Wal-Mart Shoppers Hunt for 'Black Friday' Bargains
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.
Coming up, Iraq War protesters return to Crawford, Texas, as the president concentrates on other issues on his agenda.
But first, today is Black Friday, the day retailers expect to be lifted from red to black ink by holiday shoppers. Retail-giant Wal-Mart has gone back to offering its door-buster discounts this year. Wal-Mart skipped the door-busters last year, declaring that the company's everyday prices were low enough. Well, bargain hunters disagreed and stayed away. Early this morning, NPR's Jason DeRose visited the Wal-Mart in suburban Niles, Illinois, to see if customers have come back.
(Soundbite of person shouting, automobile engine)
JASON DeROSE reporting:
Just after 4 AM, the Wal-Mart parking lot was completely full, and lines of eager patrons stretched around the building and down the road. The temperature was 15 degrees. One of the shoppers was Diana Laurence(ph), who drove out here from Chicago.
Ms. DIANA WARRENS (Wal-Mart Shopper): Well, I'm hopefully going to snag a laptop computer for the bargain price of $378. So we'll see.
DeROSE: Laurence is back at Wal-Mart after skipping the store on the day after Thanksgiving last year because it didn't offer the early-morning super sales.
Ms. WARRENS: We did go to Target instead. And, you know, you got to--it's something to bring you in, and that's exactly what we're doing.
DeROSE: Laurence says the low prices are necessary for her because she's trying to limit her spending this Christmas season to no more than $100 per person on her list. According to the Niles, Illinois, Police Department, the crowd of about 5,000 people began lining up to get into this Wal-Mart around 2 AM. The store didn't open until 5.
(Soundbite of rattling noise)
DeROSE: Well, the doors have just opened and thousands of people are streaming in from the streets. They're wrapped in blankets, in sweatshirts, pushing the carts they've brought from home. I see someone wrapped in a comforter that looks like they just got up right out of bed and walked across the street here.
Standing on a median away from the maddening crowd was Roger McKowski(ph). He's here to get the $68 DVD player, but he's not willing to be crushed in the line. This year marks his return to Wal-Mart after staying away from the retailer last year because of the lack of post-Thanksgiving sales.
Mr. ROGER McKOWSKI (Wal-Mart Shopper): They screwed up last year and lost a lot of money.
DeROSE: Well, was the disappointing to you?
Mr. McKOWSKI: No. The other stores were open. I--well, one doesn't--one's not open? The others are open, so what's the difference, you know? They all have sales.
DeROSE: Also apart from the crowd was Chicago resident Wanda Risario(ph), who says she had to get out of line because she felt a panic attack coming on.
Ms. WANDA RISARIO (Wal-Mart Shopper): I didn't expect this many people, to tell you the truth. I didn't expect that and it was kind of getting crazy in line. I decided to just step out. I've been here--I was here early, but it wasn't worth it for me.
DeROSE: Risario, who's visibly upset, says she got up around 2 AM to make the sale in order to stretch her small Christmas budget.
So how much are you planning on spending this year?
Ms. RISARIO: $400.
DeROSE: And how many people is that going to be spread?
Ms. RISARIO: Hopefully less. I would say about 15 people.
DeROSE: How important is it to you that, you know, you're able to get everybody something on that budget?
Ms. RISARIO: It's really the children. It's--I'm not so much worried about the adults, but the children.
DeROSE: Risario hopes she'll be able to eventually get into the store. The sales last until 11 AM. But she's worried the Wal-Mart will run out of the items she's looking for before she feels up to heading in. Jason DeRose, NPR News, Chicago.