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Posted on Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Black Friday 'madhouse': Ann Arbor shoppers and retailers gear up for midnight rush

By Lizzy Alfs


The Office Depot located in Arborland Center is going ahead with its Black Friday sales early Friday morning.

Jeff Sainlar |

When Ann Arbor native John Alan was younger, his mom would make him wake up at 3 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving so they could go wait in long lines outside big-box stores offering “doorbuster” deals on Black Friday.

Alan’s sentiment about the family tradition? “It was miserable.”

Now, Alan avoids Black Friday at all costs.

“I won’t do Black Friday anymore. It’s not worth it to stand in a long line, not get any sleep and fight over the best deals,” he said.

But Black Friday — one of the biggest shopping days of the year with special events and price markdowns — has changed.

Many big-box stores are opening at midnight for the first time, rather than 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. Some stores, like Toys R Us and Walmart, are rolling out Black Friday deals the night of Thanksgiving.

Nearly two dozen retailers at Briarwood Mall plan to open for business at midnight, making it the earliest the mall has ever opened its doors on Black Friday.

Retailers are hoping the earlier openings will equal increased sales this year, and that could prove to be true, according to data released from the National Retail Federation.

Some 152 million shoppers are expected to visit stores and shopping websites the weekend of Black Friday, up from the 138 million shoppers who spent $45 billion in stores and online in 2010.

NRF projects that about 74 million people will “definitely” hit the stores this year, while another 77 million will wait to see if the bargains are worth the trip.

“We fully expect to see excited shoppers as early as midnight at stores around the country, as many holiday shoppers would rather stay up all night to take advantage of retailers’ Black Friday deals rather than set their alarm to wake up the next morning,” NRF President Matthew Shay said in a statement.

And for Ann Arbor resident Julie McDonald, this rings true: She would start shopping midnight, finish and then go home and sleep.

“I think it’s easier to be up and stay up and go out for a few hours,” she said.

“But I’ve heard of some stores opening even earlier than midnight,” she continued. “I don’t like that at all. I think that’s still Thanksgiving Day and that crosses the line. I think midnight is good enough.”

McDonald’s same concern has been raised by thousands of people in recent weeks, as more than 190,000 people signed a petition on called “Tell Target to Save Thanksgiving.” It calls for Target to cancel its midnight opening on Black Friday to let employees enjoy the holiday.

Tom Goldberg, an owner of the Waters Place shopping center on Lohr Road - which houses a Best Buy, Kohl’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods - acknowledged that the Black Friday hours are getting “crazier and crazier.”

“I’m not sure that’s necessary,” he said. “But I guess it’s better for the shopping community. I think there’s a whole group of people who get caught up in the excitement.”

Goldberg said he’s “guardedly optimistic” about Black Friday in the Ann Arbor area this year.

“I’m optimistic that people will feel more comfortable about spending during the holiday season and maybe spend a few more bucks,” he said. “It’s my hope.”

For some Ann Arbor residents, the significant markdowns on products — such as a 42 inch flat screen TV for $199 at Best Buy — will be too good to pass up this year.

“It’s easy for me to go out at midnight,” said Ann Arbor shopper Emilie Barnett. “I’ll be up anyway.”

After Best Buy, Barnett plans to head over to the mall to buy some clothing on sale. She could also win some of the free giveaways Briarwood has planned as “doorbuster” deals, such as a pair of tickets to Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan football game and a $100 gift certificate to The Chop House.

McDonald’s “Street Teams” will also be stationed at Von Maur handing out coupons and $5 McDonald’s gift cards at 6 a.m and noon on Friday while supplies last. They’ll give out about $3,300 in gift cards at Briarwood, said press relations representative Leslie Pardo.

But for Ypsilanti residents Angel and Tom Clements, the price markdowns and special giveaways won’t be enough to get them shopping on Black Friday. In fact, they did some shopping at Best Buy on Monday this week instead.

“I like to stay indoors while a madhouse is happening,” Angel Clements said.

“I think Black Friday is crazy. It’s just stupid, that’s what it is,” Tom Clements said. “Plus, you can do everything over the computer now.”

