NEWARK, N.J. — Bleary-eyed shoppers across the state gave Black Friday's new midnight opening hours mixed reviews after lining up for bargains at malls and big-box retailers.
Many shoppers braved gridlock worse than the pre-Thanksgiving day getaway, as parking lots and roads leading to malls quickly filled to capacity starting late Thursday and through early Friday. Lines were long at mall kiosks selling the one item nearly all early-bird shoppers were seeking: a cup of coffee.
Some shoppers at the Freehold Raceway Mall complained the bargains they had camped out for were available for purchase but not for pickup even though they had paid in full. The items were sold out by the time the shoppers reached the pickup window, and they were given vouchers to get them later.
Shopper Leigh Farano told The Star-Ledger newspaper that the much-hyped midnight opening wasn't as fun as her 5 a.m. Black Friday excursions of prior years.
"I think Thanksgiving should be Thanksgiving and Black Friday should be Black Friday," Jackson told the newspaper. "Put some hours in between the two."
Others expressed frustration that not every store in the mall had opened at midnight, leaving some to wait in long lines for places like the Apple store, which didn't open until 5 a.m.
But many shoppers welcomed the earlier hours and started lining up for bargains and door-buster deals shortly after the dishes were cleared from the Thanksgiving table.
"It is much better at midnight," Nicole Bandejas told the Asbury Park Press newspaper as she hunted for bargains at Macy's at the Ocean County Mall. "That way you don't have to go to bed and get up to shop."
Marko Reyes, of Belmar, said he spent 26 hours in a tent outside a Best Buy in Brick to be among the first to snap up a 42-inch Sharp flat-screen TV for $199 instead if its regular $499 price.
And a group of revelers in front of a Stafford Township Wal-Mart dressed in costumes, brought a karaoke machine and acoustic guitars and had a live band from Asbury Park called The Accidental Seabirds perform for the waiting crowds, according to The Press of Atlantic City. The group, known as the New Jersey Chapter of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, has been entertaining crowds at Black Friday sales for 11 years and holds similar costume parties on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2.
For three days starting on Black Friday, 152 million people are expected shop, up about 10 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Many retailers depend on the busy holiday shopping season for up to 40 percent of their annual revenue.
There were no reports in New Jersey of the violence that marred some Black Friday sales elsewhere in the country.
At a Los Angeles Wal-Mart, a woman used pepper spray to gain a shopping advantage shortly after the store opened, and 20 people suffered minor injuries.
Elsewhere in California, a Black Friday shopper was shot by an armed robber in a crowded parking lot outside a Wal-Mart and was hospitalized in San Leandro. Police said the victim and his family were walking to their car around 1:45 a.m. when they were confronted by a group of men who demanded their purchases. The family refused, a fight broke out and one of the robbers pulled a gun and shot the man, San Leandro police Sgt. Mike Sobek said.
In Fayetteville, N.C., gunfire erupted at a mall, and police sought two people. Police at an upstate New York Wal-Mart said two women had been injured and a man charged after a fight broke out.
And witnesses in Buckeye, Ariz., said police slammed a grandfather to the ground and left him bloodied and unconscious in a Wal-Mart after he put a game in his waistband so he could lift his grandson out of the stampeding crowd. Police said the man was resisting arrest and it appears the officer acted within reason.
Not everyone was enthusiastic about Black Friday sales. In New York City, Occupy Wall Street protesters turned up for the flagship Macy's midnight opening and planned to gather in flash mobs and other events in places including Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Boise, Idaho, to urge people to reconsider shopping at national chains on Black Friday.