BR shoppers dive into deals

You can tell the line in the electronics department of Wal-Mart is long when you’re standing next to the dairy case and you’re not even at the end of it.

Black Friday — or Thursday, depending on how you celebrate it — has come and gone once again, and Baton Rouge shoppers have jostled, elbowed and waited their way through it. Some, of course, ignored it all together.

Pam Sims, of Orange, Texas, and Brenda Robert, of Gonzales, have shopped every Black Friday weekend together for 15 years and found themselves in line next to the milk while waiting for a TV in the Gonzales Wal-Mart on Thursday night.

They arrived just after 6 p.m. and didn’t leave until midnight, but not before Sims had an elderly woman two people back launch herself over her and the woman behind her to grab a $10 electric griddle just as the plastic was sliced off the palette at 8 p.m.

“She was up on my shoulder,” Sims exclaimed Friday while taking a break at the Mall of Louisiana. “She just dove up and over from three (people) deep. Then she went three deep back and landed on her butt. I asked her, ‘Are you OK?’ and she said, ‘I’m fine, but we’ve been standing here an hour and a half!’ ”

“She was older than me and I’m 62,” Robert said.

Sims and Robert take it all in stride. They know why they’re there.

“I saved $100,” Robert said of the new 32-inch television she got for $148. “Plus, we met so many nice people. We all got to be friends. One of the ladies would leave and get all of the little $10 items — sheets were $20 for 700-count — and she would hand them out to all of us who were standing in line because you couldn’t get out of line. We had a ball standing back there talking to everybody.”

Others at the mall Friday said the doorbuster sales that characterize Black Friday aren’t for them.

“I did it last year at midnight and I wasn’t doing it again,” said Darlene D’Amico, of Central. “It’s just not worth it.”

She went to Best Buy at 8:30 a.m. Friday. While she didn’t get the TV she wanted, she got a good one at a good price.

“That’s the way it is,” she said. “You’ve got to have a Plan A and a Plan B.”

LSU graduate school students Dallas Callaway and fiancée Jennifer Millar thought they might see what all the fuss was about, so they headed to the Wal-Mart on Siegen Lane on Thursday night.

“We’re from Canada and we had heard about all the craziness and wanted to experience it ourselves,” Callaway said. “But when we got there we saw the lines and went right back home.”

You see, he explained, “There’s the big line outside but then you get in and there are even more lines inside.”

Amanda Bielkiewicz, of Baton Rouge, hit Sam’s Club at 6 a.m. Friday to buy a Galaxy S3 phone — for 96 cents.

“They had a lot of people but they were very organized,” she said.

Her friend, Miriam Charlet, of Clinton, went to The Tractor Supply Store — admittedly not your average Black Friday destination, but she got the camouflage boots she needed for a gift.

Bielkiewicz and Charlet, who met later at the mall, said the daytime crowds seemed lighter this year, probably because of the doorbuster sales creeping up to Thanksgiving Day.

“Usually, it’s a madhouse,” Charlet said.

Jamie Villnerve, of St. Amant, who hit a 50 percent-off sale at Loft, noticed the same thing.

“It’s nothing this year,” she said of the day crowds.

Charlet said she and Bielkiewicz generally shop Black Friday and are done. “Then we go home and crash for two days,” Bielkiewicz said.

Charlet said she has no interest in Black Friday events on Thanksgiving Day.

“I didn’t go because I didn’t want to ruin someone’s Thanksgiving,” she said, a reference to the employees who have to staff the stores that day. “I think that day should stay Thanksgiving.”

Sherry McCoy, in town from Texas to visit sister-in-law Gayle Lewis, of Baton Rouge, came to the mall just for the atmosphere. They left after making at least two trips back to pack the car.

“We were just here to get into the festive mood,” said McCoy. “We weren’t going to buy anything.”

“… But here we are,” Lewis said, shrugging her shoulders with a laugh.

“That’s part of the fun,” McCoy said.

Some shoppers said they expected to spend about what they did last year, whether they budget heavily or spend according to the sales they find.

“My husband would say I just go with the feeling, but I say I budget,” McCoy said. “He always says, ‘If only I had all that money you’ve saved me!’ ”

Shoppers were in good spirits and said they enjoyed the elements of holiday shopping that many others say they loathe.

“I think we found some really good bargains,” Robert said, noting she has to buy for seven children and 17 grandchildren.

Robert and Sims will do all of their shopping in one marathon session Black Friday weekend, as they do every year — just the two of them.

Asked if anything has changed in the 15 years, Robert replied: “I find people are more aggressive for their buys because they’re so limited on income. They’re going to get that sale price no matter what it takes.”

But Sims and Robert were not fazed by the flying griddle lady from this year any more than they were by the woman who threw a ball of clothing at them for reporting her for cutting in line last year.

“Would I do it again? Probably …,” Robert said.

“I’ll do it every year,” Sims added.