Black Friday diehards will do just about anything for a bargain

Courtesy Melissa Rush

Melissa Rush, 24, far right, with her family outside an Old Navy on Black Friday in 2010 at 2 am.

You think you're going to get a deal this Black Friday? You'll have to get through the diehards first.

“Are you kidding?” Amanda Willis, 21, shouted into her phone, after secretly making it ring. “Yankee Candle is giving away those big candles for free for the next 10 minutes?!” Most of the hour-long line in front of her fled the J.Crew store at Jersey Shore Premium Outlets to dash over to the candle store. Willis checked out in 15 minutes. “I'm on a schedule,” the college senior and frugal fashion blogger told TODAY with a laugh mixed with both guilt and glee, recalling last year's ruse.

Related: 10 things not to buy on Black Friday

After waiting for 30 minutes for parking on Black Friday, a guy cut off Tyger Danger, 24, and stole her spot. “I threatened to key his car,” said the Orlando, Fla., public relations executive who flies home annually to shop Black Friday with her family. Since she was girl, her mother has bought her a new Christmas dress each year. “I find the day very stressful,” Danger told TODAY. “As I’ve grown older, I find myself staying away from large crowds, but my mother loves it. She loves the hustle and bustle. She loves the decorations, the energy and excitement."

Black Friday isn't what it used to be. There are cops now, organized lines, and claim tickets passed out for the door busters. They're necessary elements after a Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death in 2008 by uncontrolled crowds. Retailers have gotten better at crafting and marketing stingier deals, too. The day doesn't even start on Friday anymore, with many stores this year opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Much of the action and excitement is moving online as well. IBISWorld forecasts that 2012 Black Friday spending will be $12.2 billion, an increase of only .1 percent over last year. Meanwhile, Cyber Monday spending will jump 21.4 percent to $1.5 billion. For these true believers, however, Black Friday is as much for the savings as the thrill of snagging them.

Donning snow pants, a sweatshirt, coat, gloves and hat, Chace Cannon, 26, waited from 11:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. one year in front of a Salt Lake City, Utah, Target store. The temperature: 6 degrees. The prize: a-40 inch Westinghouse HDTV, half off, for $299. Once inside, he and friends loaded their carts up with eight TVs, the investment adviser told TODAY. Latecomers tried to pry the boxes out of their carts, so the gang retreated to a corner and circled the shopping carts until friends and family arrived.

If you're ready to begin the holiday shopping blitz, TODAY contributor Elizabeth Mayhew has tips on what to buy this month, including the best deals on electronics you'll find on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as well as low prices on cookware and kitchen appliances.

Louise Sattler, 53, admits to being strategically nice to others. After that people are much more willing to help you, the Los Angeles educational entrepreneur told TODAY, like holding your place if you need to go to the bathroom or letting your kid jump in the line with you. Her family, fluent in sign language, uses it to coordinate with each other inside loud stores. It's faster than texting.

If she can't find what she's looking for, she'll look them up on the Internet afterward or during Cyber Monday. “A lot of the same deals are online,” said Sattler, a bit ruefully.

Tips: How to not bust your budget over the holidays

However, clicking buttons at home doesn't have the same visceral thrill of snatching a prize in the shopping scrum.

There's this “adrenaline high of getting all these great sales,” Melissa Rush, 24, told TODAY. She went to her first Black Friday on a lark a few years ago. Then she found a pair of ballet-slipper style Crocs for $24. After that, the Seminole, Fla., 2nd grade teacher was “hooked.”

This year, her family is limiting everyone to bringing one dish for Thanksgiving. It'll give them more time for shopping.

Rush's goal is to buy a present for each of her 30 different family members. Using a spreadsheet on her phone synced with her computer, delegating tasks in-store to her shopping crew of 10 friends and family, and using a combination of coupons, price matching, and manufacturer's rebates, she aims to spend no more than $300 total, about $10 per person. She says it's key to compare the circulars from the week before with the Black Friday announcements to make sure the deals with the big red circles around them are actual savings. She also checks prices and reviews on before putting an item on the hit list.

Rush does what anyone else can do. She's just very dedicated about how she does it. Research ahead of time. Know what you want. Stick to your plan. Execute. Oh, and always make sure one person in your group gets into the checkout line right away when you enter the store while the others hunt for the goodies.

“At first people thought I was crazy,” when they heard how early she was getting up and how hardcore she took the whole process, she said. “Then they saw the receipt.”

When the economic crisis hit in late 2008, to stay in budget, Rush's large family had to change the holiday gift-giving tradition to White Elephant or Secret Santa parties, which make a game out of giving a limited number of presents. Now that she does Black Friday, she and her posse come home with SUV-loads full of presents, and everyone gets one. “Our smiles are as big as Christmas,” she said.

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Discuss this post

I am boycotting black Friday. Can't people think of charity at the holidays?

  • 2 votes
Reply#1 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 3:49 PM EST

I'm with you Elizabeth. This gets more disgusting every year. I think next year I'm getting a cabin in the woods in Vermont or somewhere like that and having an old fashioned Christmas. Get the family together, make a nice dinner and just appreciate what it is that we have.

  • 1 vote
#1.1 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 3:56 PM EST

Oh, lighten up people! I love it the same way others do, it's all in how you plan it, online or at the store. The key is to lighten up and go with the flow. People like you epitomize the Scrooges we've all become lately.

    #1.2 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:12 PM EST

    Not at all. I love Christmas and I'm not a Scrooge by any means! I just get disgusted by the excess. The commercials start the day after Halloween! It's too much!

