O.C. shoppers ease into Black Friday

For some shoppers, Black Friday started six days ago.

Daniela Ramirez and her brother waited on the street in front of Metro Pointe's Best Buy since Sunday. They were camped out with sleeping bags and a collapsible awning waiting to buy a TV. It wasn't their first attempt.

"We've done it last year...." the 21-year-old said. "We were No. 16 in line last year, but we didn't even get one because everyone cut in," Ramirez said.

Seasoned from that failed trip at a different location, they were taking no chances this year, with about eight buyers already in front of them.

First in line was Ivan Gutierez — a three-year Black Friday veteran who, like Ramirez, knew the payoff for waiting was reselling the just-purchased electronics. A $200 TV could quickly be turned into $400, Ramirez said.

"I think this is going to be my last time, though, because this was really ridiculous a while ago," Gutierez said.

The curb along Bear Street was cordoned off for shoppers, but on Monday a police pursuit screeched past them.

Gutierez said the suspect U-turned a few feet away from them before speeding off.

"It's dangerous," he said.

Other shoppers opted for less danger but still braved packed parking lots and crowded escalators later Friday morning.

"We're not die-hards," said Tracy Watson, carrying a lone Nordstrom bag as she browsed West Elm, a home décor store in South Coast Plaza.

Snapper LaGrone, the store's general manager, said that was the feeling most of the day.

"We're real steady," he said, describing a constant stream of customers — but no unruly crowds — taking advantage of the store's 25% off if customers spent more than $1,000.

"It seems like everyone is just understanding that we can get great deals all day long," he said.

Newport Beach and Costa Mesa weren't devoid of lines, though.

At Fashion Island, Maddie Rix, 14, and Ashley Virgu, 15, waited two hours just to enter the women's apparel store Brandy Melville to take advantage of a storewide 30%-off sale.

The pair started shopping at 7 a.m. By noon they were weighed down with bags from Forever 21, Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom.

Later in the day, lines started to dwindle.

Liz Arroyo and her 19-year-old daughter, Sarah, waited only 20 minutes to get into Brandy Melville, but after driving from Brea, they would have waited longer.

"I just love their clothes," Sarah said. "I would wait forever for their clothes."

Unlike the raucous scenes Black Friday has developed a reputation for, local shoppers seemed to take the day in stride.

Before LaGrone started at West Elm, he spent years in electronics retail. He worked his first Black Friday in 1994 and saw scenes very different from the orderly shopping at South Coast Plaza.

"I've seen people literally fighting over products," he said — with pushing, shoving, scratching and fists flying, he added.

But Friday, LaGrone said, was one of the most organized he's worked.

"I would say our staff is receiving this one the best," he said.


Twitter: @jermiahdobruck

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