Patience pays off for Black Friday bargain hunters

Dozens of shoppers wait for the opening of the Best Buy store in Benton Township on Thursday. (Don Campbell |HP Staff)

Dozens of shoppers wait for the opening of the Best Buy store in Benton Township on Thursday. (Don Campbell |HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Michael Gagliardo was among the dozens of people waiting in lines outside of the Twin Cities’ largest retailers on Thursday.

The Kalamazoo resident was at Best Buy in Benton Township, waiting for a chance to get a 55-inch flat-screen TV on sale for to hang on his living room wall.

When he arrived at Best Buy at 10 a.m., Gagliardo discovered he would be the second person to receive a doorbuster ticket.

“This is the earliest I have ever been to one of these sales,” he said. “I went this year because I was bored. I had to work at UPS on Wednesday and my family decided to go to North Carolina for Thanksgiving.”

Gagliardo said he drove to Benton Harbor for Thanksgiving because there were too many Western Michigan University students in Kalamazoo already stationed outside of stores as early as Wednesday.

The lone person in front of Gagliardo at Best Buy was Benton Harbor resident Brendalin Lewis. She was also on the hunt for a cheaper-than-normal flat-screen TV.

“I’ve been doing this for 11 years,” Lewis said beneath a tied-down tent shielding her from the ever-changing climate.

In years past Lewis has shopped at Best Buy, Meijer, Target and Wal-Mart for Black Friday deals. Lewis said she chooses stores based on whomever has the best deal.

Her first time lining up in anticipation for Black Friday doorbuster sales was at Meijer more than a decade ago, when she bought a skateboard for her grandson. Lewis says she doesn’t budget for presents this time of year, but always plans to keep an eye out for that one big deal that can make or break a Christmas.

When asked if she had learned anything from doing this for so long, Lewis had a simple answer: “Be the first one. You’ll get what you want if you are the first one.”

At Target, John Florvilus bested everyone.

The Berrien Springs resident left home early and showed up in Benton Township at 6 a.m. to an empty parking lot.

Florvilus said he waited another four hours until he saw someone else arrive at Fairplain Plaza.

Florvilus was out looking for a 55-inch TV for his children during his first attempt at Black Friday bargain hunting. He said he thought people would be there just as early, since he had never done anything like this before.

“I saw it was going to be on sale today and realized I had to make some effort to get it,” Florvilus said. “I put my chair out here as a placeholder and waited in my car because of the rain.”

Those who showed up only a few hours beforehand weren’t as lucky.

Ruth Koemes and Ron Robb, of St. Joseph, got in line at Best Buy about two hours before the doorbuster sale began and found themselves behind a line of about three dozen people.

The couple is originally from Grand Rapids, where in the past they have seen lines at Best Buy wrapping around the building.

“This isn’t as bad, but I think we might miss out on what we came for,” Koemes said.

The two were in Benton Township to buy two large flat-screen TVs for themselves and Koemes’ son. Robb said they were made aware of the Best Buy deals through a few emails, but didn’t look elsewhere for others.

“I saw something through email about the cheaper TV,” Robb said. “We’re not really Black Friday people.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 27, 2015)

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