    • 1 vote
    #1.3 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:24 PM EST

    Actually, during the Christmas season, rather than the secular celebration of shopping that all the companies want you to focus on we should really be thinking about Jesus. Without him there would be no Christmas, and no shopping. It's the Christmas season, not holiday season, so at least give it the recognition it deserves. Besides, I don't see how people can say they celebrate Christmas when all they do is buy gifts. That's not celebrating a true Christmas. You can give gifts any time of the year so why would you need Christmas as an excuse?

    Only after we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by giving praise for everything we have should we then think about charity as ask God to watch over those less fortunate and give away what we can afford to give away.

    • 1 vote
    #1.4 - Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:06 AM EST

    I give away to those less fortunate every day... It's called taxes

    • 1 vote
    #1.5 - Fri Nov 23, 2012 7:22 AM EST

    Ha! Good one!

      #1.6 - Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:49 AM EST

      To me, this is the most complete waste of time and, more often than not, a good example of Americans at their least thankfull.

      Save gas, time and stress. Buy what you need online. Most retailers are offering the same deals this way.

        Reply#2 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:10 PM EST

        And if you buy everything online then the actual stores won't have foot traffic and have to lay off employees. Let's just let folks enjoy it the way they want to. I mix it up myself and do both. We are a consumer driven society like it or not. I'm not going to complain if you don't shop so don't complain if I do - it's the holidays let's enjoy it for just a few days :)

        • 1 vote
        Reply#3 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:18 PM EST

        BRAVO! My thoughts exactly!

        • 1 vote
        #3.1 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:28 PM EST

        Actually, the more you buy online, the more jobs you will create in the IT departments of these companies.

        Additionally, to say that we are a consumer driven society, like it or not, is really just a way of being complacent. No, I don't like it and no, I'm not content to watch story after story of people being trampled to death each black Friday over a $38 DVD player.

        Call me nutty, but these are not the values I'm trying to teach my children.

          #3.2 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 8:20 PM EST

          all the a-holes interviewed in this article are stealing the holidays away from wage earners... but this is America after all...the land of 'me first... you never'

            Reply#4 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:25 PM EST

            You do know that there were already millions working on the holiday right? I've worked every holiday multiple times. I worked in radio and we didn't get overtime or a bonus like the Walmart employees are. Sitting home watching football? Think the concession folks, camera people, food service, janitorial want to be there? You have no idea how many people it takes to get games on tv and radio and internet for you to enjoy with your family. Hey turn on the news (they are working) and watch the parade - yeah it takes a lot for the entertainment for that. How about a restaurant. I used to work at Shoneys and every Thanksgiving worked and no one spoke up then about folks working the holiday. No they were happy to have someone else cook. Bet the gas stations are busy that day too. Sorry but we need the economic bump and people need jobs. Again - no one ever stood up for those who've worked this holiday for years. But it was our free will to take the job and do the jobs we were asked to do. If I didn't like what I was asked to do - simply found another job and quit with notice.

            • 1 vote
            #4.1 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:45 PM EST

            So you think Walmart workers get a bonus ,

              #4.2 - Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:38 AM EST

              I love it..Black Friday in stores. At my age it's rare I can rub up against some nice 20 something year old gals ( with huge racks too)!

              I don't even buy anything when in the stores. ;)

              • 1 vote
              Reply#5 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:31 PM EST

              Yeah, that just makes you creepy and one more reason to stay away.

              • 1 vote
              #5.1 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 8:21 PM EST

              Most of these young female shoppers are great at one thing: walking straight ahead with their eyes glued to their phones with no awareness of their surroundings.... I once witnessed one such girl smack into a store display.... serves her right I suppose. There should be a ban on texting while shopping.

              • 1 vote
              Reply#6 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 7:03 PM EST

              When the economic crisis hit in late 2008, to stay in budget, Rush's large family had to change the holiday gift-giving tradition to White Elephant or Secret Santa parties, which make a game out of giving a limited number of presents. Now that she does Black Friday, she and her posse come home with SUV-loads full of presents, and everyone gets one. “Our smiles are as big as Christmas,” she said.

              Wow, even with references to Santa you people still can't call a spade a spade by putting "Christmas" in writing, even when the person you are quoting mentions Christmas. You people are cowards and shills for the political correctness whack jobs. You don't deserve to distribute the news with that censorship.

                Reply#7 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:59 PM EST

                What are you blabbering about?

                  #7.1 - Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:41 AM EST

                  The more furious the pace gets to spend, spend, spend...the more pukish the holiday becomes. I find myself wanting to absolve myself of the entire tradition as it seems even simple solutions evolve into elaborate expensive dinners out or at the home with expensive wine. Maybe just a glass of eggnog next to the fire and singing a christmas song with friends would be a relief.

                    Reply#8 - Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:12 AM EST

                    Tyger Danger? Chase Cannon? I don't know if I should keep reading the article or run for cover.

                      Reply#9 - Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:45 PM EST

                      Why is it still called Black Friday when the stores are now opening on Thanksgiving?!

                      Why don't they cut the bulls**t, and just call it Black Thanksgiving?!

                      I hear next year that Wal-Mart will start the Black Thanksgiving Sale at 12:01 AM Thursday and just feed everybody in line with a buffet, so you won't even have to bother with the traditional meal!

                      Let's keep spending people, so we can keep the economy on life support!

                        Reply#10 - Fri Nov 23, 2012 9:32 AM EST

                        Shopping Diehards will do Anything for a "Deal"---Including DIE !!! MADNESS !!!!!

                          Reply#11 - Fri Nov 23, 2012 9:54 AM EST
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