Chattanooga stores open early with Black Friday deals

Chattanooga stores open early with Black Friday deals

November 26th, 2011 by Ben Benton, Kevin Hardy and Ansley Haman in News

Jackie Galbraith talks on the phone as she leaves Target on Gunbarrel Road in Chattanooga after Black Friday shopping just after 4 a.m.

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

Normally, Black Friday is the day the most dedicated deal hunters wake up hours before sunup. But this year, dedicated shoppers stayed up late, and many didn't sleep at all.

While stores such as Target, Kohl's and Best Buy opened at midnight Friday, Walmart began doling out its deals as early as 10 p.m. Thursday.

Toys R Us in the Hamilton Place area held one of the earliest Black Friday debuts, with doors opening at 9 p.m. Thursday. Sisters-in-law Misty Patrick, of Kettering, Ohio, and Beth Peters, of Ringgold, Ga., were disappointed with their spot about 50th in line -- they're usually among the first 10 to get inside.

The pair always starts their Black Friday shopping at Toys "R" Us before moving on to other stores. Their family's daylong shopping ritual has grown to include regular morning stops at Starbucks and an afternoon meal at Captain D's before calling it quits.

"Last year we stayed out from 7 p.m. Thursday to 7 p.m. Friday," Patrick said. "This is the only way we get away with this much shopping."

Aisles were packed at the Walmart on Gunbarrel Road by 9:30 p.m. Thursday, as shoppers waited for employees to unwrap cellophane surrounding pallets full of clothing, kitchen items and housewares at 10 p.m.

But some grew tired of waiting, and about 9:45 p.m., took matters into their own hands.

Black Friday shoppers leave Target on Gunbarrel Road in Chattanooga on Friday just before 4 a.m.

Black Friday shoppers leave Target on Gunbarrel Road...

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

Chaos ensued as customers tore open a pallet full of $2.84 waffle makers and mini food processors. An employee tried to stop the flow of bodies -- actually jumping on top of the pallet and telling people to get back -- but gave up as the crowd surged forward.

One man dived over other shoppers, knocking them out of the way, to reach the products. Some shoppers grabbed the boxes and tossed them to waiting friends and family.

At one point, the employee carried away a little girl, yelling at the customers that they were in danger of trampling the child.

Two hours later, when sales on electronics such as Xboxes and TVs began, the store was less crowded and much quieter, and customers were much calmer, waiting patiently for pallets to be opened.

Attempts to reach local Walmart officials Friday were unsuccessful.

Taking a break from shopping around 2 a.m. in the Hamilton Place mall food court, Calhoun, Tenn., residents Judy Goins and Karen Barham were waiting for J.C. Penney to open with "doorbusters" starting at 4 a.m.

"We do this every year," Goins said. "It's fun. It gets you in the spirit."

"It gets earlier every year," Barham said as she made calls and sent texts to fellow shoppers.

"We didn't even get to take a nap this year," Goins said sleepily.

Fortunately for them, the store opened considerably earlier than scheduled.

Shoppers crowd Belk at Hamilton Place Mall in Chattanooga just after 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

Shoppers crowd Belk at Hamilton Place Mall in...

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

J.C. Penney manager Marty Smith said all employees were in the store and ready to open before 3 a.m., and he didn't want to keep shoppers waiting.

"We had the lights on and we could see people waiting outside, so we unlocked the doors and let them in," Smith said about 3:10 a.m. Friday.

Chatsworth, Ga., resident Jennifer Brooks used two words to assess the mental state of herself and fellow shoppers prowling the mall at 3 a.m.

"We're crazy," Brooks said.

Brooks and her family members lost two hours in line at Kohl's, but the early opening at J.C. Penney got them back on schedule to head south to the outlet stores in Calhoun, Ga., for their openings at 6 a.m., she said.

Around 2 a.m. Friday, Wilson Casas and Erya Sarit were resting outside the Belk store at Hamilton Place, where they planned to shop for hot deals on clothes.

Casas said Black Friday shopping was an annual family tradition, but this year's early start made for a different shopping crowd.

Travis Pellam waits for his wife who is shopping in Claire's at Hamilton Place Mall around 5:30 a.m. in Chattanooga on Black Friday. The Mall opened its doors at midnight with several bigger stores such as Belk and Sears delaying their opening for a few more hours.

Travis Pellam waits for his wife who is...

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

"I see more teenagers than ever," he said.

He noted the staggered shopping hours at stores allow for a flexible schedule, and he liked starting around midnight so he didn't have to get up for 5 a.m. openings.

Hundreds of shoppers lined the front of the Hixson Kmart at 4:59 a.m. when an employee started to open the doors.

A cheer erupted and several people began to chant, "Go! Go! Go!"

The crowd quickly began to file in through one sliding-glass door. A group attempted to squeeze into the line, but those already waiting began to yell at the line crashers; some whistled. It didn't matter, and the crashers squeezed in with no real confrontation.

By 5:15 a.m., Renee Gibson was paying for the HDTV she'd been waiting for since 2 a.m. She was accompanied by her daughter and son-in-law, who were from Nashville. Juan Holloway, Gibson's son-in-law, said it was his first time up for Black Friday shopping.

"These are my guests," she said. "This is how I treat them."

Linh Nguyen helps her friend load a car after Black Friday shopping at Target on Gunbarrel Road.

Linh Nguyen helps her friend load a car...

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

In Calhoun, Ga., Premium Outlets manager Kristy Brown was winding down her day about 8 a.m. For the past four years on Black Friday, her store opened at midnight to meet the rush. This year, 17 stores in the shopping center threw open their doors at 9 p.m. Thursday.

"It was customer demand that drove the 9 p.m. opening," Brown said. "It was great. We had the police department helping us direct traffic."

Sunglass Warehouse was one of the stores that opened early, offering 10 percent off purchases more than $100 and 15 percent off for those $200 and up.

"A lot of people had been coming in the days before," said David Subers, the assistant team leader.

For Costco, opening early wasn't part of the strategy and the store's doors opened at the regular time of 9 a.m.

Within minutes, customers had scooped up the nine $1,000 instant rebates on 55-inch 3D Samsung TVs.

"The people that are waiting outside the door, they know exactly what they're looking for," general manager Bob Palermo said.

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