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Saving green on Black Friday

November 25, 2011

On "Black Friday" morning at the Lincoln Mall, Elizabeth Pelletier, of Brandon, Vt., wheels a shopping carriage full of Christmas gifts from Target, as she searches the parking lot to find her sister’s car. Pelletier said she made the trek to the Target store in Lincoln because there aren't any Targets in Vermont.

LINCOLN — There seem to be two types of Black Friday shoppers: the people who come out and wait begrudgingly in line for a specific sale item, and those who view it as one big, exhausting — but-enjoyable — road trip.
Pawtucket residents Pauline Tougas, Rachel Doyon and Jeannine Bourski fall into the latter category. The three women, along with a couple of other family members, headed out to do shopping at the major retail stores along Route 1 in South Attleboro, Mass. at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday and they were just finishing up at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.
“We haven't been to bed!,” exclaimed Pauline Tougas, as she stuffed bags from K-Mart into an SUV that was already loaded with purchases from Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl's and other stores. “We fed the family turkey dinner, cleaned up, put the kids to bed, and out we come.” She added, “I didn't even really need anything. I just love the thrill of it.”
“We love this, we always do it,” added Jeannine Bourski. She and Tougas explained that they have a “method” which, once they get inside the store, involves dispatching various family members to get designated sale items. “Then, we all meet back in the middle and head to the check out,” said Tougas. Bourski added that at one store, “We were out before the lady who was the first in line.”
Also part of the “stay up all night” shopping brigade are Alfonso and Monique Camara of Attleboro. As they packed the trunk of their vehicle with a flat screen TV and other purchases from K-Mart in the Bristol Place Shopping Center in South Attleboro, the couple said they view the Black Friday experience as part of their family tradition. “We do this every year. We don't go to bed. We shop and then we go have breakfast,” explained Alphonso. Monique added, “We love it. We would feel weird if we didn't go.”
Is it worth it? The Camaras both said they were pleased with the bargains they had found. Yet, Alphonse added, “One year, I stood in line for hours in the pouring rain. That wasn't worth it.”
John Fernandez, of Attleboro, Mass., had actually been out twice during the Black Friday sales. “My wife dragged me out of bed,” he said, smiling, as he placed bags in his trunk at Bristol Place at around 9:30 a.m. He said he had gotten a few bargains that morning, but had scored his biggest deal with a deeply discounted TV from Target that was part of the new midnight opening for the South Attleboro store. “I had my nephew stand in line for me and then I just went in and paid for it,” he said. “I wouldn't wait in line otherwise.”
Fernandez added, “I worked in retail for 35 years and I never had a Black Friday off. I'm retired now, so I like to relax on this day.”
Over at the Target store in Lincoln, Lisa Doiron, an executive team leader who was managing the morning shift, said that the store's 1 a.m. Friday opening this year drew customers who were already in a long line when she drove in at about 6:50 p.m on Thanksgiving. “The line went from here to the back of the building.” She said there was the initial mad rush and then brisk business from the time the doors opened until about 2:30 a.m. Then a long lull occurred in the wee hours, but the shoppers began to come out again by about 10 a.m., she said.
Doiron, who noted that Target had opened last year at 4 a.m. said that the store management team had prepared for the 1 a.m. opening on Friday by closing at 9 p.m. on Wednesday. She also said they were providing “lots of food,” including breakfast items, chicken marsala and pizza to make the hectic day more enjoyable for the employees.
As he wheeled a shopping cart holding one of Target's featured items, a Samsung 32” LCD TV, Kyle Brand of Burrillville, said he was pleased at having saved $70. He said he has done Black Friday shopping “once or twice” before, while his companion, Michele Aponte, of Clinton, Mass., said she usually skips this shopping day “because I've worked in retail.”
For Lincoln native Elizabeth Pelletier, who now lives in Brandon, Vermont, the Black Friday deals at Target allowed her to get a lot of her toy shopping done for her children. “I'm not a 'regular.' I drove down to be with my sister,” she said. “There is no Target in Vermont, so this was great. I came for some portable DVD players and I just went from there.”
While the “big box” stores had lured customers with their early morning door-busters, over at the Lincoln Mall, the scene was a bit quieter. The Radio Shack inside the mall had been the only store to open at 5:30 a.m. and store manager Danny Fernandez said he had expected to find more of a line when he opened up. Among its specials, Radio Shack was offering a $100 discount on an XBox 360 game system that regularly sells for $299, but there were only a dozen or so customers who took advantage.
Maria Thomas, owner and manager of Firenze Jewelers inside the mall, was also finding the Black Friday morning to be getting off to a slower start than in previous years, even with an advertised deal on the popular Chamilia bracelets and beads. She noted, however, that when customers are buying expensive jewelery or something like an engagement ring, they don't want to have to feel rushed on a busy selling day.
For some, the lure of a low price was still not enough to spend hours waiting in the cold in a long line. East Providence friends Dulce Fontes, Kyle Silvia and Kevin Magee all drove to the Best Buy store in Seekonk, Mass. at around 10 p.m. on Thursday, where a 42” TV was advertised for $200.
Fontes said that she and Silvia had both wanted to buy new TVs for their college dorm rooms and had searched the fliers for the best deal. However, when they arrived at Best Buy and saw the size of the line, they figured they had no chance of getting one. They kept on driving and looked at the line at the nearby Target, which was slightly shorter.
“We waited in line at Target for about 45 minutes, but we still figured we wouldn't get the TVs because we were so far back in line. That, and it was freezing,” said Kevin Magee. So the college students stepped back from the retail madness and went instead to get hot chocolate and then to another friend's house to watch a movie.
While many area residents shopped, others use the day after Thanksgiving to kick off their holiday decorating. At the Ann & Hope Outlet's Trim-A-Tree shop in Cumberland, customers browsed for live Christmas trees, wreaths, pine garland and kissing balls.
Kevin DosSantos, manager of the Trim-A-Tree Outlet, said he expected a steady amount of customers that day, even though the upcoming weekend is traditionally the busiest. He noted that if kept properly watered, a live tree that is put up this weekend will last easily to Christmas and beyond.
Sue Marcaccil, of North Providence, carrying out wreaths and other greenery, said she was buying them “to decorate my daughter's house in Connecticut,” while Pawtucket residents Stacey Rabczak and Larry McLain were shopping for their first real balsam tree to replace a previous artificial one.
“This is the day we always decorate,” said Rui Azevedo, of Cumberland. Accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth and daughter, Alexa, he said that the family was also buying a real Christmas tree this year for the first time after years of putting up an artificial model.

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