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Most people relish Thanksgiving for the food and company. Diehard Black Friday shoppers in Metro Detroit celebrate the bountiful holiday deals.

Thousands of people across the region will be lining up in front of stores at the stroke of midnight or earlier on Friday for the opportunity to save on hot gift items. A growing number will even go out on Thanksgiving Day, with some retailers opening their doors while families are still eating turkey and watching football.

Lake Orion resident Mary Beth Anker, 47, has shopped on Black Friday with her sister and friends for the past 17 years. They dress festively, complete with deer antlers and jingle bells, handing out candy canes to fellow shoppers waiting hours in line. She does not like to shop on Thanksgiving, but never rules it out if she can find a great price on a gift.

“If something catches my eye, then I’ll go out on the holiday,” she said, noting her family thinks Black Friday is an obsession for her.

More often than not, Anker’s shopping starts a little later — usually no later than 2 a.m. on Friday morning. “I’m bound and determined to be one of the first in line at a store and that means getting there at least an hour or two before it opens,” she said.

Beth Gallant, 52, of Brighton said she has shopped on the day after Thanksgiving for at least 30 years, long before it was called Black Friday. She hates to pass up a good deal, but usually waits until after the holiday dinner. “Every once in a while, we’ll go out on Thanksgiving night,” she said. “After a couple of hours, we’ll go home and sleep a little and then go back out about 4:30 a.m.”

Seasoned Black Friday shoppers prepare well in advance of Thanksgiving Day, when the holiday newspaper ads are delivered. Commerce Township resident Missy McDonald, 44, starts looking at Black Friday ads leaked online (www.theblackfriday.com) in October. She prefers to shop by herself so she does not have to wait for anybody and can get in and out of stores quickly. McDonald claims she can wrap up her shopping on Black Friday in a mere 21/2 hours.

“Do your homework to see what’s on sale and at what time,” she said. “Look at the store maps they hand out when you are waiting in line. Also, keep an eye out for any Door Buster deals, too, because those aren’t usually advertised.”

Gallant and her neighbor tag team in stores. With kids the same age, they often are looking for the same gifts and split up to cover more ground.

Another trick of the trade for diehard shoppers like Clinton Township’s Ellen Wieczerza, 59, is to sign up for coupons sent in the mail. She also signs up for text and email coupons sent by retailers leading up to the Black Friday shopping frenzy.

“I get deals sent to my cellphone as I’m shopping,” Wieczerza said, admitting she spends $600-$700 on Black Friday, sometimes more depending on the sales. Last year she bought five Michael Kors coats for herself and two daughters that were discounted 75 percent thanks to a half-off sale and coupons.

Smartphones come in handy when a retailer runs out of a product on Black Friday. Standing in the store, Gallant has used her phone to go online and visit its website, often finding the same item on sale there.

Electronic goods are one of the most popular Black Friday buys. Last year Gallant got a 22-inch television on sale for $69. This year, McDonald is looking for a pair of Beats headphones for one of her kids. She is willing to wait in line for them if the price is right – at least 40 percent off.

Anker’s Reindeer Gang sees many of the same people waiting in lines each year on Black Friday. She said the large crowds are usually in good moods, with people comparing notes on what is on sale and where. Most of the time there is little pushing or shoving, even after the doors open.

A trip to Walmart last year, however, was a little scary. “We were standing in front of a pallet of Nintendo DS toys in the middle of the store and you could feel the people pressing against your back,” she said. “I had to interlock my arms with the ladies next to me to keep from getting trampled. My sister thought I was going to cry.”

Birmingham retail consultant Ed Nakfoor thinks people do not have to fight the crowds to get great deals this year. Historically, Black Friday has been a busy day for retailers but the week leading up to Christmas can feature even greater discounts, he said.

“Retailers get skittish if their merchandise is not moving during the holidays,” Nakfoor said. “They don’t hesitate to mark things down substantially. You can find great deals then, too.”

If somebody does decide to go shopping on Black Friday instead of waiting until December, sleeping in is not recommended, Gallant said.

Joe St. Henry is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.

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