Karina Davis of Palm Harbor waits for the Best Buy store to open in Clearwater.
CLEARWATER – It’s not always about the deal. Among the dozens of people lined up outside the Best Buy store on Drew Street on Thanksgiving Day, 12 hours before the store opened, not one said they were there just to get a good buy.
Mary Caliguiri of Clearwater was typical of them.
“It is a little bit of both,” Caliguiri said. “You have to like coming here; I’m pregnant, due anytime so I’d have to love it to be here.”
In fact, Caliguiri and three family members had been in line since the previous Sunday. For four days they literally camped out in front of the store. When store officials handed out numbered arm bands they were numbers 4, 5, 6, and 7.
“We decided to come so early because we heard that people were already here on Saturday, so we packed up, and here we are,” Caliguiri said.
It was her sixth year in a row to line up for Black Friday.
Best Buy made it easy for them.
“They installed port-a-potties,” said Caliguiri. “And when the store was open, they allowed us to go inside and use the restrooms. As for food, people drop things off for us, or one of us can leave and get something.”
Sitting next to Caliguiri was Martie Ramos of Tampa. Their relationship in fact is an example of what happens when people come to line up early. They didn’t know one another till they united outside the store in search of a Black Friday bargain.
“We got here on Saturday,” said Ramos. “We have numbers 1, 2, and 3. It is nice to camp-out; you get to meet different people. Some of my friends think I’m crazy. In fact, I think they are ready to sign me in.” Ramos laughed.
She said she checked out some of the stores in Tampa but preferred to come across the bay to Clearwater.
Karina Davis, 17, of Palm Harbor was a little down the line. She and her boyfriend had numbers 10 and 11. They, too, were after more than just the deals.
“This is fun,” Davis said. “You get to hang out with friends, it gets you out of the house, you get to meet new people and it is exciting. The excitement builds as Friday gets closer.”
Like the others, she had erected a tent and didn’t have trouble sleeping since her arrival on Monday.
“I slept well,” Davis said. “It really isn’t loud here; the police are always around, so it is safe. The only thing is the store keeps the outside lights on. We asked them to turn them off, but they said no. Nevertheless, I slept until 11 this morning.”
Clearwater residents James Bailey and David Dixon were a little more about the deals than the others. They arrived at the Best Buy store on Wednesday and have their eyes on new TVs.
“I just got a promotion, so I can afford to upgrade the TVs in my house,” said Dixon. “I just bought a new 50-inch LED TV for $400 and I’ve got my eye on another one.”
His friend, Bailey, was also looking for a new TV, but at the same time was enjoying the experience of camping out.
“I recognize some of the same people from last year,” Bailey said. “It really is like regular camping out except it is harder.”
In their tent, they had spread blankets over the concrete sidewalk, no air mattresses like some of the others.
“You kind of forget about it once you have a beer and watch a movie on your laptop,” said Bailey.
TVs seemed to be the target of choice among those in line at Best Buy. Caliguiri had her eye on a 40-inch HDTV for $170.
“You can only get one per person,” Caliguiri said. “So we’re also looking at a laptop and some other stuff.”
Her friend, Martie Ramos, was also looking at a variety of items.
“Once we get the TV, we’ll check out the iPods and games,” Ramos said.
In contrast to the lineup at Best Buy, there was but a single person outside the Target store in the Clearwater Mall at noon on Thanksgiving Day.
“I’m surprised I’m first,” said Michael Trice of Clearwater.
The store was to open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening. Trice showed up 10 hours before the opening and took his place right up front.
“I’ve been doing this for the last two years,” Trice said. “Things are so pricy now, you have to take every cut you can get. I’m looking for PlayStation 3s, TVs, and of course some toys. I see they have Nooks at half-price. I think I’ll get one of those.”
As for food on Thanksgiving Day, Trice was typical of many of the others in the line at Best Buy.
“I have friends who are going to bring me over a turkey dinner this afternoon,” Trice said.
Trice had a busy Thanksgiving Day. He ran in the Turkey Trot 5K Wingding race and one-mile Gobbler run in the morning, then headed to Target to start the line. He admitted he’d be ready for a shower by the time he gets home with his bounty from the Black Friday sale.
All of those interviewed, whether at Target or Best Buy, were experienced Black Friday shoppers who didn’t mind waiting – in some cases for days – to get a good spot in line. Would they do it again? Michael Trice likely spoke for them all when he said, “Absolutely I will do it again next year, absolutely.”