In days gone by, Thanksgiving afternoons were traditionally a time for roasting, carving or simply digesting a well-stuffed holiday bird. Times have changed.
By mid-afternoon this year, Luis Espinosa had loaded his family into the car at their Hawthorne home and made the quick drive to Mount Kisco, there to wait almost six hours for the doors to open at Target, signaling the start—at 9 o’clock on Thanksgiving Day itself—of the 2012 Christmas shopping season.
In days gone by, the day after Thanksgiving was traditionally set aside, with dread or eager anticipation, as the start of the Christmas shopping season. Black Friday, it was called, and retailers lured spectacular crowds with spectacular bargains. But times change.
As the Espinosas patiently watched Thanksgiving’s daylight turn to darkness, more shoppers turned out: dozens, then hundreds. By one unofficial estimate, about 1,500 people had queued up in quest of bargain goods, especially the coveted 50-inch Westinghouse LCD televisions, 50 of them, selling at a rock-bottom $350.
In recent years, prices like that for quantities like that sometimes fueled raucous queues of dawn, pre-dawn, even midnight bargain hunters. In their headlong pursuit of very limited supply, anxious shoppers turned the term “door-buster deal” into a literal, deadly phenomenon. In 2008, a Walmart worker died when the frenzied crowd waiting in darkness outside his Long Island store stampeded through the doors, crushing him. Fortunately, times change.
Far from frenzy, the 2012 atmosphere at the White Plains Walmart was calm and good-natured joshing at 8 p.m. as a friendly but firm gatekeeper filtered shoppers into the store in groups of 20.
On the job since 7 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, he expected to be there into the wee hours.
Up in the parking structure, Maria Kolody of Yonkers and her son, John, were bringing a neighbor, Charles Daubak of Hastings-on-Hudson, on a hunt for $6 flannel shirts. John said of the waiting line, “I’ve been on both sides of this,” recalling a stint doing construction at the Yonkers Department of Motor Vehicles office, where some in the waiting crowd beseeched him to open the doors early for them.
When doors opened in White Plains and Mount Kisco Thursday evening, “order” was the word people most often applied.
Target’s handling of its long line was roundly applauded by shoppers. At the beginning, security staffers admitted bargain-hunters in measured groups. Moreover, they had distributed cardboard discs denoting the first 50 people eligible to buy the $350 TV. The first of the 50-inchers trundled out of the store shortly after 9, drawing a lusty, spontaneous cheer from the queued up shoppers.
Lance Herman of Chappaqua, who was also among the Westinghouse winners, saluted the crowd control. Along with his children, Blair, 12, and Chase, 14, and nephews Will, 15, and Nick, 20, he had waited about two hours for Target’s doors to open. But Lance had no complaints. “They do a really good job here,” he said. “They had lots of staff and were well-organized.”
Indeed, by 9:30 the line had virtually disappeared and arriving shoppers just strolled through the open doors.
Arriving after 9, Christine Pesola of Mount Kisco did not have to wait. “They’ve got a good system here,” she said, leaving the store with two televisions but making it clear she was far from finished. “I’m going back for more,” she said.
Allan Freeman of White Plains, on the other hand, was finished not long after doors opened. On line since 8, he spent only $150 to snag a 32-inch television—“Great for a bedroom,” he said—and was calling on his cell to be picked up. “It’s worth it,” he said of the late-night shopping experience.
Inside the store, Donna Frustaglio of Hawthorne left her prized Westinghouse in the care of store security while she took a brief break. Like others, she volunteered praise for the way Target handled the crowd. “Very controlled,” she said. “It was nice.”
Appropriately, she had left her TV in the care of Rob K. of Danbury, who described himself as a Target “asset protection specialist.”
Out in the darkened parking lot, the Espinosa family prepared to load the fruits of their long wait on the Target sidewalk: two of the 50-inch high-def door-busters.