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Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Lots of craziness at 'Gray Thursday'

When son-in-law Eric and daughter Margie dropped me off in front of the Cottage Grove Target store at 8:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, the line to get in to the store at 9 p.m. was already down to Radio Shack.

Since it was less than four hours until Black Friday, I called the early opening Gray Thursday.

At the front of the line were a group of men from St. Paul Park who seemed to be having a good time. They were ready to buy large television sets and Xboxes at bargain prices. I asked them if they had been drinking or were just crazy to be waiting outside during the first blast of winter. "A little of both," they said.

I walked back to the car to warm up. Margie and Eric wanted to buy pop and cat food. "I suppose you could try to get ahead in the line if you said you weren't interested in the bargains but only wanted to buy shoe laces and petroleum jelly," Eric said.

With 10 minutes to go, I walked back to the store to get a picture of the actual opening. I passed a couple who seemed angry because there were so many people ahead of them.

What were they thinking? Did they think they were the only people who wanted to buy a 50-inch television set for $349? They turned around to go home. They're the same people who arrive at July 4 fireworks at 9:50 p.m. and complain that there's no place to park.

Those who arrived later than 8:45 p.m. had an interesting strategy. Instead of walking to the end of the line that was now down to the Ho King restaurant, they stood in front of the store and let the end of the line to come to them. The parking lot was also full.

The first shopper, with two television sets in his cart, was out of the store and headed to his car at 9:15 p.m.

One couple told me they'd come to buy one item for one of their children and intended to leave right away. As I was walking away, I noticed they were heading for electronics.

I also went to electronics where a line into the department was being controlled by a store employee. I asked her what everyone was buying since the television sets were in the maternity clothes section and in the pop aisle. "Anything that begins with an 'i,'" she said.

The first hundred people in line got shopping carts but the rest were forced to carry their bargains.

One couple got two carts. He got in line to get a coupon to get two television sets and into another line for the sets. She got in the checkout line that extended back into fresh fruits and vegetables. It was longer than it first appeared because it snaked down and around the broom and cleaning products, cat food and eye makeup aisles.

He transferred the first television set into her cart and then the second. When he turned back, his cart had been confiscated.

I had fun at Gray Thursday, but, then, I wasn't trying to buy anything.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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