The one day a year when shoppers expect insanity was instead calm and orderly Friday morning, a reversal many attributed to online sales and the growing trend of major retailers opening for business on Thanksgiving.
From the Northwest Promenade to Valley Plaza mall, the deals were still in force — those not completely sold out the day before, that is — but the lines were short and shoppers agreed that Black Friday had outlived its reputation as a time for aggressive bargain-hunting.
"It's not black. It's all clear here," Shafter resident Maria Gastelum said shortly after 6 a.m. while filling her cart at the Kohl's on Rosedale Highway. It was her first time out on a Black Friday and she was surprised at the sparse crowd. "I missed it. That's a good thing."
At Valley Plaza, Maria Patino admitted to being a little disappointed at the prevailing sanity. The Bakersfield resident said she enjoys braving crowds the day after Thanksgiving, if only to get out of the house for a little fun.
But as she waited outside Target to load a new 40-inch smart television into her son's vehicle, Patino said she wasn't about to rearrange her tradition to go out a day earlier next year.
"That takes away the family time, you know?" she said. "It should be Black Friday only, not Thursday."
Inside the mall, Steve Tibbs, owner of Tibbs Beef Jerky, said the crowds he saw from his kiosk Friday morning were nothing out of the ordinary.
"This is like an early Saturday morning here," he said.
A WELCOME SHIFT
Longtime Black Friday shoppers like Manuel Mendoza couldn't help but notice the change of tempo.
The Bakersfield resident and his wife usually go out together on Black Friday expecting to experience a little craziness. But this year, with the house feeling a little too stuffy for his comfort, he headed out solo, planning to pick her up later after crossing a few items off his shopping list.
The serenity inside Kohl's struck him as a little odd.
"This is very quiet and calm," he said, chalking up the change to compelling deals on the Internet.
A few aisles over, Anthony Moreno had arrived at the store well before dawn, partly as a favor to his sister, who had asked for his company Friday. He said the sheer volume of deals was impressive when compared with the online shopping he normally does. The tranquility was a welcome surprise, too, the Bakersfield resident said.
"It's better," he said.
THE ‘SECOND WAVE’
Jessica Rodriguez thought she knew why things were calmer than in years past. Many stores had opened the day before, on Thanksgiving, she noted, which made Friday the "second wave."
The Shafter resident saw benefits and drawbacks to the new pattern. On one hand, some so-called doorbusters were gone by the time she arrived Friday morning, like the slippers she had planned on buying her mom. But the lack of congestion was pleasant, she said.
"You're able to shop more comfortably," she said.
Things were different on Thanksgiving. When J.C. Penney opened at 2 p.m. Thursday at Valley Plaza, hundreds of shoppers were waiting to get in — so many, cashier supervisor Elena Mendoza recalled Friday, that it took more than an hour for all of them to get through the doors.
"It was extreme," she said. "Everybody was in here."
Michelle Ragsdale's two young boys had wanted to go out Thursday night, but she wouldn't have it. To her, Black Friday is a tradition, not because of the doorbusters but because it's an opportunity to spend time together as a family.
For that reason, the calm she, her husband and the boys experienced Friday morning at the Dick's Sporting Goods on Rosedale was a nice change of pace.
"It's not nearly as crazy this year," she said.