Early Black Friday shoppers ditch turkey for tech deals

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Dearborn — Call it Black Thursday with all the trimmings.

Thousands of Metro Detroit shoppers ditched their Thanksgiving birds to stand in line Thursday waiting for stores and malls to open with unbeatable deals.

Ali Kondil and his cousin, Zack Nasser, were the first in line at Best Buy in Dearborn when they arrived at noon. Just before the store opened at 5 p.m., the line of customers waiting to enter wrapped around the building, as it did at the Target and Walmart stores nearby.

Alvin Cook of Inkster and Chris Jones of Detroit try to squeeze a 55-inch television into a Ford Fiesta outside of Best Buy.

"Honestly, we showed up at noon and I thought the line was going to be around the store by then, as it usually is on Black Friday," said Kondil, 27, from Dearborn Heights.

It's the "year of the TV," managers of big-box retailers like Best Buy and Meijer told The Detroit News. This year, retailers are focused on deals in electronics, gaming and appliances, while focusing doorbusters on televisions.

Kondil got off his line shift at Ford at 4 a.m. and said he didn't plan on buying this year, but the electronic deals were too sweet to miss.

Like most people in line, he waited to purchase a TV for more than $300 off. He purchased a 58-inch Insignia TV, a PC gaming system, Apple AirPods and received an Amazon Echo for free. His total bill at Best Buy: $1,800, $400 more than he intended on spending.

"Normally, I don't want to give up my grandma's cooking but the deal was too good," Kondil said. "It's worth it. You make some friends in line, got to spend time with my cousin. We even got a hookah cup to pass the time, delivered straight to the front of the line from Cloud 9 hookah."

Nasser, visiting from Orlando, also bought the same TV and said he'd figure out how to ship it to Florida.

Even though Kondil hit the line first and managed to buy all he wanted and more, he wasn't all that happy about it: "I wish they would go back to Fridays, because now it's Black Thanksgiving."

The store had a heavy security presence "to ensure everyone's safety" during a busy night, said Ben Brown, general manager of Best Buy. He said over the years, Best Buys has slowly expanded and stretched deals across six days starting as early as the Sunday prior.

A long line of customers wait in line to enter the Best Buy in Dearborn for Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Day.

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"The interesting thing about this kick-off to the holiday shopping season is that it happens six days later than in 2018," said Meegan Holland, spokeswoman of the Michigan Retailers Association. "It’s hard to tell what impact the shorter shopping window will have on purchasing."

Hot items this year are the new iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy S10, Beats wireless headphones, iRobot Roombas and Ring security doorbells.

"People are shopping for gadgets and buying gift cards. Those never go out of style," Holland said. "I don’t think we have the Instant Pot phenomenon this year, but certainly, air fryers and smart ovens will do well."

Ali Kondil, 27, of Dearborn Heights carries a 58 inch Insignia television that he intends to purchase.

At Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, the parking lot was more than 80% full with an estimated 6,000 shoppers on Thursday night, mall officials said. Leah Worley from Erie, Michigan, and her nieces hit the Thursday night shopping at Twelve Oaks every year before heading back out again on Friday to Great Lakes Crossing and Birch Run. They purchased accessories 50% off at Francesca's and buy-one-get-one-free jackets at Victoria’s Secret. 

Worley said this year seems “much more calm.”

“Definitely a lot less people than usual,” said Worley, 42. “This is our tenth year Black Friday shopping and it’s good just to spend time together. We also got our jackets, which are normally $75 a piece for $25, so that was a good deal.”

Twitter: @SarahRahal_