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


Richard Carter

Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 6:02 a.m.

If it's Arborland, it's OfficeMax in the photo, not Office Depot.

Urban Sombrero

Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 4:56 p.m.

I'll never understand the infatuation with Black Friday. Waking up at an ungodly hour, fighting with the masses for a limited quantity of cheap goods made in China...etc. To me, it sounds like torture. But, I know people love it. (My mother and oldest 2 kids, for example.) More power to those of you who are willing to brave the crowds and crazy hours, though. I prefer to just stay at home and sleep. And, do my shopping online. I can shop at 11 PM on a Sunday in my pajamas if I want to. No crowds, no aggression, no cold. Just me and my debit card in the comfort of my living room.


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

I'm glad your Mom and kids enjoy the middle-of-the-night shopping, and the thrill of the hunt! I can't imagine standing in line to get in the door, just for the privilege of purchasing something. I used to like shopping on BF, when I was in my twenties, but now, not at all. It's changed a lot over the years. After a long day of baking, cooking, and cleaning dishes/pots/pans, I was ready to collapse last night...and did. I'm sure your Mom enjoyed her time with the grandkids, and that's what it's all about. My girls and I were enjoying movies, (with laptop nearby, of course), while their brother was upstairs in a tryptophan coma! My 20-year old did mention wanting to go to Target at midnight to check out the cheapo DVD's - and her idea was quickly vetoed. Enjoy the long weekend, and Go Blue!

Urban Sombrero

Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 5:16 a.m.

Thanks, @GirlNextDoor. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. I hope you had a good one. It's good to know there are others like me.....anti-shoppers, haha. My son called me a while back. He, my daughter and mother were waiting in line to get into Toys R Us. Not to pay, just to get into the store. That just seems so insane to me, waiting in line just for the "privilege" of entering a store. I just don't get it. He called back about 1/2 hour later to say that they were in. Before they were let in the door, he was chatting with the employee who was heading the line/letting people in and she told him that they were the 600th-something people in line that night. Insane! Last I heard, they were heading to WalMart (ugh) or the mall or something. I'm sitting here in my PJ's, sipping tea and messing around online. This is my idea of fun. Not being out all night shopping with half the county.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 6:21 p.m.

I'm with you on this one! I called yesterday to get my car into the dealership to get an oil change, and some warranty work done. The service rep was concerned I might need my car for BF shopping. I laughed and said, no thanks, I'll be enjoying a quiet day at home. My daughter is home from college, and if we need to go somewhere, we have her car to use. Online shopping is taking over the brick and mortar stores now, and that's the way to go. The deals are just as good online, and most have free shipping...and shopping in PJ's is the BEST! Happy Thanksgiving!

Fat Bill

Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

Thanksgiving should be a fine holiday to enjoy yourself, without all the solemnity (theoretically) of Christmas. The only way we will reel in the out-of-control Black Friday insanity is simply not to play. Hang out with the family, relax, maybe think about Christmas plans, but don't go out among the sleep-deprived masses and fight over material stuff.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

Art Van on their commercial is giving away free televisions. Old Navy with a purchase is giving away digital kodak cameras. I am like, you are nuts if you think I am going out in this weather. I also avoid this insanity as well. I am done with Xmas and if I need anything? Ordering it on line. So glad I have some creature comforts here. My mother told me she might actually go out at Midnite to get a sweater at half off at Macy's. Stop the madness.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

if there is a point to this i don't know what it is?get there yesterday to get in the store at whatever time they open only to find out the item(s)u wanted is already gone.doesn't sound very productive to me. But Then It Takes ALL Kinds To Make The World. So enjoy yourself i guess!!!!!!


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 1:19 p.m.

I have never been a Black Friday shopper but I do think if that's what floats your boat go for it! I do like to hear about people getting excited about something even if it is shopping! Have fun out there people and shop safe!


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

Is this part of the "OCCUPY CROWD" waiting outside stores for a great deal?


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

A little bit of both. Occupy the sidewalks and the regulars who get their jollies on sales like these. That Target commercial scares me.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

No it's just the Regular Nuts.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 11:29 a.m.

Such insanity!