Business

Bargain hunters set up camp for Black Friday deals

Kurtis Ellegood, left, Charlie Whetzel and Michelle Howlett, all of Georgetown, stood in front of the Best Buy in Hamburg Pavilion on Thursday. They had set up tents for the wait, and one future shopper had even brought along a gas-powered generator to keep his tent warm and to barter electricity to others.
Kurtis Ellegood, left, Charlie Whetzel and Michelle Howlett, all of Georgetown, stood in front of the Best Buy in Hamburg Pavilion on Thursday. They had set up tents for the wait, and one future shopper had even brought along a gas-powered generator to keep his tent warm and to barter electricity to others.

Thanksgiving could wait.

What couldn't wait was Best Buy's Black Friday discount on a Sharp 42-inch high-definition TV.

While their families and friends were tearing into turkey and mashed potatoes, dozens of hard-core deal-seekers waited in line at Lexington's two Best Buy locations Thursday hoping to score a TV to give away as a Christmas present or — just as likely — to keep for themselves.

The TV normally retails for $500. But when Best Buy's doors opened Thursday at midnight, it could be had for a mere $200.

"I don't know anywhere that I've ever seen where you can get a 42-inch TV for 200 bucks," said Kurtis Ellegood, an Army reservist from Georgetown who staked his place in line about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Following analysts' predictions that electronics would be top sellers this Black Friday, many of those lined up said they planned to pick up iPods, laptops or tablet computers. But those were just side items; overwhelmingly, people wanted that TV.

A few were also seeking a Samsung 55-inch TV, which was discounted to $999 from about $2,000.

Modest lines had formed at other retailers such as Target, Old Navy and hhgregg by 8 p.m. Thursday, but Best Buy's TVs were the reason the hardest of the hard-core stayed the night in tents — and why some who didn't camp tried unsuccessfully to barter their way into the front of the line Thursday.

Tom Brennan, a substitute teach at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and veteran deal seeker, was first in line at the Best Buy on Nicholasville Road. He and his daughter, Jordan, had set up a tent about 11 a.m. Wednesday.

"I'm number one," he told a woman who showed up Thursday seeking to cut in line.

"Maybe I could be number two?" she asked.

"Nope," he said. "Not unless you were here at 11:15 yesterday morning."

Brennan said he had been offered everything from cash to University of Kentucky basketball tickets in exchange for his place in line, but he declined each time, as everyone declined the woman as she worked her way down the line.

"I'm here for presents for my family," he said, but added that he was also there for the fun of it. Brennan has camped out the last 10 years, and he said the best part of the experience is getting to know your temporary neighbors.

"I've met a lot of great people," he said.

Even those who didn't think it was fun — "cold" was the more universal experience — chatted with their neighbors like old friends, even though they had known each other about a day.

Behind Brennan, Glenmore White, 27, and Cody Miller, 20, passed the time by seeing who could come up with the most ridiculous answer when people asked what they planned to buy.

"I'm here for the Twilight hair-care set with the brush, the straightener and the comb," a straight-faced Miller said. "And a Justin Bieber toothbrush."

At the Hamburg Best Buy, the barter system was in full effect. Anthony Rios (whose tent was a comfortable 88 degrees thanks to a generator-powered heater) allowed people to charge cellphones and plug in electric blankets in exchange for gas to power the generator.

The shoppers shared food, drinks and guarded each other's spots when someone had to walk to a nearby gas station to use the bathroom.

"We're all pretty friendly right now," said Jimmy Grimes, 42. "We'll fight once the doors open."

Best Buy employees began handing out tickets at 10 p.m. It wasn't clear how many TVs they had in stock but, rumor had it, each store had 30 to 40.

That meant some people would go home empty handed, with about 50 people lined up at each store Thursday afternoon. That number had swelled to about 200 at each store by Thursday evening.

But at least they had Thanksgiving leftovers to look forward to.

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