COLUMBIA — Four minutes after Best Buy opened at 5 a.m. on a frigid Friday morning, customers in a long line were still filing inside to snap up discounted electronics.
Shoppers with eager faces shuffled one after another into the store, relieved that the long wait was finally over.
Pre-dawn shopping is a nationwide post-Thanksgiving activity. People waited in front of Best Buy, Sears, Bass Pro Shops and other outlets in the wee hours to sweep up sweet deals on Black Friday. Some even camped overnight.
To help prevent chaos, Best Buy employees handed out tickets for certain discount items around 3 a.m. so that shoppers could go straight to the registers. The tickets were valid until 9 a.m.
Some went home to catch some sleep after securing their tickets, while others stayed on to avoid long cashier lines.
Jami and Aaron Peck were holding their ticket for a Playstation III just before the store opened. They had been waiting since 11 p.m. and had moved up near the front of the line when many shoppers left.
“We’d rather stay than wait an hour in the checkout line,” Jami Peck said.
All shoppers agreed that it was cold. For most of the night, the temperature hovered near 32 degrees.
Michelle Gillan, Sarah Fears and Kyle Getman endured the cold starting at 11:30 p.m. They went to buy hot chocolate and hand warmers as soon as they got their tickets for a washer-dryer unit and a laptop about five hours later.
“They need heat lamps, for all the money people are spending,” Fears said.
“I’m wearing three pairs of socks, and I am still freezing,” Gillan said.
Peter and Steven Bermudez had stood in line since midnight. They’ve come to Best Buy almost every year for the past five Black Fridays.
“This is the closest I get to hunting,” Steven Bermudez said.
As Black Friday veterans, they know how to shop efficiently.
“We get in and out fast – usually within 15 minutes,” Peter Bermudez said. “We know the system.”
However, things didn’t go as smoothly this time. They said they were given the wrong laptops and had to stop at customer service.
They said that it was much more of a scene before Best Buy started the ticket system two years ago.
“There’s not as much stampeding this way,” Steven Bermudez said.
Some who did not camp out also managed to get what they wanted without much trouble.
Audrey Meyer was not planning to attend the sale, but had trouble falling asleep after waking up at 3 a.m. and decided to come check things out.
She arrived 10 minutes before opening, and half an hour later she was waiting in the cashier line with a Canon SLR camera.
“I didn’t think I would be able to get a camera,” Meyer said. “I can go home happy.”