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Shopped and dropped: SCV stores jammed on Black Friday

Customers wake early to spend less — but at what cost?

Posted: November 27, 2009 10:22 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Dave Mayhall, left, and daughter Ashley, 10, of Valencia hunt for bargains at a parking lot sale at Sports Chalet in Stevenson Ranch on Friday.

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In one popular Saugus electronics shop, the human toll of Black Friday was startlingly clear.

A few shoppers passed out on couches at the back of Best Buy amid the noise and frenzy of the pre-dawn rush, still defensively clutching their hard-fought DVDs and laptops.

The lure of epic bargains attracted scores of Santa Clarita shoppers to large chain stores long before the sun came up. Nearly 100 people camped out in front of Best Buy on Thursday night - some even erected tents - to take part in a consumer ritual that some experts say is more myth than legend.

The Bugarin brothers - Jake, Victor, Robert and Mark - said they had set up their camp site outside the store Wednesday evening, spending two nights on the pavement.

Their family delivered plates of turkey, stuffing, rolls and mashed potatoes to the Canyon Country men so that they didn't miss out on their holiday feast.

It was the fourth Thanksgiving in a row the brothers had done this.

"With our work, we don't get to hang out like this too often," Mark Bugarin said. "People don't grasp the concept that we're here as a family, not just for shopping."

The brothers sat in folding chairs around a portable cooler playing poker and munching on their Thanksgiving meals while they waited for the store to open at 5 a.m. Friday.

They estimated that, combined, they would spend about $10,000 on televisions, laptops, home appliances and other electronics.

By 6 a.m., it was about 49 degrees outside and shoppers stuffed the store like a Thanksgiving turkey.

The line for the registers could have spanned a football field. It looped around discounted washing machines and refrigerators, stretching to the back of the big-box store.

Black Friday is a reference to an accounting term. Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving is when stores cover their expenses and start generating profit, turning their accounts from the red to black.

But it isn't clear just how great of a bargain the day is for most consumers.

Gerard Tellis, a marketing professor at USC, said he's skeptical the shopping frenzy is really all it's cracked up to be.

Retailers usually have a few good deals on a limited supply of products that run out quickly, he said. Most people end up spending more money than they expect.

Black Friday is even less of a bargain when factoring in hidden costs, like time spent in lines and looking for parking, Tellis said.

Abboud Elias, a UCLA law student, said he waited in line for nearly an hour before he was able to buy the laptop he came to get. It was marked down from $700 to $400.

Justin Peacock, 18, was asleep on a couch in the back of the store at 7 a.m.

He wore slippers and sweats, and hugged a pile of CDs and DVDs to his chest while he slept, booty from a successful treasure hunt.
When he woke momentarily to give his name, his eyes were red. He said he had camped out in front of the store overnight.

Next to him sat a slumping Caroll Lamphier. She clutched a shopping cart full of marked-down electronics, her head bobbing up and down as she drifted in and out of consciousness.

She said when she saw the long line, she decided to nap in hopes that by the time she woke, it would be gone.

Similar scenes played out across the valley.

More than 100 early birds were lined up in front of the Kohl's on Golden Valley Road at 3 a.m., said store employee Yolanda Hardy.
Hardy said she left her home in Palmdale at 1:30 a.m. to get to the store on time to start her shift. She said lines for the register wrapped around the store.

"Oh, goodness, Black Friday's been busy," Hardy laughed. "I had to leave so early, I didn't go to sleep last night." 


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