Black Friday mayhem begins early

Shopping is voluntary, so one would think that the members of the shopping hordes waiting in line for stores to open on Thanksgiving – bringing Black Friday into the evening before – wouldn’t mind.

But August Robertson of Hollidaysburg, dedicated Black Friday participant, minds.

She’d like to have it like it was a few years ago, with stores opening at 5 or 6 a.m. Friday – not 6, 7 or 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Yes, it’s voluntary, but you really don’t have a choice, according to Robertson, who emerged from Kohl’s about 8:30 p.m. Thursday with her 14-year-old niece and bags of Barbie equipment, half an hour after Kohl’s opened.

She was one of about 200 who’d been waiting outside the door.

“You’ve got to go out and join the game,” Robertson said. “You can’t sit.”

Robertson was fully committed Thursday, even though she would have preferred to be with her family until today.

It wasn’t easy.

She was at Walmart in the afternoon, first in line for a deal on a TV, when she noticed about 45 minutes later that another line had formed.

When it became apparent that store personnel were planning to admit the second line first, she complained, and eventually – with the help of a customer who vouched for her – got escorted to the front of that second line.

At that point, a woman who had been at the front of that line called her a “princess b–.”

“It was uncomfortable,” she said. “My eyes welled up with tears.”

She also had to pee, but held it for an hour, knowing there was no time to abandon her post.

And she got her TV, along with Barbie equipment from Walmart.

“We did awesome,” Robertson said.

And she wasn’t nearly finished: They planned to go to Logan Valley Mall, then to Denny’s for sustenance, then back at it until about 6 a.m. – the time that in years past they’d be just starting.

It feels different to start in the middle of the evening, instead of midnight, said Jeff Matthews, manager of Kohl’s.

“They’re more awake,” he said of his customers. “It’s kind of cool, actually.”

Opening early was a corporate decision based on what the competition is doing, he said.

“You don’t want to be left behind,” he said.

It’s his favorite time of year.

He likes the energy, likes bantering with the customers, likes the crowds.

Mid-interview, he paused to help a woman who wanted a TV, but who had never experienced Black Friday – or Black Thursday – before.

“I love this,” he said.

It’s not necessarily for the retiring.

Kyley Longo was first in line at Kohl’s, having arrived three hours before the opening.

Her being first wasn’t an accident.

She has a background in athletics, and she’s currently a girls’ basketball coach in the Bellwood-Antis School District.

“My competitive nature,” she said.

She, too, was paying the price.

“Are we cold? Yes,” Longo said. “Is our snot froze? Yes.”

Her presumed reward was going to be a pair of $90 blankets on sale for $20 each and a $40 griddle on sale for $7.99.

Her linemate Kirsten Sharpe of Wells Tannery was also cold.

“I couldn’t feel my toes,” she said.

But she isn’t competitive.

“Just want to find a good deal,” she said.

Over at Game Stop, which was set to open at midnight, Heath Stevens of Carrolltown was waiting not for a bargain, but just for a shot at an item in short supply – Play Station 4.

The former Marine is 33, and has been playing video games since 1990.

The service training was hard on his body, and he can’t do physically what he formerly could.

But he can still work the controls for hunting and searching and the vast variety of other things he can do electronically.

“It’s an escape,” he said.

His linemate Cory Musselman of Altoona was after a limited-supply item he had successfully ordered – but had to cancel, because car trouble claimed the funds he was going to use.

Like the women at Kohl’s, he was cold.

“That tells you just how much I want this game,” he said.