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Lodi shoppers brave Black Friday sales

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Posted: Thursday, November 22, 2012 9:47 pm | Updated: 6:38 am, Sat Nov 24, 2012.

Hundreds of Lodi shoppers braved Black Friday madness just hours after clearing away Thanksgiving dinner dishes.

The annual tradition of shopping the day after the November holiday has slowly encroached on the day itself over the years. This time, Walmart and Target both began their sales on Thursday night in Lodi.

Walmart remained open through its normal daytime hours, but sale prices on certain items went into effect at 8 p.m. Thursday, 10 p.m. the same night and 5 a.m. on Friday.

Those looking to snag a particular TV or memory foam mattress topper crowded near the display until employees removed the plastic wrap covering each tower of items.

A rush of shoppers descended on the store just before 8 p.m., and carts filled with purchases began flowing out of the exit doors a few minutes later. Many shoppers had children in tow.

Officers with the Lodi Police Department were called out to the store when managers and store security reported two fights near the electronics section, but the hostilities had ended when officers arrived.

Store employees attempted to corral shoppers using caution tape and arrows taped to the floor, but those were largely ignored. Sale items were highlighted with bright balloons, and employees did their best to guard the products that wouldn’t be discounted for several more hours.

Melissa Gardner of Lodi said the store was calm until employees unwrapped the sale items.

“They’re all competing to save $50. But then, so was I,” she said, after buying a PlayStation gaming console and three games.

Several shoppers reported scuffles and shoving near the electronics sections, where TVs, video game consoles and DVDs were deeply discounted.

“It’s a zoo in there,” said Ron Fortenberry of Red Bluff, as he exited the store on Friday empty-handed. “I came to look at electronics, but I wouldn’t go near that line. There’s nothing in there worth that.”

Justine Lopez entered the store at 7:30 p.m. to pick up some DVDs and video games.

“It wasn’t as bad as a few years ago. We got out within an hour,” said the Lodi resident.

By the next day, the chaos had died down, store employees reported.

“As far as I know, it went fine. I wasn’t here for the excitement, I’m just here for the clean-up,” said Sheryl, an assistant manager who declined to give her last name.

The situation was less manic across the street at Target. The store was closed to allow employees to prepare for the 9 p.m. opening. Shoppers began lining up behind barricades earlier in the day for a prime position to enter the store.

Standing proudly at the head of the line was Ruben Gonzales of Lodi. He had arrived at 9:30 a.m. to make sure he could buy a PlayStation with four games for $200. But he didn’t miss Thanksgiving. His mother brought him a plate of turkey and side dishes in the afternoon.

By evening, the line extended east around Staples and back to the shipping area behind Safeway.

Shoppers were still arriving at 9 p.m. Kalyn Farmer and Amy Bradford, both of Galt, arrived 10 minutes before the doors opened to stand in line.

“We wanted to enjoy Thanksgiving before we came out,” said Farmer. “We’re not looking for anything specific. Just having a good time.”

Employees passed out a limited number of coupons to be exchanged for big-ticket items such as TVs, which were stored in carts in the fitting rooms away from the other sale items.

Target employee Lupe Munoz welcomed shoppers and asked them to not push or run inside the store.

Once the doors opened, employees let in 30 people at a time through a small opening in the metal barricade to avoid a rush. Rows of shopping carts were used as barricades to move shoppers toward sales.

On Friday, store manager James Avlia said the 27-hour sale had been going fine, with no hiccups.

“We were pretty busy. It died off in the early hours, but we’re back in full swing again,” he said on Friday morning.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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