It`s 3 a.m., and while most people are still sleeping off the intoxicating effects of Thanksgiving dinner, Linda Dodson and her band of merry shoppers already have showered, piled on layers of comfy clothing and headed out the door armed with store circulars and a list of gifts to buy.
|STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE|
|Clockwise from left, Janell Covey, Joseph Bublak II, Nick Matos, James Dodson Jr. and Linda Dodson pore through shopping circulars at Linda`s Amherst home.|
Operation: Black Friday is officially under way.
And they are following Dodson`s strict orders of not eating or drinking before embarking. There`s no time allocated for such frivolities in Dodson`s game plan – not when stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy are offering bargain prices on DVD players and iPods.
Plus – as Dodson succinctly points out – what goes in must come out. Bathroom breaks are like flushing precious shopping minutes down the toilet. In order to stay one step ahead of hundreds of other shoppers, every second counts.
Sound a little extreme?
That`s exactly what we at The Chronicle thought when a routine conversation about Christmas shopping evolved into how to cover Black Friday and the throngs of shoppers who camp out in front of their favorite stores when the rest of us generally are still fast asleep.
Naturally, the first question that was asked was who does this sort of thing and why.
Well, let us introduce you to Linda Dodson.
She is a veteran Black Friday shopper with more than 15 years of experience under her belt, and she doesn`t take it lightly. She peruses store ads the day before with a keen eye to lay out her plan of attack, even calling stores ahead of time asking where each coveted item is.
All this is done because Dodson said it really gets her into the holiday spirit.
“I know it sounds crazy, but I can say every year I have lucked out and got everything I wanted on my list,” she said. “No one is unhappy come Christmas morning because I didn`t try to get them what they want.”
But to fully understand why Dodson, 48, and other shoppers are so successful on Black Friday, we decided to go beyond just a simple interview.
“It`s the kind of thing you have to do at least once to appreciate,” Dodson said.
So, that`s exactly what I`m going to do today. I`m heading out – probably with sleep still in my eyes – at 4 a.m. to the Avon Commons` Target with Dodson, her husband, Jim Dodson Jr., 34, and son, Nick Matos, 27.
Family friends Joe Bublik II, 28, and Janell Covey, 24, are also joining the family, but ,after a brief planning meeting Wednesday at Dodson`s Amherst home, it was decided that Bublik and Covey would be part of the divide-and-conquer plan by heading first to Wal-Mart.
I know it sounds crazy, but Dodson is armed with a long list of gifts she hopes to snag at rock-bottom prices. And I will be right there to see if she`s successful and at what price.
Dodson promises the day will be anything but forgettable. She has schooled me on how the morning should go down.
Don`t eat or drink, she said. Wear plenty of layers of comfy clothes that can be peeled off at a moment`s notice and leave the purse at home.
“You really need to have both hands free to grab everything you want,” she said.
I never knew there were rules to shopping, but Dodson said there are and her biggest pet peeves are amateurs.
Line busters, people who are too chicken to brave standing in line out in the cold and instead wait in the warmth of their cars only to hop to the front of the line 15 minutes before the doors open, and people who once inside scheme and scam their way into big-ticket items are the worst, she said.
Dodson said it takes commitment to be a good Black Friday shopper, and she goes into the day knowing what she wants, and not being afraid to get it.
“This is not a joke,” she said with a laugh. “If you don`t do this right, you can really get hurt. Make sure you get some rest because come Friday, we`re shopping.”