By Ryan Richardson
JOPLIN, Mo. —
When Joseph Dixon and three family members staked out their spots as first in line for Black Friday deals at Best Buy, they weren't sure what they wanted to purchase.
But since it was only noon on Wednesday, they had plenty of time to figure it out.
"We spent a lot of our time studying the ad and deciding what we were going for," said Dixon.
The Springfield resident was among the throngs of local shoppers who got a jump on holiday sales as more and more stores joined the trend of opening Thursday evening.
Nearly 400 shoppers were lined up outside of Best Buy on Thanksgiving evening ahead of the store's midnight opening.
After studying the advertisements, Dixon eventually settled on a 55-inch 3-D television, a new surround sound system and various other sale items. He said he planned on spending nearly $2,000 at Best Buy, but it wouldn't be the best deal of the day for him.
"I think the coolest thing we got was a black-and-white stray cat that we found out here," he said. "We had one of our friends go and buy a cat carrier, and we are taking him home with us. We named him Friday, of course."
Behind Dixon, fellow shoppers congregated under a pop-up canopy that he had brought with him. Several people took turns playing the generator-powered Xbox 360 that he also brought to keep himself entertained. Best Buy employees helped the shoppers out with battery donations to power their controllers.
"The staff for the store has been extremely nice to everyone out here," Dixon said. "We've had offers of coffee. They've brought us batteries and asked us if there was anything they could get us. That's the best customer service ever, and we haven't even bought anything yet."
This was Dixon's second year in a row waiting at Best Buy, but this was his first year landing the coveted first place in line.
He had one piece of advice for others wanting to wait in line to shop:
"Bring a pillow, because concrete is really, really hard," Dixon said.
Shoppers also lined the parking lot at Northpark Mall ahead of the midnight opening, despite several of its anchor stores not opening until early Friday morning.
Several of the mall's smaller stores had to deal with even larger crowds than in past years.
Victoria's Secret manager Tara Danner had extra security on hand, in addition to limiting the amount of people allowed in the store at once.
"We weren't going to take the chance of someone getting hurt or worse," Danner said. "The same items are in there, and people are still going to get what they want. But we aren't going to have something crazy happen."
Wal-Mart opened its doors at 8 p.m. Thursday with a smaller selection of door-buster deals than in previous years, but with a contingency plan for shoppers who may have missed out on items. Shoppers who got in by 10 p.m. were given vouchers for sale items that were no longer in stock.
The store also staggered times that items went on sale and hired Joplin police officers to help with security.
Not every shopper who was out Thursday evening and early Friday morning was shopping for family members or even themselves.
For a recently-engaged Warrensburg couple, the holiday sales provided an opportunity for them to shop for a family they selected to help as part of the Salvation Army's Angel Tree charitable-giving program. Adam Pennel and Laylan Hecker traveled to Joplin to visit family for Thanksgiving and decided to brave the crowds at Wal-Mart, 1501 S. Range Line Road, in an effort to make their money go a bit further than normal.
The list they received to shop for the family was broken into two categories: wants and needs. The couple was proud of the fact they were able to purchase almost everything on both lists.
"Nothing in this basket is ours," Pennel said. "This is everything that our Angel family wanted."
Hecker said it was the best way they could spend the holiday evening.
"We try and pick families that we identify with," she said. "We won't ever see them opening up their gifts, but we know that they will truly enjoy what they get. That's what makes our holiday. That's what we are thankful for."