AVON - Like a soldier in the trenches of war, Linda Dodson attacked Black Friday with the precision of a perfectly planned military operation.
The mission was simple: Buy as many, if not all, of her family`s Christmas gifts Friday morning while the prices were unbelievably low.
However, the task came with a catch.
Dodson had to join hundreds of other fanatic shoppers on the front lines hours before stores opened. It was the only way she could ensure her most coveted items would still be in stock and not in the carts of other shoppers.
"This is like war," Dodson said shortly after 4 a.m. when she arrived at the Target at Avon Commons - the location of her first battle. "I`ve got my game face on, and I know what I have to do."
For close to two hours, Dodson, her son Nick Matos, 27, and family friend Janell Covey, 24, worked out the details of their attack. Dodson was going to grab the cart, Covey was heading straight for toys and Matos was running for the electronics. If everything panned out, the trio would have everything in hand within five minutes and head for the checkout lines.
That was not the plan Wednesday night when Dodson scoured the sales ads circling Hannah Montana Barbie dolls, digital cameras and cordless drills. Dodson`s husband, Jim Dodson Jr., and Covey`s boyfriend, Joe Bublik, decided to skip the shopping trip at the last minute. Or, they chickened out, if you ask Dodson, Matos and Covey.
Still, the team that started out as five made the best of the situation, joking and laughing with other people who were just as eager to grab some deals as they waited for the doors to open.
"I want that 19-inch television set with built in DVD player from the front of the circular," said 28-year-old Marianne Parker of Elyria. "I can`t believe I`m doing this, but I got roped in last year by my sister and now I`m hooked."
Parker, a former manager at JC Penney, said she vowed after working retail for six years to never get up early to shop. She was ahead of Dodson in the line of hundreds, having arrived shortly before 4 a.m.
But they were not first in line.
That distinction belonged to four teenage boys who were all looking for new televisions to play Madden NFL and Halo 3 on their Xbox 360s.
"We got here at 10 p.m. (Thursday.) We were freezing, but made the most of it," said 15-year-olds Brett Kopa and Matt Muzik, both of Lorain, along with Mikie Betka, 16, of Lorain and Greg Hanson, 18, of Avon. "We played football in the snow, ate Lunchables and downed Monster energy drinks."
The excitement of Dodson and the hundreds of other shoppers bubbled over beyond the point of containment at 6 a.m. when a Target employee turned the key allowing shoppers to flood the store. The moment of truth was upon Dodson and crew. They sprinted through the store, outmaneuvered other sleepy-eyed shoppers and grabbed their objectives.
Target employees just stepped back and watched. Experience has taught them to stay out of the line of fire.
Black Friday shoppers mean business, one associate said.
Nothing about the day is taken lightly, Dodson said.
"I say all the time - â€˜If you don`t know what you are doing, don`t come out,` " she said.
Dodson knows what she is talking about because in less than four minutes a red shopping cart was filled to capacity and high fives were exchanged.
"Man, I`m bad," Covey said, giving herself a verbal pat on the back. "I`ve got to do this again next year. We got everything we wanted."
As did the Xbox 360 boys and Parker, who all lugged brand-new boxed TVs to the front of the store.
The holiday shopping season is officially upon us and they had gotten off to a great start.
"Now I`m tired, and I want to go back to bed," Covey said over a pancake breakfast at a nearby Perkins restaurant, where the group went to regroup.
However, she soon learned that Black Friday is not a one-stop shopping event. Fueled and ready to move on, Dodson was now in search of $3 DVDs at Wal-Mart and a Cheetah Girls toy guitar at Toy â€˜R` Us.
"I`m not done until I`m done," she said, hopping into her Chevy Trailblazer.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or firstname.lastname@example.org.