It was carefully-planned chaos Friday morning as shoppers woke before dawn to fight for the best "doorbuster" deals.
For some shoppers, preparations began long before the doors opened on Black Friday, the crazy shopping day that can put a retailer in the black for the rest of the year.
Anthony Hunter, 18, of Sandusky camped out in front of Best Buy starting at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Hunter was waiting for a laptop computer destined to be deeply discounted.
"You've got to do what you've got to do," his mother, Sheila Winston, said.
"He's making sure he gets his laptop for college."
Hunter wasn't the only one looking for a deal. Many people in line late Thursday night were after the same bargains.
Longtime friends Sarah Spurlock and Kristina Cantiberry of Sandusky were bundled up in front of the Best Buy doors all night.
Beginning at 9 p.m. Thursday, they and Spurlock's husband, Wayne Johnson, took turns waiting to buy a laptop.
"My 10-year-old has been asking every year for one," Spurlock said, still smiling despite the freezing temperatures.
By midnight Thursday, a pre-shopping party had begun in the Best Buy parking lot where Sandusky Firefighter Jeff Danevich sold hot dogs and Italian sausages to raise money for the Sandusky firefighter shoe fund. Danevich also had a bus where those waiting in the cold could go to warm up for a few minutes.
"I came for the fun more than the good deals," said Matt Mologna of Wakeman, who was standing with friends around a camp fire in the parking lot.
By 3 a.m. Friday, when workers at Best Buy began handing out tickets to claim the best deals, the line snaked completely around the building.
Perkins graduate Neil Dessecker was in town visiting family when he noticed the line forming outside of Best Buy on Thursday night.
"Then I knew I had to get serious," Dessecker said. He was the first in line at Target, where he'd camped out since 11 p.m. to get a deal on a TV.
Target provided "cheat sheets" of where the best deals would be located in the store, along with hot cocoa for those braving the cold morning hours to wait in line. By 5 a.m. Friday, the line in front of the Target doors stretched down the sidewalk past Dick's Sporting Goods. When the doors opened at 6 p.m., there was a stampede of shoppers.
But this traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season wasn't bright and merry for all.
Crowded parking lots full of sleep-deprived shoppers were fender-benders waiting to happen.
The stores were jam-packed and so were the roads. At about 8 a.m., there was a three-car accident on U.S. 250 in front of Meijer. No one was injured.
Despite the zeal on Black Friday in Sandusky, the National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will rise only 4 percent this year to $474.5 billion. That would make 2007 the slowest sales growth since 2002, when sales rose 1.3 percent.
WHAT IS BLACK FRIDAY?
Black Friday is the shopping day after Thanksgiving, when early morning dashes for "doorbuster" deals have become a tradition.
It's called "Black" Friday, because it's when retailers hope to go from the red, meaning financial loss, into the black, or profit.
It's a festive phenomenon that is said to kick-off the holiday shopping season.
Experts say that this year's Black Friday sales are especially important.
Based on last year's slow sales and the bleak economic outlook, this holiday season could see sluggish sales again, according to National Retail Federation projections.