Black Friday

Justine Johnson, of Atlantic City, looks for presents for her niece while shopping during Black Friday on Thanksgiving night at Walmart in Mays Landing. (Press photo by Kristian Gonyea)

Black Friday sales meant spending Thanksgiving standing in line for some shoppers at the Best Buy in Mays Landing.

Several hundred people stood outside in a line that circled around to the rear of the store, hoping to get discount televisions, gaming consoles, and phones at the midnight sale Thursday night. Hamilton Township police stood with a K-9 by the Best Buy entrance, keeping the peace.

"I've been here since 11 p.m.," Shivam Patel, 16, of Galloway, said from the front of the line at about 11:15 p.m. "11 p.m. on Wednesday! On Wednesday! You have to have a tent. No ticket; it's first come, first serve. It was freezing."

Patel waited with a large group of friends. He was hoping to get a Samsung tablet, a 40-inch television, and a 55-inch television.

"We just chilled, slept, played cards, and ate," he said.

Brandon Hewitt, 17, of Little Egg Harbor, started waiting for a 40-inch television at 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

"I'm from out of town. I just met all these guys and they're awesome," Hewitt said pointing to Patel's group.

Hewitt has never waited in line for a Black Friday event he said, but two weeks ago he waited for the midnight release of the video game "Black Ops."

"I'm just chilling, playing cards, making fun of these guys," he said, pointing to his new friends.

Does he feel like he missed Thanksgiving?

"My family does," Hewitt said. "I don't really. I'm having a great time. Everybody is new to me, I know nobody here."

Thursday's high was around 54 degrees, but as midnight approached the temperature was about 35 degrees. The parking lot filled entirely, and cars idled looking for spots.

"I've waited in a bunch of these before, and this is the coldest it's been," said Harshul Panwala, of Galloway, who was wearing a thin hooded sweatshirt. "It was nice today. As soon as the sun went down it was done."

He started waiting at 9:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving and he said he felt under-dressed.

Panwala was waiting alone to buy a television to donate to BAPS Mandir Temple, in Galloway.

"I just do it for fun. I've been doing it for many years," he said. "I meet friends over here; it's Thanksgiving. You could eat turkey next year. We call America our family. This is our chance to prove it. I'm meeting new people."

Just prior to midnight, Best Buy employees began guiding the line into the store. Shoppers calmly worked through the labyrinth of electronics. Brittany Hall, of Galloway, asked an employee about the best camera for shooting sporting events. Hall said she waited for three hours but wasn't looking for anything in particular.

"It's just what you do. It's part of the season," she said.

Anthony Gatto, Mays Landing, 17, picked out his X-Box 360, which was discounted about $200, and waited for the registers to open. He showed up with his friends at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

"We just brought chairs, chilled, and told stories, we're homies," he said. "The best part is they didn't buy anything. They're just here with me."

said he planned to go home and start playing with the X-Box immediately. When asked if the wait was worth it, he said, "definitely."

But his friends: "No way," they said laughing. "Not in this cold."

Black Friday started on Thursday night at the Walmart in Mays Landing.

While many South Jerseyans were still eating turkey with family, hundreds of hopeful shoppers lined up for the 8 p.m. sale, with sights set on marked-down televisions, iPads, and computer monitors.

Walmart was open early on Thanksgiving, allowing shoppers looking for Black Friday deals to wait inside. Dozens of stations were set up throughout the store. Different items were distributed at each station.

At 7:30 p.m., Shawn Owens, 19, of Egg Harbor Township, had already been waiting in the store for fours hours.

He was in the sporting good section, standing next to aluminum baseball bats, but he was waiting for the iPad 2.

"The line started there and it ends over here," he said. "It snakes throughout all these aisles. I've been right here the whole time. I have not moved."

He passed the time playing his Nintendo DS. His friend, Rachel Jacobi, 19, of Egg Harbor Township, who happen to be shopping a few aisles over, stopped by to talk.

"My dad and are I over there waiting on Wii games," Jacobi said. "It’s a Christmas present for my little brother. We’ve only been waiting for about an hour and half. I’ve just been hanging out, listening to music."

Owens said that the iPad is for him, and that while the $75 gift card that comes with his purchase is nice, waiting in line on Thanksgiving is more about family tradition.

"We ate early because of this," he said. "We plan it out weeks ahead. We split up and take each other’s lists. We did most of our stuff online this year, so I’m hoping this is our only stop. I’m hoping. But I think it’s kind of fun."

He said his family has done Black Friday shopping every year for as long as he can remember, but that last year was his first year on the front line. He waited outside at Toys R Us and Target.

Louise Witte, of Little Egg Harbor Township, was waiting indoors, but kept her coat on because she was in the frozen food section. She waited next to sleeves of Jimmie Dean sausages for half price PlayStation 3 games. She shops Black Friday sales every year, but said that she's not expert. She shops with family, and everyone has a different role.

"I'm usually the bouncer. My daughter is in the X-Box and I wait over here," Witte said. "It's actually been really calm. Everything is good. The store that does really well is Target. They're just more prepared. This is chaos."

Jennifer Sweeny, of Egg Harbor Township, knew what she was looking for, but she wasn't quite sure if she was in the right line.

"I have no idea," she said, laughing. "I was told what I was looking for was over here. I'm hoping that's right."

She was waiting in the general electronics line for the Nintendo DSI XL.

"I can't find it anywhere, but it is what it is...BYE! Have a good Thanksgiving," she called to a friend she had made while waiting in line. (She said that meeting new people is one of the advantages of Black Friday).

"For me it's a matter of getting a hold of it, but it's also listed at only $100 instead of $140 so I'll wait," she said.

She's waited at Black Friday sales in the past, sometimes outdoors, but she called it "an experience."

"When you eat at 12 in the afternoon, what else do you do with your Thanksgiving night?" she said. "The kids are at home, and I'm like, 'Mommy's going out.' It's great. I'm the only one who does it in the family. They think I'm nuts. I took my nap. I'm good."

As 8 p.m. approached the aisles jammed up. There was confusion as to where lines started and ended.

"Where are the waffle irons!?" one woman yelled into the air. Another woman's cart got stuck in the crowd. Two shoppers helped her push it loose.

Successful shoppers filed joyously out of the store.

"I got my Wii," said Bryan Petti, of Hamilton Township. "I got my games. I got cheap DVDs. I'm set! It's all about this rush. It's a happy ending to Thanksgiving."