‘Black Friday' comes to the three-lane

| 29 Sep 2011 | 10:24

WESTFALL - You don’t have to live in the big city to get the true Black Friday experience. Local residents from Dingmans to Port Jervis set their alarms early on Friday morning for anticipated sales at area stores. For some dedicated shoppers the Courier encountered, sleep was not even an option. The busiest shopping day of the year would begin at Westfall’s Wal-Mart when the clock struck 5 a.m., and by that time, hundreds already filled the store. Shoppers like Nick Merrill of Milford were hunched over the merchandise at the top of their list, literally waiting for hours for that moment to come. Merrill had his hands on a new Compaq desktop computer. His mother, on the other hand, was more daring; she was already in Middletown, N.Y., on line at Best Buy for a new laptop. Others lined the aisles surrounding mountains of new televisions, which were wrapped in a black plastic coating. Upon getting the signal from store managers, Wal-Mart employees cut down the plastic and let the crowd break loose. Shopping cart after shopping cart flew toward the pile and then to the nearest register. Tag-team shoppers seemed to have it all figured out with each person having a specific task. Perhaps the most in-demand product was the RCA 52-inch high definition flat screen television which had nearly 40 shoppers on line by the time 5 a.m. rolled around, but only eight of these TV’s went on sale that day. Hunter Hoeper, the first lucky person on line, had not moved from his spot in over 7 hours, and said it was worth every second, and, of course, every penny. The sale price of $475 was about $1,000 less than the normal retail price. For some on line, the most difficult part was not getting up early and waiting, it was trying to fit big items into cars and minivans. Such was the problem for June Robins of Dingmans Ferry, who had arrived at the store at 3 a.m. Hoeper, to the contrary, had brought his pick-up. Down the road at Staples, zero-hour was approaching and the 30-person line, which stretched down the sidewalk, could not wait: This crowd did not have the luxury of waiting in the warm confines of the store. “The early bird gets the 400-Gig hard drive,” commented one customer, after he saved some $200. James Carpenter and his friend Raphael Medina of Port Jervis had held their first spot on line since 11 p.m. the previous night. They did so after having traveled to Middletown’s Best Buy and seeing 80 people on line already at 10 p.m. the night before. Carpenter, who bought a new laptop for his wife for Christmas, had only one thing to say about it, “She better appreciate this.” The manager of Staples arrived shortly before the 6 a.m., opening up to hand out tickets for the highest demanded products. In near freezing temperatures, long lines, and pushy crowds, the “madness” continued throughout the day, with most of the highly anticipated products, such as Wal-Mart’s portable DVD players, selling out in the wee hours of the morning.