Black Friday shoppers answer the Call of Duty

@CNNMoney November 25, 2011: 5:59 AM ET
Toys 'R' Us broke with tradition and opened its doors at 9 p.m. Thursday compared to its customary opening at midnight at the end of Thanksgiving, three hours ahead of what is otherwise known as Black Friday.

Toys 'R' Us broke with tradition and opened its doors at 9 p.m. Thursday compared to its customary opening at midnight at the end of Thanksgiving, three hours ahead of what is otherwise known as Black Friday.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- "Yo baby, this is the line for Toys 'R' Us," said a Times Square tourist on Thanksgiving.

"This is insane!" her friend exclaimed.

She could scarcely believe the line of shoppers stretched in front of the facade of the Toys "R" Us flagship store. They were waiting for the gates to open at 9 p.m., when Black Friday would officially begin.

But Jamel Anderson of Jamaica, N.Y., who was the first person in line, would be the last person to agree with the tourist's condemnation. Sure, he'd been standing there for four hours. But by his own estimate, he was saving $200, or $50 per hour.

"Call of Duty," said Anderson, when asked what was on his mind. He figured he could buy one of the special Sony (SNE) PS3 packages that include the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 game -- one of the hottest commodities of the 2011 holiday shopping season -- for $200, about half of what he'd normally pay.

Toys 'R' Us broke with tradition and opened its doors at 9 p.m. Thursday compared to its customary opening at midnight at the end of Thanksgiving, three hours ahead of what is otherwise known as Black Friday.

The mall is watching you!

Gerald Storch, chief executive of the retail giant, did his best to keep things festive, greeting the diehard consumers who stood in line. Most of them were wearing the Santa Claus hats that were distributed earlier by his teenage son, Ben, and a host of Toys "R" Us staffers.

Video game fanatics such as Anderson knew exactly where to go when the doors opened. That was downstairs, to the video game department, which was definitely the most popular room in the place.

Minutes after the doors were finally opened, a long line snaked along the length and breadth of the video game section. It appeared to be even longer than the line outside, if possible.

"I'm wasting time while waiting for my wife and daughter upstairs," said Milton Amatuzzi of Parana, Brazil, as he languished in the video store queue. He was holding the coveted video game, Call of Duty: MW3, intended for a relative back home.

Another video game shopper, Angela Burgos, made it to the cash register with the Xbox 360, two iPods and a collection of games earmarked for her six children. By her estimate, she had saved $250 by standing in line for one hour.

John Melillo, a broker from the Bronx and a self-professed veteran of Black Friday shopping, said he was glad that Toys "R" Us broke with tradition and opened its doors three hours earlier than normal. This allowed him to get his shopping done without having to sacrifice the wee hours.

Secrets of extreme Black Friday shoppers

"I really don't want to chance it and come here before work," he said, as he settled up at the video store counter. "I might not get what I want, anyway."

An hour after the doors had opened, a long line of people continued to wait outside the store. A security guard admitted only a few at a time, like a bouncer manning the velvet rope of a trendy nightclub. He only let people in when he got word from management that the store could handle the extra capacity.

"There's nobody in there," said a little girl to the bouncer, pointing through the transparent glass walls. From her vantage point, she couldn't see the video store downstairs.

"There's a lot of people in there," said the Toys "R" Us bouncer. To top of page

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