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Christmas shopping season under way

By Staff | Dec 2, 2015

It was Thanksgiving evening, and almost all the shops were closed, yet the parking lot was packed full of cars.

That one store that was open was the Wal-Mart on Pine Island Road, and, as you might expect, it was really busy, with people crammed into the store, trying to get those doorbuster specials.

Whether people like it or not, this is what Christmas shopping had become in recent years, with people waiting in line outside stores before the turkey hangover has yet to kick in.

While some think it’s great, or have accepted it as a sign of the times, others still believe that Thanksgiving should be saved for family and that it’s another example of businesses trying to get the earliest jump on the shopping season.

At Wal-Mart and Beall’s at Merchant Crossing, Black Friday started 6 hours early as they opened at 6 p.m. to big crowds and packed parking lots.

Thankfully, things went about as smoothly as can be expected at Wal-Mart. There was only one arrest on Thursday (for drugs) according to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, which had several deputies on hand in case there were issues.

The lines to get in were divided and scattered to reduce the possibility to someone getting run over. When the big moment came to open, there was a little chaos, but things calmed down after the first few minutes.

Beall’s and Beall’s Outlet also opened at 6 p.m. and they also faced early craziness before things settled down. Unlike Wal-Mart, which would be open all night, Beall’s closed at 11 p.m.

On Friday morning, things were back to normal, with the rest of the stores in the area opening early in the morning with their Black Friday deals.

Reaction to Thanksgiving shopping was mixed. Chris Messina is a Canadian citizen who has come to Florida for years. Since Thanksgiving is celebrated in October, she had no problem with Black Thursday.

“I love the excitement. I’m a shopper. I have two turkey meals. I’ve been coming here since 1979, so I know a lot about Florida,” Messina said.

Rita Hogan of Lehigh Acres was more ambivalent, saying she saw some deals that she wouldn’t have gotten at any other time, so she got them.

“If I wanted to come on Friday, I would have paid the original price for them. I don’t really worry about it (being Thanksgiving),” Hogan said.

Christina Marsh and her husband, Derek, hated it. They felt compelled to come shopping anyway, since there were deals to be had, but they said it still wasn’t right.

“It takes away from the employees’ families. I have eight children, so I have to come here for the deals, but it takes away from the family,” Marsh said. “Thanksgiving is about family.”

March said she used to love getting up at 3 a.m. with her girlfriends and the guys would shop at 5, and be done in the morning in time for breakfast.

“Now, you have to rush through Thanksgiving because you really need to save the extra money. That’s how it is,” March said.