published Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Chattanooga-area stores packed for tax holiday


by Andrew Pantazi
Students and families crowd into the isles at Educational Outfitters Friday to buy school supplies.
Students and families crowd into the isles at Educational Outfitters Friday to buy school supplies.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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The kids, parents and teachers formed a line and waited for their turns at Educational Outfitters on Gunbarrel Road.

Shunta Scrugg's turn.

She was buying $125 worth of uniforms for her son Christian Jeter's first year at the Chattanooga Charter School of Excellence.

"Crazy," she said about the swarm of parents coming out for the sales-tax holiday. "Crazy."

MaryBeth Sanders' turn.

Sanders, a teacher at Dalton (Ga.) High School, went to Walmart late Thursday and waited for midnight, when the tax holiday officially began, to buy school supplies for herself and her three children.

Now she's at the Educational Outfitters cash register buying Silverdale Baptist Academy uniforms for ninth-grader Jonathan, seventh-grader Rachel and fourth-grader Jordan.

Gina Allen's turn.

She's buying Girls Preparatory School uniforms for her youngest, Madison. Ninth-grade uniforms. High school clothes. "My babies are growing up," Allen said.

Her 20-year-old son, Lawson, already is at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Even though he's out of the house, she still gives him advice.

Don't buy the cowboy boots until the tax holiday, she said she told him.

A National Retail Federation survey expects American parents will spend $22.8 billion preparing for the school year, more than the gross domestic product of Paraguay.

Tennessee lets customers buy clothes, school supplies and computers without sales tax from 12:01 a.m. Friday to 11:59 tonight. All told, 11 states had sales-tax-free holidays this weekend.

But the holiday isn't just for the students.

At Target on Saturday, mothers pushed shopping carts with kids in tow and school-supply lists in hand: wide-ruled notebook paper, Sharpie pens, school clothes and maybe even an outfit for Mom.

At Kohl's, a woman walked in looking for shoes.

She walked out shortly after.

"Those people," Abbey Keehn said about the other shoppers, "are crazy."

The store was too packed for her.

"I'll just pay for the taxes on another day."

To make sure it wasn't too crazy at the MacAuthority in Hamilton Place mall, a team of about 10 workers from Louisville, Ky., showed up at 1 a.m. Friday. The Chattanooga store learned last year that it would need all hands on deck during the sales tax holiday.

Shelves held 120 or so cases of previous generation 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs.

The tax holiday covers computers that are $1,500 or less, so the iMacs are $200 and $300 below retail value and the previous generation MacBook Pros (retail: $2,299) are going for $1,499.

By 9 a.m. Friday, a line of more than 50 people gathered in front of the store's semi-truck full of computers. Customers were able to order computers and pick them up tax-free.

"It's crazy how people walk in and walk out with computers," greeter Lynda Buckels said. She was hired just for this weekend's sale. Her job is to make sure customers are paired with a salesperson. "It's a beautiful thing."

She took advantage of the weekend's deal by buying two 13-inch MacBook Pros.

John Golding used three fingers to carry a MacAuthority bag holding his new MacBook Air. Daniel Martin carried Golding's new 27-inch iMac.

Just from school supplies and the iMac, Golding said he saved about $500 on taxes.

Golding came to the mall with his wife, son and daughter. His wife and daughter were on the lookout for clothes. Golding was headed to the clothing racks himself after picking up the computer. His son only wanted an Xbox Live card, not tax-free.

The tax holiday continues today.

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about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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