While much of Sacramento enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner early Thursday evening, hundreds of local retail workers toiled behind locked doors, preparing their stores for the line of customers already gathered outside.
This year more than any other, Black Friday spilled into Thursday.
Several stores, including many big-box retailers, opened their doors for business Thursday night, most around 8 or 9. A few staggered their "doorbuster" sales: Certain items would go on sale at deeply discounted prices at 8 p.m.; then more at 10 p.m.; then more at 6 a.m.
The only way to guarantee finding an item "while supplies last" was to arrive early and wait outside.
By 6 p.m. Thursday night, about 80 people lined up at Sears outside the otherwise-empty Arden Fair mall. Many sought the Holy Grail of Black Friday sale items: a ridiculously cheap television.
Sears would be selling a 32-inch flat-screen TV for $97. Other televisions were also discounted by hundreds of dollars.
Rio Linda resident Cindy Raymond badly wanted one of those TVs. She arrived at the store before noon. A security guard told her the line in front of the store wouldn't form until 4 p.m., so she walked a dozen yards from the storefront to wait in the public parking lot.
Raymond and her family were in good spirits, even after waiting six hours. Her position in line all but assured her of a television when the doors opened at 8 p.m. "This is the first time we've gotten to a place and there was only one family ahead of us," she said.
Half a mile down Arden, roughly 100 people waited in front of a Best Buy store, many also seeking a cheap television. Music played loudly from a parked car. A few people munched on Thanksgiving turkey brought by their family.
At the front of the line was Sacramento resident Valentin Quiralte, who started camping out for his television on Sunday. "They're going to sell these really fast," he said about four hours before the store's midnight opening.
No TVs were on sale at the Toys R Us a few blocks away, and the line was much shorter – about 45 people. "I'm just trying to get something for my little girl," said Fong Lo, of Sacramento, about 100 minutes before the store opened. His daughter is 16 months old. "We finished with the turkey and didn't have anything planned."
The line at the Target at Fulton Avenue was not too daunting – about 30 people milled outside a little more than two hours before the store opened. There were televisions to be had, so some had been in line for a while, but others, like Aaron Pierce, had just arrived.
Pierce, of Sacramento, wanted a few cheap gifts, and maybe a futon, for a good price. He said he usually arrives at store sales "when it's time to go in" but came early this Thursday with friends.
To the chagrin of some nearby, he expressed skepticism that a 50-inch TV selling for $350 would stand the test of time.
A shopper in a lawn chair who had been in line longer than Pierce chimed in that "those TVs are really nice. We got one last year."
"Well," replied Pierce, unfazed, "I could be wrong."