Best Buy combats doorbuster scalpers

New Jersey store acts against people who get in line for tickets to buy hot items, then try to sell them.

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By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com staff reporter

best_buy_tvs.03.jpg
Televisions were a hot doorbuster category at the Best Buy in Holmdel, N.J., including a 46" Samsung LED TV for $1,599.99 -- a $1,000 savings.

HOLMDEL, N.J. (CNNMoney.com) -- The Black Friday scene at a Best Buy in New Jersey was busy yet calm, despite a large young crowd, damp conditions and attempted doorbuster ticket scalping.

About 500 to 600 people were lined up by the time doors opened at 5 a.m, said a Best Buy employee who declined to be named. That's comparable to or better than past years, said the employee, who has worked three consecutive Black Fridays at the Holmdel store.

It was a decidedly young crowd that braved the damp predawn, with many teens and twentysomethings bunched in groups down the line.

The earliest shoppers began lining up around 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and many continued tagging on the end of the line after doors opened. Doorbuster items were selling out quickly, with laptops and cameras were the big items of the day. (Black Friday crowds eager to spend)

One cluster of seven friends brought a tent to begin camping out at 10 p.m. -- a good idea, as it rained overnight. Some members of the group were looking for specific items, while others' plans were more vague.

"I need a camera....uh, a pink one," said Dave Tio, 19. "For my girl. I want to spend about $100 on her. You know, so it looks legit."

A pink Insignia digital camera was on sale for $49.99.

Blake Jankowski, also 19, said he was looking at the Playstation 3 console bundled with two games for $299.99. Kuangyow Huang, 19, said he planned to buy an HP laptop with a 320 GB hard drive for $599.99 as a gift for his mother.

Doorbuster scalpers

Huang said he was 61st in line, based on tickets employees handed out for limited-quantity doorbuster deals. He noted a few people on line had attempted to sell the tickets.

The Best Buy employee who declined to be named said the store began handing out tickets at 3 a.m. on a first-come basis, and each customer was eligible to receive one ticket per item on as many doorbusters as they wished.

About 10 to 20 people attempted to sell their doorbuster tickets to others, the employee said. However, other Best Buy employees were seen escorting three people to a police officer. The attempted scalpers were not arrested, the Best Buy employee said. Instead, their tickets were confiscated and they were not permitted to rejoin the line.

"Today was pretty good," said the employee. "But you're always going to get those people, those bad apples, and that's why we have the cops here."

The police presence made a difference, Tio said, wrapping himself in a gold foil cape to avoid the drizzle. "These people enforce the law, and everyone's calm today. In past years, there'd be fights and s---."

The line snaking outside the store did seem subdued, though many had been waiting for hours.

"We didn't sleep," Jankowski said. "Right now we don't need it. The store's about to open, so we need our game faces, you know?"

Despite their excitement, the 19-year-olds said they were disappointed with Best Buy's Black Friday deals.

"It just wasn't that great," Tio said. "I thought there'd be better sales, not even 'cause the economy, but just because of Black Friday. But I'll deal."

Tio's friends agreed. "Yo, like Walmart -- they had some s---," Jankowski said.

"Yeah, Walmart," Tio echoed. "Walmart.com, they had mad deals."

'I lost Thanksgiving for laptops'

In front of Tio and crew was an older group of friends who came to Best Buy at 3:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day -- or at least, one of them did.

"I'm just trying to help some friends out," Marcos Sousa, 26, said sheepishly. "I guess I lost Thanksgiving for a bunch of laptops, but if it helps everyone..."

His friend Nick Castellano, 28, chimed in: "Hey, I brought him some food!"

Castellano and a third man, 32-year-old Peter Petrone, joined Sousa on line before dawn on Black Friday. The trio said they have been friends for almost a decade.

The three men said they were generally looking to snag deals on several items, and Petrone said he especially wanted the Garmin GPS system for $99.99.

"I just want to get out alive," Petrone said, laughing. "It hasn't been too bad, but the whole Black Friday setup is ridiculous. And people have been screaming stuff all morning."

As if on cue, the crowd began to murmur. "Yo, 5 o'clock -- there it is!" yelled a bespectacled shopper, waving his cell phone at Best Buy employees.

"This is where it becomes a bloodbath," Petrone said dryly.

But the scene outside remained relatively calm, with Best Buy employees allowing about 25 shoppers to enter at a time. One worker chided would-be runners a few times, and a police officer remained near the front doors. But about 600 people filed into the store within 30 minutes, without incident.

Inside the store, dozens of Best Buy employees helped keep the Holmdel store in controlled chaos. Shoppers were flocking to digital cameras, televisions and video game consoles.

But the laptop aisles were the most bottlenecked, by far. Employees stood on shelves to shout to one another, as shoppers waved doorbuster tickets and asked lists of questions.

Shoppers milled around the busy store, but something of a mob formed in the center aisle despite employees' directing people to the main line snaking along the outside walls.

"There is. No. Line. In the center!" called out a frustrated employee, who sighed and then yawned as the crowd failed to move.

"Look alive, man!" his coworker said good-naturedly, clapping him on the back.

"I know, man, I know," he replied, yawning again. "It's going to be a long day." To top of page

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