After hearing all about Vikki Rella's Black Friday tradition, I spent much of Thanksgiving preparing myself for the night ahead. After updating our Black Friday guide with deals, crowd photos and more, I headed to the Old Navy store in Lake Grove around 11:30 p.m. to kick off what would become a more than six hour overnight shopping marathon.
Thursday, Nov. 22, 11:57 p.m.
I arrived at Old Navy, which was scheduled to open at midnight, to find a line outside that went all the way around the block. It turned out they were giving away a free video game with a $40 purchase while supplies lasted. I joined the crowd, and at 12:15 a.m. I made my way into the store.
Inside, there were $4 scarves, $8 thermals, $10 sweaters, $25 peacoats and jeans and great deals on workout gear, pajamas and more.
There was a line for the cashier almost immediately. I wondered how people shopped so quickly. Then, I met Vikki and her husband, Andrew. Andrew was already juggling hangers filled with clothes for the kids. "I feel like a clothes rack," he said, but both he and Vikki were all smiles.
Vikki's friend Jessica, better known as "Treats," had already checked out and saved $103.52. Vikki saved more than $70 and got gifts for her 2 1/2-year old daughter, Gianna, and her nieces and nephews, including a mini-peacoat for $8.50, baby boots for $5, four pairs of gloves for $1 each, fleece pullovers for $5 and more.
Friday, Nov. 23, 12:53 a.m.
Vikki showed us her doorbuster move for the first time. It can best be described as a very enthusiastic lunge combined with a karate chop motion. She does this when she finds doorbuster deals, or when the mood strikes. I realized I was going to like shopping with her. We headed out for Toys R Us.
Friday, Nov. 23, 1:15 a.m.
By the time I got to Toys R Us, Vikki had already loaded her cart with three sets of Hot Wheels car tracks, which were 50 percent off, plus lots of discounted toys for Gianna. Andrew's attention span was waning but his spirit wasn't, as he had fun playing with a bouncy ball and checking out the Play-Doh. A few stern yet loving words from Vikki had him back on track and he found a walker toy on sale for $12.49. What a team.
We soon lost Treats, who had already found what she needed for her sons and was ready for bed. After saying goodbye, Vikki and Andrew checked out the $5 games and picked up a giant play nursery center. Proud dad Andrew spoke about how excited he was for Gianna to play with her gifts on Christmas morning. Vikki searched for a Minnie Mouse toy Gianna had asked for, but it was out of stock.
We came across a sale sign that we found to be rather strange on our way to the checkout line with a very full cart. Andrew said he was feeling "pumped up", and Vikki seemed impressed. The pair saved almost $70.
Friday, Nov. 23, 1:55 a.m.
Vikki and Andrew stopped home to drop off their purchases and get some coffee. Meanwhile, I popped into Best Buy in South Setauket. I found deals on laptops, tablets, TVs, video games and DVDs, but the amount of stock left was very limited and the check out line was very long.
Friday, Nov. 23, 2:15 a.m.
Vikki, Andrew and I met nextdoor to Best Buy at Target. I found Vikki eagerly shopping for Christmas decorations while Andrew was content sitting on a step stool he found and munching on popcorn.
Vikki picked up warm toddler pajama sets for $10 and scored deals on holiday wrapping paper and Christmas lights. We also saw DVDs for $1, artificial Christmas trees discounted by more than $100, $5 outfits for infants, TVs on sale and more.
Friday, Nov. 23, 3:01 a.m.
Vikki busted another doorbuster move before checking out.
Friday, Nov. 23, 3:20 a.m.
We met at Smith Haven Mall, where crowds were already forming. Not all the stores were open yet, but some, like Macy's, had been open since midnight. Andrew bought a T-shirt at Gap for Vikki. It was 60 percent off.
Friday, Nov. 23, 3:52 a.m.
Andrew and I left Gap and thought we had lost Vikki. We found her a few minutes later at Justice, where she saved $65. The entire store was 40 percent off, and she found some already reduced items.
Friday, Nov. 23, 3:58 a.m.
We noticed a long line leading down an entire corridor to H&M, which was opening at 4 a.m. A security guard yelled at the crowd to back up and get into a single file line. H&M had special one day fashion finds, like $30 cardigans for $10, but was very congested.
Friday, Nov. 23, 4:07 a.m.
We headed to the Disney Store, hoping to find Gianna's Minnie Mouse toy to no avail. Andrew found a toy of his own and had some fun with Vikki, who scored an extra 20 percent off coupon from the sales associate.
Friday, Nov. 23, 4:23 a.m.
Vikki and I checked out a new store, Garage, which was 40 percent off. Banana Republic and Cotton On also offered 40 percent off everything, and Aeropostale was having a 60 percent off sale.
Friday, Nov. 23, 4:34 a.m.
We all met again at The Children's Place, where already reduced items were an extra 50 percent off. Vikki scored a pair of shoes for Gianna and then told Andrew he could soon go home. His response was a big hug. Ah, those rare, heart-warming Black Friday moments.
Friday, Nov. 23, 5:00 a.m.
Vikki dropped Andrew off at home in Saint James and headed to Kohl's, where her friends had found great deals but long lines a little earlier. Vikki saved $105 at Kohl's and picked up half-priced toys for a Hurricane Sandy toy drive. She also bought a Jennifer Lopez throw blanket for 65 percent off, candles, ornaments, a picture frame, kitchen towels, tights and a shirt for Gianna, all for $70.
Friday, Nov. 23, 6:00 a.m.
Next, Vikki stopped at Bed Bath & Beyond with a special gift for Andrew in mind. Unfortunately the gift was out of stock, but she still did well, buying a loaf pan and hot chocolate gift set for just $20.
Friday, Nov. 23, 6:15 a.m.
Content with her haul, Vikki headed home and I headed back to the newsroom as the sun started to come up. Although our bodies were sore and our eyelids heavy, it somehow felt like the hours had flown by. Vikki and Andrew kept the mood light and showed holiday spirit throughout, happily checking relative after relative off their shopping list. With Gianna staying at Grandma's until Friday afternoon, I can only hope they had the chance to sleep in.