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Shoppers, retail workers share tales of Black Fridays past


For The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Balloons filled with gift cards dropping from the ceiling. Lines around the block before the sunrise. The official kick-off of the Christmas shopping season. All of these things and more could describe the annual Black Friday traditions of residents in our Tri-State area.

Shoppers look for Black Friday deals at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville in the 2015 file photo. For generations of Tri-State shoppers, Black Friday has become a tradition unto itself.
(Herald-Dispatch file photo by Lori Wolfe)

According to the National Research Foundation, more than $67 billion was spent by 240 million people on Black Friday in 2015. Retailers expect these numbers to increase with more opportunities for “early bird” shopping every year.

With #BlackFriday2017 just around the corner, enjoy what local shoppers and retailers have to say about their own Black Friday experiences.

“I was at a gaming store in Pullman Square and had been standing in line for hours to get an XBox for a friend of mine. There were only about four other people in line with me, but after a while, you get to know those people and end up having some great conversations. Right as the manager was opening the store, a van filled with several people bombarded the line and cut in front of everyone who had been waiting since 5 a.m. These people were what I would call ‘re-salers’ and they cleaned out all of the merchandise that was in the store, leaving the rest of us with nothing. However, there was a happy ending. Because we couldn’t get the items we came for that day, the district manager took our names and addresses and ordered the items we had waited for and then hand delivered each item to all of us who had stood in line that morning. He brought it directly to where I work, and from what I understand, he took care of everyone in that line who hadn’t gotten what they came for. Now that’s something.” – Debbie Bennett of Barboursville

“We have a strategy every year that starts with shopping in Logan, (West Virginia) then Charleston, and we finish at the Huntington Mall. I have always gone with my mother and my cousins while all of the men in my family go hunting. Last year, when we got to Huntington Mall, they were getting ready to do the balloon drop with gift cards, and I literally fell asleep on a chair. I only woke up because of the commotion and noise from folks getting excited by the balloon drop. I know it sounds crazy, but we have so much fun. I have already agreed to work on Thanksgiving Day and the following Sunday just so I can take off Black Friday to shop.” – Ashley Bryant of Harts, West Virginia

“I’m 10 years old, and I’ve been Black Friday shopping since I was born. I go for the cheap prices, and I love the football stuff. Last year, my mom woke us up at 5:30 a.m. and put us in the car. I woke up when we got there, and I said, ‘How in the world did I get here?’ It’s fun, I can’t wait to go again this year.” – Bradley Edens of Ona

“I’ve worked in retail for years, and I’ve noticed that Black Friday and retail in general these days could be compared to the coal industry. There’s been a downshift in business where a lot of consumers are going online, and every year it gets a little less in demand. And if you’re on the retail side, you’ve noticed there is less and less chaos each year. A lot of retailers are calling it ‘Grey November’ and are monopolizing on this trend and offering deals all month long. It used to be when the store opened at 5 a.m., you only had time to glance up to thank people and that was it. Now it’s a bit more organized and controlled.” – Roby Jeffrey of Barboursville

“For over 10 years, my Black Friday tradition has been a little untraditional. I get up at 4 a.m., I bring children with me, and together, we go find the long lines of people standing in front of the big department stores. I always look in the paper, and I figure out which stores open first so we can make sure to reach the most people. We always pray before we go, and then we pass out Bible verses (tracks) to the Black Friday shoppers. People are always looking for those discounts and those deals on Black Friday, but we try to give them the gift of God. I’ve had good and bad reactions, but I think I’ll do it as long as He wants me to.” – Bonnie Carico of Huntington

“My most memorable Black Friday would have to have been a few years back when an older gentleman and an older lady wrestled on the floor of the Wal-Mart toy aisle over a baby doll. Needless to say, both of them were kicked out of the store and neither of them got to take the doll home. I’ve worked Black Fridays for over 15 years, and I’ve seen a lot of wrestling matches and fist fights.” – Lydia Thompson of Barboursville

“For over 20 years, we’ve gone Black Friday shopping. I do it for the tradition, but also because it’s fun and it’s challenging to see if you can get the deal. I don’t hit the hot spots first like Walmart or Toys R Us, because everyone else is hitting those first, so I go to the other stores that might not have the crowds. There’s an excitement in the air and it truly kicks off the Christmas season for my family. Our first stop this year is Best Buy – we really want a new TV.”- Anita Copodonna of Ona

“I have been working Black Friday since I was 17, and I’m now 42. More Black Fridays are typically mandated through companies for the managers to work, but to me, as a retail store manager, I want to work because this is our biggest day of the year. I love the hype behind it, which I know sounds crazy. I love the looks on a person’s face when they get a good deal. Most stores look at this as our way to get out of a deficit. Personally, I enjoy being around people, so this is a day where you get to be kind to everybody and have fun. I’ve seen the best and the worst. I once had a lady who took her hands and knocked an entire table of tank tops all over the floor because she was mad that we didn’t have two lines. But I’ve also seen management or associates give money to shoppers who may not have enough money to buy their items. You really see all kinds on days like Black Friday. – Johnda Shaffer of South Point

“One time a shop vac was on sale and, at age 7, I was too small to do much else, so my grandma told me to sit on it and scream if anyone tried to take it. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away in 2015 so going Black Friday shopping is now more important because it keeps her memories with me and makes me feel like I can carry on the tradition.” – Morgan Whitt of Meadow Bridge, West Virginia

“I’ve worked in retail for over 20 years and every year, I see something I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen people switch tags on merchandise or try to write their name on items. I’ve seen lines backed up for hours and people standing in the rain or snow to save $50. I’ve seen them fight over the last item, or be generous and give it up to someone who needed it more. I’ll work again this year at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.” – Scott Overby of South Point

“Our tradition is a four-gift Christmas: Something you want, something you need, something you wear and something you read. Our Black Friday plans always revolve around the approved items on our Christmas list. Overall, I’ve had some great conversations with strangers and fun times with people I didn’t know.” – Rikki McCormick Lowe of St. Albans, West Virginia

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