MOORE — Sixteen minutes. That's how long it took for the line of 800 or so die-hard customers waiting outside Target on Black Friday to snake its way inside the store and begin clogging up the cash register lines.
The people nearest the door arrived at 2:30 p.m., Thursday, still digesting their Thanksgiving turkey lunch. There were only 25 of the giant, 46-inch LCD TVs to be had and some carted out more than one.
As the midnight opening approached, the parking lot swelled and a second mob of people formed — those who still wanted a chance to snag door busters but who didn't want to wait in line for hours. Cutters were quickly outed by the unified crowd, who'd gotten to know one another as the minutes ticked by. It was 23-year-old Hunter Witt who was tasked by Target with keeping order.
Witt leads the asset protection team at the Target store, which opened in July. His job is to minimize theft, catch shoplifters and, on Black Friday, the busiest day of the year, control the crowd.
Witt arrived for his shift wearing a typical Target uniform: red shirt and khaki pants, plus a reflective jacket that reads: “Target protection specialist.” The barrier he set up on Wednesday — yellow caution tape stretched between overturned carts — is in place and people are already waiting.
His goals: Talk to every person in line and prevent people from cutting. “If you get the crowd on your side, it helps a lot,” he explained. Assistant Manager Sarah Lucas begins passing out free snacks to the crowd.
Cashiers arrive for their 11:30 p.m. shift and Witt greets each one. Moore police officer David Dickinson clicks by on his
A customer, about 50 spots back, asks about vouchers for the 46-inch TVs, the most sought after door buster. His buddies at the north Target store received vouchers at 11, the man tells Witt.
“It'll be 11:30,” Witt says.
“I'm ready to go if I don't get one. You're killing me here,” he replies.
A few minutes later,
A sea of workers in red shirts gathers near customer service as store manager David Pena leads a huddle. They listen as he explains what to expect.
“No matter what happens, it's going to be very busy for about two-and-a-half hours. It will take these people about 20 minutes to pick out what they want, then the line will go all the way back to PFresh (the grocery department) and down to trim-a-tree. Our job,”
“We only have 550 shopping carts,” he added, and the employees laughed. “They will be gone almost instantly. So cart attendants, you're
Back outside, Witt was confident his crowd, the one he had spent more than three hours taming, wouldn't cause trouble. “This line is having fun,” he said. Officer Dickinson cycled by again; this time he'd stick around through the rush.
It was 50 degrees outside but felt colder. A couple huddled under a blanket together.
A woman drove up and tossed a pair of pants to her sister, who scrambled to put them on over her shorts.
Someone piped up: “two minutes early won't hurt you.”
Suddenly, it's moving. The line inches toward the door and, after hours of waiting in the chilly fall air, shoppers are inside frantically snatching items off holiday displays.
Those still outside applaud and cheer as the first person exits, a giant TV box jutting from his cart.
There's a moment of confusion as he navigates the crowd, then disappears into the dark parking lot.
After 16 minutes, the line outside is gone. And Witt begins round two of his shift: keeping the peace inside.