By Hayley Kappes
Killeen Daily Herald
With remnants of Thanksgiving dinner still digesting in their stomachs, Killeen residents toughed steady rain drizzle and early morning hours in hopes of snagging a deal on Black Friday.
The day is the unofficial beginning to the holiday shopping season.
At Best Buy on East Central Texas Expressway, the first people in line had camped out in a tent on the sidewalk since 4 a.m. Thursday.
The line outside the store stretched the length of the parking lot, nearly reaching as far as the nearby Automax Car Dealership.
Franco Staten and Nichole Mc-ghee had their sites set on an Xbox 360, TVs and cameras. Friday marked the fourth year in a row they waited outside Best Buy for Black Friday shopping.
"I find that a tent is necessary," Staten said. "You also got to have jackets and hoodies to keep warm."
Mc-ghee frequented theblackfriday.com Web site weeks in advance and mapped out the best deals. The site compiles the best sales items at major department stores across the country.
For Staten and Mc-ghee, Black Friday is more than just a chance to score a few deals. There's a sense of camaraderie among those who brave the elements waiting to get that perfect electronic.
"We see a lot of the same faces out here waiting in line every year," Mc-ghee said.
Best Buy employees began preparing for the famous shopping day last weekend. Everyone underwent long and early meetings.
Every store item had to be cleaned and re-tagged with sale prices. Employees were also trained to deal with malfunctioning cash registers and how to detect if a customer is trying to pull off a scam.
"We're ready at 5 o'clock when they open that door," said Ashley Tolle, Best Buy sales associate. "It's like a big party in there."
Vouchers for different electronics were handed out for early bird specials, reserving the deals for customers even if the item was already sold out in the store.
Many of the specials were sales on TVs, cameras, GPS systems and laptops.
Tolle said a majority of these items were already sold out before any Black Friday shoppers stepped over the threshold.
Friday was E.J. Dugas' seventh straight year to camp out prior to Best Buy opening.
His strategy was simple. He arrived as early as possible on Thanksgiving morning, pitched a tent and took shifts holding a place in line with four friends.
The plan paid off as their group was second in line.
"We've got somebody up here at all times," Dugas said. "But, everyone got a chance to go home and spend part of Thanksgiving with their families."
Dugas brought a football for entertainment, an ice chest full of sustenance-bearing items and a sleeping bag so he could catch a bit of shut-eye before focusing his attention to the goal at hand.
He and his friends divvied up items to focus on getting once they entered the store. Dugas was given the task of purchasing laptops.
The veteran Black Friday shopper loves the challenge.
"There used to be a mad rush when they would open the doors," Dugas said. "Now they've got it set up to let only so many people in at a time, so it's not a madhouse."
Contact Hayley Kappes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559.