Suitcases flew off the floor at the Spokane Valley Mall’s J.C. Penney.
The store attracted the first wave of the Thanksgiving shopping crowd with a 2 p.m. opening. About 300 people waited in line for discounted televisions, PlayStations and other items.
Katie Poore was the first in line, waiting with her nine-year-old daughter, Madisen. They decided to get in line around noon on a whim after dropping Poore’s relatives off for the day.
“We actually weren’t even going to shop,” Poore said. A full Thanksgiving dinner awaited them at home, she said.
Madisen was the one who suggested buying a TV, which would be for her uncle. After two hours in line, the girl said she was slightly regretting her decision. But the family was in high spirits as the doors opened. Warm weather and a lack of rain helped the wait go by, they said.
Employees monitored the line, taking a head count of people there for TVs and gaming systems and handing out coupons.
The coupons had a tab that could be pulled back to reveal either $10 off a $10 purchase, $100 off of $100 or $500 off of $500, though those were rare.
“I almost got tackled,” said Amanda Rowatt, an employee.
The store opened at 3 p.m. last year, but employees said it’s been getting consistently earlier each year.
Inside, a diverse mix of families sought out clothing, kitchen appliances and more. At least five languages blended together as people selected gifts and waited in line.
At the Best Buy just next to the mall, a more dedicated crowd had settled in for the long haul.
The store didn’t open until 5 p.m. Thursday, but the early birds in line had been camping since about 7 p.m. the night before.
Five men in the front of the line had become friendly over the shared adversity of nearly a day in line together.
Ben Moore said the crowd grew steadily to the few dozen in line at 2:30 p.m.
“The news spread pretty quickly once one crazy person showed up,” Moore said. He was second in line, hoping to grab a TV for $180 that normally sells for $500.
High winds forced him to take the canopy he slept under down around 4:30 a.m., he said. Other people in line had tents pitched outside the store. A heavy downpour started just as an employee came out to talk to waiting customers.
At J.C. Penney, father-son duo Tom and Kyle Krustangel scoped out toys. The pair came to get a $39.99 suitcase for Kyle, who travels regularly to referee high school basketball. Tom had just picked up a drone, which he said was an impulse purchase.
“Somebody’ll need one. I’ve got lots of nieces and nephews,” he said.
The family traditionally shops on Black Friday, but said the earlier Thanksgiving openings gave them time to shop before a holiday dinner.
“It’s nice not to be (up) at 4 a.m. anymore,” Kyle Krustangel said.