WATERLOO, Iowa --- Edvin Kovacevic, 16, said his family was certain he had lost his mind.
“They told me, ‘You’re stupid; it’s gonna be really cold out here,’” Kovacevic said at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday, nearly six hours into a vigil outside the Best Buy store with four buddies from West High. The wind howled relentlessly and the evening temperature plummeted into the 30s outside the store at Crossroads Center in Waterloo.
The hunt for Black Friday deals had begun.
And, there was still plenty of Thursday left.
Kovacevic and his cohorts — Asim Alivegic, Maid Mizic and Sevad Duratovic, weren’t alone. The five were at the head of a line of eager electronics shoppers that had cut their Thanksgiving celebrations short — or, simply moved them to the mall.
The queue had grown to nearly 50 people, most of them decked in winter finery that included thick stocking caps, blizzard-worthy coats and gloves. Some took shelter under blankets, for extra measure against the strong late-November winds that kicked up as the evening ticked along.
Alivegic said his family questioned his sanity, too, but he wanted to scout out a deal on a good laptop computer, and he wanted to make sure he was near the door when it opened at midnight.
“I got here early because I thought it was gonna be packed, but it’s not really as packed as I thought it would be,” he said, noting he still had time earlier in the day to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast with his family.
Sarah Rivas and her husband, Cesar, had traveled from Omaha, Neb.
“I’m giving my husband a break,” said Sarah, who occupied the sixth place in the line outside Best Buy while her husband took a brief respite away from the breezy sidewalk.
The couple were in town to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“My family all lives here, so we always come here for Thanksgiving,” Sarah said.
But, she said, the chance to save some money on a 40-inch TV and a Blu-Ray player was too compelling to resist this year.
“Right now, with the economy the way it is, and my husband is in the military and they have a lot of cutbacks, so we decided we were going to make some sacrifices this year, as far as time goes, so we could get some better deals,” she said.
Steve Phillips of Des Moines said he was visiting his daughter for the holiday, but he wanted to do something nice for his 15-year-old son, who wanted to procure a new TV from Best Buy.
“We’ve been here since 2,” Phillips said.
Phillips was asked if he ever had done anything like that before.
“Not like this, not this long,” he said. “I’m not a fan of this, but for him, I’ll do it.”
Crowds formed outside other stores, as well. Outside the Super Target store in the Crossroads area, about 60 shoppers were queued from the store’s north entrance around the nearest corner of the building.
A ‘great event’
“Black Friday has always been a great event,” said Dave Fisher, team keader at the Super Target. “It really kind of kicks off the retail season. It’s more than just sales for a lot of folks; it’s an event. They come every year. It’s the same folks. They really enjoy coming early and the lines. They get excited about this event.”
The store didn’t open until 9 p.m., but the lines started to form around noon, Fisher said.
“They can get really good deals and get a lot of their Christmas shopping done early and get it done in one day, so a lot of guests get really excited about that,” he said.
Some shoppers, especially at the head of the line, were familiar with the Black Friday routine, Fisher said.
“They know what they want and they can grab exactly what they want, and it’s fun,” he said.
It’s also a bit of a social occasion, Fisher said.
“Everybody’s in good spirits,” he said. “They’re interacting with each other, meeting new people. They’re from all different towns.”
Store staff interacted with the visitors, too.
“We’re talking about the weather, how windy and cold it is,” Fisher said. “Some of the folks were in the same place in line as last year, so we’re just talking about last year and the other places that they’re gonna go after they leave Target, what they’re looking for. It’s good interaction.”
Over at the Sears store at Crossroads, a crowd estimated at 200 people lined up for the store’s 8 p.m. opening.
Alan Music, accompanied by his aunt and uncle, Hasan and Ramiza Miljkovic, headed up that queue, having arrived about nine hours earlier, by Music’s estimate.
All day in line
Music was asked how he managed to kill time.
“On my phone, basically,” he said.
Music clutched an ad for a 50-inch flat-screen TV, priced at $299. His aunt and uncle were eyeing a 32-inch model for $97.
“Last night, I was just searching up ads and just came across this and we decided we’d stay out the next day,” Music said.
What about Thanksgiving?
“We ate before we came,” he said.
Some people in line had dropped out during the wait, Music said.
“Right when they figured out there’s only, like, six TVs, they left,” he said.
The Walmart store lot at Crossroads was jammed with heavy traffic, around 8 p,m., about the time the store was scheduled to open with its first “wave” of Black Friday deals.
Occupy Wall Street planned a nationwide Black Friday “strike” at several publicly held retailers — perhaps most notably, Walmart — but the actions bypassed Cedar Valley stores. Organized worker walkouts were scheduled Thursday night at Walmart stores in Ankeny, Cedar Rapids and Windsor Heights and this morning in Davenport and Marshalltown.
“The fact is, we do not expect these actions by a very small minority of our associates (less than .0003 percent) at a handful of stores to have any impact on our stores or our customers shopping experience on Black Friday,” Kory Lundberg, Walmart’s director of national media relations, said in a email note.