Bargain hunters

11/29/2013

Shoppers swarm local stores on Thanksgiving in search of deals

Shoppers swarm local stores on Thanksgiving in search of deals

By KELTON BROOKS

kbrooks@gctelegram.com

Shoulder-to-shoulder traffic, U-turns, police directing the flow, switching lanes at high speeds, and sharp turns around the corner — and that was only in aisle one.

What sounds like 5 o'clock rush hour in New York City or the California freeway, was the scene at Garden City's Walmart during Thursday's Thanksgiving shopping frenzy.

While one Walmart employee described the event as "organized chaos," the shopping cart jams, aisles turning into one-way streets and a bit of aisle-road rage was considered "normal" for another employee.

"It's all too normal to me," said Diane Poindexter, co-manager at Walmart. "We have been prepping for this for weeks. I worked this event before at another store, and it's all pretty much the same ¬­-- a lot of customers come in in search of cheap prices," Poindexter said.

Poindexter said people were "swarming in" to get to the popular items like the toys, sporting goods and electronics at the 6 p.m. sale.

Unlike last year, this time Walmart had about eight police officers to "help with crowd control" and caution tape to improve the flow.

These methods would help expedite the process and make the event "much more smooth," Poindexter said, and make it a good shopping experience for customers.

"People come here, and they do their Christmas shopping because it's such a big sale, items are cheap, and they are willing to stand in lines and get hot items," Poindexter said.

And for those who were standing in the line outside that wrapped around the building, the 31 degree weather didn't stop them from getting to the hot deals.

"I want to get the 70-inch, (TV) and they are not suppose to sell it until 8 (p.m.)," said Tyler Zeller, who was standing in line for 10 minutes. "But they only have 20 in stock, so I'm not getting too excited," he said, laughing as he looked around to see an endless line.

While others started filing in line as the time crept closer to 8 p.m., one customer already was unloading items in her vehicle.

"I've been in there since 3 (p.m.), and it's crazy in there," said Lynnette Osborn, who was preparing to go right back inside for another TV.

Like some of the others who were standing in line, Osborn was wearing one of Walmart's new features — a wristband — on Black Thursday that allowed customers to reserve their item within a specific time limit.

"It allows them to go shop for other items, then come back and pick the item up," Poindexter said.

For the 6 p.m. sale, customers were allowed to pick up a wristband at 4 p.m., and they had until 8 p.m. before the item was resold. For the 8 p.m. sale, customers had until 10 p.m. before the item was resold.

Just a few lights down from Walmart, another long line was forming at Target, which opened at 8 p.m.

"I've been out here since 3 (p.m.)," said Josh Hinde, who was at the front of the line that stretched around the side of the building and ended in the back parking lot.

"I just wanted to do some early Christmas shopping for myself," he said, laughing. "It's worth it."

Target and Walmart weren't the only stores open on Thanksgiving as JCPenny, Hastings, Sears and downtown store Stage also opened their doors.

"We had a rush, but it wasn't too bad," said Rayna Novack, store manager at Stage. "But when we opened the doors, it really got crazy."

Novack said the store doubled what they had last year, and it was only 10:30 p.m. Stage was open until 1 a.m.

She also said customers were coming in from out of town and said they planned to stay overnight to do more shopping the next day.

But Novack had mixed feelings on the Black Thursday event.

"It's a good thing and a bad thing," she said. "It makes it hard for my associates to not be with their families, but it's good for the community because it brings more people here to Garden City."

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