Walmart began wheeling out pallets of the coveted merchandise, and shortly after that, people were rewarded with a chance to stand in another line, lugging the fruits of their labor while waiting to pay.
The mood was more relaxed once the registers were in sight, but the Walmart experience wasn’t uniformly successful. Rebecca Moore, of Rotterdam Junction, decried her experience at the store on Altamont Avenue.
She had gone to the store around 3 a.m. with her sights set on a $198 laptop computer, only to discover that the line was filled to capacity by people who had arrived around midnight. Moore felt like the Walmart flier was misleading because it advertised sales at 5 a.m. and made her think she had arrived in time to buy a laptop computer for her 15-year-old.
Moore didn’t allow the initial failure of her day to deter her, though, as she headed to Rotterdam Square more determined to spend with a vengeance.
She was particularly proud of her savvy purchases at Bath & Body Works, where she touted $143 in savings after spending about $80.
Around 7 a.m. she was still going strong, as she waited outside of Macy’s for her shopping cohorts so they could make a couple of final stops.
“We’re going to get a bite to eat and then we’re heading to Kmart ... Bed, Bath & Beyond and Petsmart. We have a lot more to go,” said Moore.
This was nothing new, though, for Moore, who has been shopping early for years now and bought portable DVD players for her kids last year.
She added, “I actually took today off.”
Other people with less expansive shopping goals could have been done in time to work a traditional day, with some department stores at Rotterdam Square open as early as 4 a.m.
In the Rotteram Square food court, the Sbarro stand was open at 3 a.m., but they hadn’t prepared any pizza an hour later when they got their first request. By 7 a.m. there was pizza ready to be served and more being baked.
The most popular locations in Rotterdam Square were the department stores and purveyors of electronic merchandise, which had the biggest deals for day one of the holiday shopping season.
People who stuck around until 11 a.m. were rewarded with a chance to get a $10 gift card if they were among the first 50 shoppers to show up at Guest Services.
As evidence of the indomitable American spirit that characterized the collective consumerism across the Capital Region, Heather Forchilli, who had endured rain and hours of standing, only half-heartedly considered ending her shopping spree before dawn.
Shortly after 5 a.m. she mused about going home once she checked out in Walmart before ultimately announcing, “I’m going to J.C. Penney to get a free snow globe.”