With many stores opening their doors at midnight tonight for the frenzied shopping of Black Friday, Doug Hissa knew he had to be first in line when the neon letters of Best Buy’s “OPEN” sign roared to life. As the rain came pouring down Tuesday night, Hissa set up camp right outside Best Buy’s doors, beginning the wait for the year’s best deals when it comes to electronics and other gadgets.
“I’ve never camped out days before — always gone the day of the sale and try to get what I wanted — but this year, the deals are so great and I was off work the next three days, so I’m like, ‘I’m going camping,’ ” he said while sitting next to his tent Wednesday afternoon.
Hissa’s already planned out his first buy — a 42-inch LCD TV marked down from $700 to $200. Best Buy has plenty of other great deals, including $40 Blu-ray players, $300 laptops, plus countless other gadgets, movies and video games on sale.
Deals like that make waiting it out on Thanksgiving worth it, Hissa said, especially when he sees someone leaving with the same kind of TV he’ll get at midnight for the discounted price.
“It’s just a whole list of really good deals,” he said. “The TV is for myself and a couple of other things are going to be gifts. I’ll wrap them up, set them aside and my shopping’s done.”
While most people will be at home feasting on turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce, Hissa will be eating his deli sandwiches, chili and sipping on hot coffee until Best Buy employees open its doors at midnight.
And he’s not alone.
Jeff Cogburn, a sophomore at East Tennessee State University, saw Hissa’s tent Tuesday night and immediately stopped by to join in the wait for the Black Friday deals.
“I’ve been driving by seeing if anybody was camped out and as soon as I saw someone out I knew I had to get out here to get the deals, so I went home and got my stuff and got back here as soon as I could,” he said.
Cogburn normally participates in shopping on Black Friday, but he’s never camped out days in advance. After sleeping through the rain and cold, Cogburn said it’s something everyone should experience, especially when they take into account how much they’ll be saving on items like movies, video games, computers and TVs.
“The way I look at it is we’re getting $10, $20 an hour saving money, so I might as well,” he said.
Like many retail outlets, this marks the first year Best Buy in Johnson City has had a midnight Black Friday blowout, which customer solutions manager Ed Zabel said is a bit of a game-changer when it comes to the shopping event of the year.
“It’s kind of changed the whole game around. It’s kind of cool, because it’s unknown. We don’t know what it’s going to look like and we’ve already got people lined up outside right now,” Zabel said.
In Zabel’s five years at Best Buy, he has never seen people camp outside for Black Friday the way they are this year. The excitement of earlier hours might have something to do with it.
“It’s a lot of work. It’s taxing on our associates a little bit. We’ve had to kick it in gear a little sooner than we like and it definitely lengthens the day we’ve got to operate on,” Zabel said. “It’s going to be fun and kind of break the monotony of every year being the same thing. This year, it’ll be new and exciting.”
More than 30 stores inside The Mall at Johnson City are opening at midnight tonight, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Bath and Body Works and the Gap. The Mall’s department stores are also opening earlier, with Belk opening at 3 a.m., JC Penney and Sears opening at 4 a.m., and Dick’s Sporting Goods opening at 5 a.m. The Mall’s other stores will open at 5 a.m.
Even the Oasis Coffeehouse will be open to supply caffeine to the shoppers and employees gearing up for the midnight Black Friday frenzy.
JC Penney store manager Ken Crow said they’ve hired about 50 extra people to help with the crowd.
“It’s the biggest day of the year; everybody knows that. Preparation wise, you start pretty much three weeks out just getting ready and getting merchandise into the store and now we’re ready and out there, so we don’t have to restock it on Friday,” he said.
The biggest bulk of shopping on Black Friday typically happens from about 4 a.m. to noon, but Crow said they’ll be offering plenty of coupons and deals to shoppers during the afternoon, too.
“It’s about giving the best price we can. As a company, we try to bring in stuff at a reasonable price and promote it the price we can the day after. There’s lots of good items this year,” Crow said.