To some, Black Friday is a day to snag one desirable item at a great price. Others wake up smiling with the knowledge millions of exhausted shoppers are just getting home. But to diehards, it's a long day of planning, camaraderie, savings and madness.
Friends Jessica Wrubel, Danielle Stair and Christina Brown fall into that last group. And they have the specially made T-shirts to prove it.
For years the three ventured out separately, but that changed four years ago.
We decided a few years ago to join forces to better conquer the crowds and the sales of Thanksgiving night and Black Friday, said Wrubel, 35, of Wilkes-Barre Township.
This year Brown's boss and a fellow Black Friday fanatic, Dallas podiatrist Shelly Levulis, gave the three custom green team T-shirts with Black Friday 2012 on the front and the motto neither sleet, nor rain or hail will keep us away from our Black Friday sale on the back.
Brown, 33, of Dallas, called the night a mission that begins at the Walmart in Pittston Township.
We go on from there. Our missions usually last well over 14 hours when all is said and done, Wrubel said. We get wonderful bargains for our kids' Christmas presents, things for the house and gifts for other friends and family members.
While solo shoppers can stand in line, make a purchase then drive to the next store and repeat the routine, the women said the ability to coordinate plans, keep each other company and create memories makes all the hassle and headaches worthwhile.
(Going by yourself) is fun and it's still thrilling, said Wrubel, but not as much as when you're with the whole team. That team has included Brown's teenage son Michael in recent years and will add Brown's husband, Gene, to the roster this year.
While the lines are getting longer and the stores are opening earlier, the trio also believe deals are getting better.
And so is technology that assists shoppers on the hunt. Smartphone apps for Black Friday help people compare prices, see product reviews and create shopping lists. Among the most popular is the Black Friday App by DealNews.com.
The bonus feature is that stores will send special deal alerts to shoppers. It's available for Apple iOS and Google Android devices.
In addition, text messaging and cellphones allow group members to communicate about sales and offer assistance when needed. But sitting down with the newspaper and pulling out circulars and Black Friday ads is still an integral part of the preparation, Wrubel said. Even though Black Friday ads are leaked on the Internet, they like holding a hard copy of the ad that shows the game is afoot.
And it is a game to shoppers who see it as a competition to get the best deals and make the best game plan.
It's the thrill of the hunt, Wrubel said. And it gets people addicted, she said.
Just ask Stair, 35, of Mountain Top, who went on her first Black Friday excursion four years ago.
I saw something I just knew I couldn't pass up, so I went, she said. And now it's an annual tradition, for her and millions of others.
The group offered tips for shoppers who might not be regular Black Friday participants:
• Make a plan. Do not just show up at a store and expect to get what you want, then go to other stores and do the same. Know what's most important and map out the trip to get the best odds on what you want.
• Pack properly. Bring comfortable clothes, backup battery or charger for cellphone, a chair, snacks and beverages and something to read.
• Arrive early. If the doors open at 8, don't show up at 7 unless you do not want any of the items of limited quantity. Arrive at least three hours before the doors open at stores such as Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Sears. Line cutting is not acceptable. Be courteous but assertive, said Wrubel. Make friends with line mates and the experience will be better and go faster.
• If you can, go out with friends or family. But when it comes to your company, Brown said, leave all children under the age of 13 at home, with supervision, of course, because it's just too many people and craziness going on.
• Today at 6 a.m.: Kmart, which will close at 4 p.m., then reopen from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., close again then reopen at 5 a.m. Friday and remain open for the day.
• Today at 7 a.m.: Boscov's, though it will close at 1 p.m. and then reopen at 4 a.m. on Black Friday.
• Tonight at 8: Walmart, Sears and Toys R Us
• Tonight at 9: Target
• Tonight at 10: HH Gregg
• Tonight at midnight: Kohl's, Dick's, Old Navy, Best Buy, Bon-Ton, Ace Hardware, Macy's and most stores inside the Wyoming Valley and Viewmont malls.
• Friday at 5 a.m.: Staples, Five Below, A.C. Moore, Lowe's and Home Depot
• Friday at 6 a.m.: JC Penney, Radio Shack, Big Lots and Burlington Coat Factory
• Friday at 7 a.m.: Sam's Club and Pet Smart
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