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30-hour stake-out pays off in TV: Black Friday sales bring lines, herald start of Christmas shopping season

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Waiting in line for more than 30 hours was worth it, Jose Camarena, 17, said, so he could buy his own TV.

The Greenwood resident already had a TV but had saved money to get a new one and couldn’t beat paying $180 for a 40-inch screen.

Camarena and his friends arrived at Best Buy on Fry Road at 5 p.m. Wednesday — tents, blankets and extra clothing in tow — to wait in line for Black Friday sales on TVs, tablets and phones. The group did the same last year, but this year they arrived an extra hour early to be first in line.

By 11 p.m. Thursday, hundreds of people had lined up behind them, wrapping around the side of the building and back to the store’s loading zone.

Best Buy and most of the stores in the Greenwood Park Mall area opened at midnight Thursday, and thousands of people waited in the wind and rain to buy clothing, electronics and toys on sale.

By 11 p.m. Thursday, the mall’s parking lot was full, and Greenwood police said the lot wouldn’t have any empty spaces until about 4 p.m. Friday.

Traffic was backed up on U.S. 31, Fry Road and County Line Road, but Greenwood Police Department Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth said those roads are designed to handle lots of traffic and only a few accidents were reported there from Thursday evening through Friday morning.

Most shoppers arrived at the stores in Greenwood a few hours before they opened, but some shoppers, such as Camarena and his friends, arrived a day early to camp out in front of the stores.

Camarena hasn’t been camping long for Black Friday, but his friend, Chris Garcia, 17, has had practice.

Garcia grew up in California, where he said it was normal for his family and other shoppers to spend a week in tents in front of stores.

The first time Garcia remembers waiting that long was 12 years ago when the PlayStation 2 was released. The video game console was nearly half off, and his mother took him to the store to wait for it.

“My mom’s all about bargaining and saving. She’s a coupon lady,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s mother also taught him tricks for camping on the stores’ sidewalks.

This year, he brought cardboard for the bottom of their tents to prevent them from sleeping on the cold pavement. And with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees Wednesday night, Camarena said they needed it.

However, the group was less prepared for the rain that started about 45 minutes before they were let into the store. By the time the doors opened, their clothes and shoes were soaked.

“It said there was about a 30 percent chance, but I thought it would sprinkle and go,” Camarena said.

But he said sleeping in the cold and waiting in the rain was worth it.

Last year, he was not able to get a new TV, even after waiting 30 hours in line. At midnight this year, he and Garcia were the first through the store’s doors.

They ran to the TV section with his voucher for the 40-inch screen.

The TV rang up for $192.59, and Camarena dug in his pocket to pay for it with cash. He had $192 exactly but couldn’t find the change.

“I thought, ‘Oh no, I might not be able to buy this again,’” Camarena said.

After checking his pockets a second time, pulled out two quarters and a dime, just enough for the TV.

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