Shoppers Dive Into Holiday Sales

On Friday, the nation entered the first official weekend of the holiday shopping season. Bargain hunters braved huge crowds to browse for deals among the items discounted for the holidays.

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The long Thanksgiving weekend may be drawing to a close, but that means the holiday shopping season is just beginning. Americans across the country are hitting the malls in search of gifts that will be enjoyed by friends and family and be easy on the wallet. NPR's Allison Keyes braved the store aisles of Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Virginia to find out how bargain hunters were fairing.

SOUNDBITE OF CASH REGISTER

ALLISON KEYES: The registers were singing merrily at Macy's as bag-laden shopper glided along aisles all decked out for the Christmas season. Though the mall wasn't quite the maelstrom that many shoppers ran into on Black Friday, a steady, determined stream of bargain hunters was out in force. Heather Lake(ph) and her posse were methodically searching every box at a jewelry sales display in the middle of the aisle trying to get something cute and save money to boot.

Ms. HEATHER LAKE (Shopper):Thank you. We love this jewelry over here so we're trying to find something too match.

KEYES: Lake says she started out Friday hoping to catch some of the early sales because she loves Christmas shopping and because she believes you get the best bargains this time of year. Plus, she was killing several birds with one stone.

Ms. LAKE: We're shopping for our stuff for the holidays for our neighbors and friends, family.

KEYES: Dr. Dale Neron(ph) is done Christmas shopping after picking up his last three gifts in about 30 minutes yesterday. He says what he spends depends on who he has to buy for as opposed to the economy. And this year he was shopping for a doll for his grandniece, the first girl in his family in a decade.

Dr. DALE NERON (Shopper): When you tell them it's for a relative and you really look bewildered, everybody comes out of the woodwork. They say well this one wets and this one talks. And I'm like, she's like a newborn. What do you get a baby?

KEYES: Sitting on a bench surrounded by a slew of bags, veteran Christmas shopper Josephine Morgan was clearly ready for the fray. Dressed in sweats and sneakers, she explained that she was pacing herself after coming out for an early bird sale.

Ms. JOSEPHINE MORGAN (Shopper): I got blankets and I got a nice handbag, you know, so I'm resting now before I proceed further.

KEYES: Morgan started out in line at Best Buy at 4:00 a.m. on Friday, feeding a fetish for expensive electronics.

Ms. MORGAN: We got the 360, which is that game, some tapes, TV - 32 inch, the plasma TV, and...

KEYES: Can I come to your house?

Ms. MORGAN: Oh, sure. Sure.

KEYES: But despite her largesse, she says the sales this year aren't all that great.

Ms. MORGAN: There's always some hype. They always put them up higher than it really is in the first place to make you think you got your sale, but you know, that's just what happens, so you know it and if it feels right, then you go ahead. If you think it's too much, then you just leave it there.

KEYES: She even braves the madness on Christmas Eve, but says the days of throwing elbows to get to that last minute bargain are gone.

Ms. MORGAN: No. No. You know, because it's just not safe these days. You just get in line and wait, wait your turn.

KEYES: On their way out of the mall, Shanelle Samuels(ph) and her mom admitted they weren't shopping for Christmas and didn't even look sheepish about it.

Ms. SHANELLE SAMUELS (Shopper): Me and my mom go out every week, at least once a week, and shop. My mom bought a skirt, a blouse. I bought a lot of toiletries, candles, incense - pretty lady stuff.

KEYES: No lucky relatives on the list today?

Ms. SAMUELS: We're shopping for ourselves. This is our holiday, every day.

KEYES: Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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