To fully understand and appreciate the lure of Black Friday, it helps to spend time with shoppers 100 percent devoted to the non-stop madness.
"Shopping" Shelby Cadwell and her three sisters, Rachel, Ashelee and Whitney agreed to let me tag along for their holiday shopping expedition.
The sisters have been taking part in the ritual for six years. As Shelby said, "It's in our blood."
They grew up shopping with their mom and aunts and have continued their tradition now that they have their own young children, ten among them.
As Shelby said, "Our husbands are big hunters. They do opening day for hunting and we do opening day for shopping."
I met up with them at a north side store where they began standing in line at 9:30 pm Thursday night. The first 100 people would get a discount card ranging from $10 to $300 off their purchases.
The sisters were about 50 back. They were dressed for the cool, rainy weather and dressed to move fast, all in flat boots.
And they each had a Black Friday "survival kit" with their phones, money, water, vitamins and Power bars.
They also carried a bagful of store ads accumulated over the last few weeks - to remind them of where to go for what and as one remarked, "because most stores will price match."
Shelby said as much as they love the hunt, they also try to be practical, because "sometimes things we're trying so hard to get we'll see next year at the second-hand store."
She also said it's about more than snagging the best deal, noting, "Even if we don't save a dime, it's the experience of getting out and spending time together."
After two and a half hours in line, the doors opened, the shoppers hustled in. The sisters were pleased with the deals.
Whitney pointed to a rack of shirts, saying, "Normally they're $30, now they're $5."
After nearly an hour scouring the racks, they each left big bags stuffed with clothes.
Rifling through her bag, Rachel said, "I saved $113 and got lots of stuff."
It was then off to Macy's, also packed with people.
The sisters split up to save time, with two going to the shoe department for boots and two to appliances.
With more waiting in line, it was soon time for Whitney to dip into the survival kit.
"Need a snack. It's after midnight!" she laughed while ripping open a power bar.
The sisters move at a good pace. They navigate well, even when loaded down with bags and boxes.
At 2 a.m. they headed to Toys R Us were the crowds had thinned, making getting around much easier.
It didn't take long to start filling their carts.
"My boys are really into these Skylanders," Ashlee said
Rachel and Whitney like the buy-one get-one-free deal on farm animals.
After going up and down the aisles and looking high and low, Whitney started to yawn, "I need a coffee break. Starbucks is next."
The sisters left with carts heaping with toys, but they were far from done.
"Four and a half hours down, 12 to go," one said. "We'll shop til we drop."
At this point I acknowledged I was "ready to drop."
I bid the sisters farewell and good luck on the remainder of their Thursday night/Black Friday shopping adventure. Sleep was suddenly sounding like the best deal of the night....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!
P.S. Many thanks for letting me crash the "hunt."
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