Black Friday connoisseur

Published 9:00 am Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ellen Petersen and her son, Stacey Rupe, are just two of the many shoppers who converge on stores for annual specials after Thanksgiving, something they will continue with again this year. -- Eric Johnson/

Black Friday shopping may be edging earlier into Thanksgiving this year, but Austin resident Ellen Petersen isn’t fazed.

For Petersen, the shopping extravaganza has become a longtime family tradition of bonding time and deal-hunting. She has gone shopping on every Black Friday for the last 12 years, and went sporadically before that, depending on whether she had to work that day or not. And this year, as several stores are set to begin their sales at 8 or 9 p.m. Thursday, she’s already starting to formulate a game plan.

“I’m sure we’ll be out there shopping on Thursday evening,” she said, noting her first target would be Walmart. Not only is the store open early, but has in the past matched its prices to other stores. That could help eliminate a trip to another store.

Email newsletter signup

Her family eats its Thanksgiving dinner around noon, and wraps up the gathering by 4 or 5 p.m., so even some of the earlier store openings don’t conflict with her holiday.

“I don’t really think for us it interferes with Thanksgiving,” she said.

From there it will be off to the stores with her son, Stacey Rupe, who shops with her in person, while her daughter, Lori Winkel, joins them in spirit. She lives in Green Bay, Wis., where she also shops the Black Friday deals and has access to a different set of stores.

Petersen and Rupe keep in touch with her as they go so they can divide and conquer, even across state lines. Coordination helps them minimize their waiting times and nab good deals before they miss out.

“We have been known to wait in line if there’s a special item that we want,” she said.

As for navigating the stores, Petersen said, they plan in advance where they want to go. She looks to where the best deals are likely to be had, and when each sale starts.

“They usually stagger the openings,” she said. “Last year, we actually went when Walmart started selling on Thanksgiving.”

While on the prowl for one-day deals, she typically scopes out Christmas gifts for her grandchildren, and often looks at video games and movies. The sales are a good opportunity to purchase discounted toys to donate to the Marine Corps toy drive.

Sometimes, she and her family turn their attention to big-ticket items.

“We’ve actually shopped for computers just because they’re good buys,” she said. “If you’re going to buy them anyway, you might as well.” Last year, her son and daughter each bought a computer on Black Friday.

But it’s not really about the low prices for Petersen. Black Friday shopping has become another way for her to enjoy spending time with her family. She still remembers how they took a break from shopping last year in the middle of the night to chat and have breakfast at a local truck stop.

“It’s fun, exciting,” she said. “I can get my son to shop with me one day a year.”