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Black Friday Report: Wonderland of Bargains, 3 a.m. Mobs on Elston

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If you were too food-coma-ed up at 4 a.m. on Friday morning to haul out to your local shopping center to buy a $3 flatscreen high-definition TV, that's okay. Because Racked Chicago's intrepid reporter Jared Hatch did. Hatch hit up big-box stores Target, Kohl's, Best Buy, and Tiger Direct in the wee hours to scope out the lines. What did he find? Read on.

These people aren't homeless, they're buying flatscreen TVs.

For the past few weeks news engines have been forecasting an uptick in holiday business and the box stores have been eagerly awaiting the Black Friday weekend to serve as an indicator to how their business will grow this year. With the abnormal amount of hilarious "door busting" commercials we just had to roll our wine-soaked patent leather Diors out onto the pavement to see what the fuss was about—really I would have changed into more comfortable Keds but Thanksgiving Day was spent at an array of prix-fix restaurants and hotel lounges in River North and The Gold Coast. By the end of Thanksgiving Day we needed an "extra tripod" for the camera if you know what I mean.

As there are many neighborhoods in ChiTown with a concentration of box stores in close proximity to each other, the Elston Corridor felt like the best neighborhood to get the real scoop.

The plan was: Kohls at 3 a.m., Target at 4 a.m., and Best Buy at 5 a.m.—but only if we've got true Olympian stamina.

Kohls patrons at 2140 N Elston were the most pleasant in the freezing temperature—warmed, no doubt, with visions of delightful "down-alternative" comforters on sale for $25, waffle makers and Dyson vacuums dancing in their heads. We waited for a while but were not really enticed by the home-y merchandise or the HGTV-type crowd, so we trotted across the lot to Best Buy to learn of a charming story of a woman—outfitted in her deluxe homemade Snuggie—racing a Young Korean Couple with the cutest five-month old baby for the first spot in line.

Smell that? It's animosity, like burning rubber in the frigid air.

It was unclear what brand of LCD TV Monster Snuggie or Cute Baby was going to buy—not like it mattered because you could smell the animosity like burning rubber in the frigid air.

To be first in line really is a bragging right. Other people in line at Best Buy were waiting for new flat screens too. Everyone, it seemed wanted the flat screen, but really, whats new? Flat screens happen every year.

We could see their breath freeze in mid-air beyond their faces and hear muttering about the competition for the best first deal on a flat screen.

These people lined up early to support breast cancer research.

After one young woman had affixed several pieces of chewing gum to the poster by the door outlining the "Black Friday Rules of Engagement" we knew it was time to let these people compete for their LCD flat screens in silence. And so it was off to Target, but not before making a quick stop at the new Tiger Direct which had only 6 people in line and opened at 5 a.m. as well. Laptops seemed to be the in-demand item—offered at a discount of $150. Tiger Direct was donating a portion of their sales to breast cancer research last Friday, so the motivation for many people shopping for hard drives and laptop cases was not the aggressive tooth-yielding nature commonly associated with Black Friday shoppers. Well done, Tiger Direct.

We hustled over one more block north to 2656 N Elston to the Target, which is really the anchor in that retail district, so it was no surprise that the line was around the block. A conservative guess of the people queued up? 1100 to 1500 by the time we left. Target must have seen this crowd coming down the street because there was extra store security patrolling the parking lot and policing the line as well as Chicago cops for extra protection.

The line at some places numbered five or six people deep—held back only by the makeshift barricade of shopping carts stretched the entire length of the store and around the corner. It was much more of a spectacle here with drama rearing its gnarly head every once in a while only to be quelled by the Chicago Boys in Blue.

Our findings at the Black Friday lines on Elston assured us that this was the most diverse clientele cross section on a major industrial-slash-retail corridor between the bourgeois Roscoe Village on the north, the young DePaul University and Lincoln Park on the east and ghetto-fabulousness to the west. Not to mention, anyone from O'Hare to the Loop can hop the Eisenhower express and be there in minutes.

Still, it was difficult to keep our eyes peeled and our feet moving to all of our scheduled destinations which makes me wonder- was it worth it? The drama, deals, cold, security, the gossip? For retailers, yes we're sure it was worth it, but sales were only up by 0.3% compared to the predicted 3.2%. Consumers, it's your call.
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