Concrete campers land big savings
By Jessica King
They came with tents, folding chairs and sleeping bags to form a concrete campground in front of the new 99¢ Only Store at 1326 Main St.
The payoff? Brand new 40-inch Westinghouse flat screen LED TVs, each for only 99 cents to the first nine customers in line.
Renee Bushey nabbed front-of-the-line honors at 1 p.m. Nov. 5 — 43 hours before the store would open at 8 a.m. Nov. 7. She was joined a half-hour later by her horseback riding friend, Vicki Munz, who like Bushey, wanted the TV but also thought of the wait as an adventure.
Next in line was Don McWhirter at 2 p.m. He said he was home crumpling up paper for kindling when he came across the store’s advertisement. He told his wife he was going to go “check it out,” then drove by to see Bushey and Munz already in line and so he called his wife and said he wouldn’t be coming home for a couple of days.
“I need a new TV because my kids say my old one isn’t good enough,” he said, noting his old TV was a rear-projection one with terrible picture quality compared to today’s flat screens.
Because McWhirter is medically disabled after having fallen off a pole while working for AT&T, he didn’t have any other plans for the two days he had to wait in line.
McWhirter said he appreciated the ground rules set forth by the store. There was no smoking or alcohol in line and no pets, and to avoid any fights, store employees took down everyone’s name as they lined up so “cutting” was not an option. Tents also had to be taken down during daylight hours.
Passing the time was easy.
“There’s a lot of good people out here to talk with,” McWhirter said, as he joked around with No. 4 in line, Lori Carlson.
The Palomar College student said she decided to skip class after hearing about the promotion from her mom. She arrived at 3:30 p.m., 90 minutes after McWhirter and more than two hours after Busby.
“We’re making cool memories here, and we’re here for the TV,” she said.
About an hour or so after Carlson arrived, No. 5 and No. 6, Kevin Harski and a man who asked not to be identified, arrived and got acquainted.
“I’m on workers’ comp so I figured, ‘Why not?’” said Harski.
No. 6, clad in dark sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt, asked not to be identified because he called in sick to work to line up for the TV. He was the only one in the line of nine who had prior experience with lining up early for retail deals. He said he has gone to Wal-Mart on Black Friday on several occasions and was used to being allowed to line up in the store, but the concrete campout wasn’t terrible, though he had trouble staying asleep at night without a tent or sleeping bag to keep him warm.
“We’ve had a great campout,” he said, noting he brought with him a small TV that was plugged in outside the store and someone else brought an X-Box game console to help pass the time.
The group that brought the X-Box consisted of Nos. 7-9 in line, friends Connor Umphreyville, Josh Thomas and Devin LeChance.
Umphreyville had a couple days off work but admitted he was hoping the line was going to start forming later than it did so he didn’t have to spend two nights outside.
Thomas said he was bored with nothing else to do so “Why not?”
And LeChance said he was honest with his work and they were “cool” with it.
The next 99 people in line behind the first nine also got a deal, a scooter for 99 cents, and other lesser deals followed throughout the day. By the time the store opened at 8 a.m. Nov. 7, about 200 people were lined up and a steady stream followed throughout the morning, said 99¢ Only Stores spokeswoman Maider Izeta.
Offering big bargains is a tradition for every new 99¢ Only Stores opening, said Izeta. Though TVs have been offered before, the one used for the Ramona store promotion is the biggest one offered so far, she said. Other promotions have included smaller TVs, iPods and other electronics.
“It’s our first store in Ramona so we’re very excited that we are here to offer more employment opportunities and good deals to the community,” she said.
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