Image: Jenkins family from Ohio
Kiichiro Sato  /  AP
Tammy Dorion, front left, and Megan Dorion, front right, gather with their family Rick Wethrill, from back left, Sherry Dorman, Sarah Chapman, Debby Waters and Jerry Jenkins in front of a Kohl's department store, Monday in Columbus, Ohio. After they've finished their Thanksgiving feast, the family plans the next traditional gathering — shopping on Black Friday.
updated 11/20/2006 7:47:52 PM ET 2006-11-21T00:47:52

After they've finished their Thanksgiving feast, the Jenkins family clears the plates and spreads out the ads to plan the next traditional gathering — shopping on Black Friday.

Assignments are given, routes are mapped and ads are labeled with each shopper's name.

"This is serious business," said Tammy Dorion of Columbus. "We sit down and we're ready to make an agenda. It's hysterical."

Dorion, 39, has been shopping with the group — which now includes her parents, daughter, siblings, cousins and has even been extended to close family friends — the day after Thanksgiving for 20 years. They usually spend about $2,000.

Dorion will roll out of bed at 3:30 a.m. to get to stores by 5. She used to wake up at 5:30 a.m. when stores opened at 7.

"We have a ball," she said. "We have so much fun you just can't imagine."

They start the day by breaking into smaller groups and hitting stores such as Toys R Us, Kohl's, Target and Best Buy, said Dorion's daughter Megan, 22, in her fourth year of shopping with the family. The family sets a minimum age of 18 to go along.

The shoppers look to grab the popular and more expensive items first, such as PlayStations, DVD players and video games. Buying clothes can wait because the deals usually aren't as good, she said.

Over the years, the family has perfected methods to ensure success on Black Friday.

For items that will go fast, the family puts a shopper at each store entrance since there is no way to know where, for example, Target is going to plop down a tower of $44 stereos with CD changers, one of Tammy Dorion's best deals in recent years.

If there's a hot item that isn't on your list, grab it anyway — someone in the group might need it. And always send one shopper for a cart — they're invaluable and rare on Black Friday.

Each shopper dispatched to a certain store has a list of what all the other shoppers need at that location. Communication is key and family members stay in constant contact via cell phones.

"If the sale is over by the time we get to the store or the price is more, we will call the person and say, 'Hey, it's $10 more — do you still want it?'" Megan Dorion said. Usually the answer is yes.

Around 8 or 9 a.m., the group meets at a big box store, and exchange what they picked up for each other. Payments won't be made until later, when everyone has a chance to look at their receipts.

After they've grabbed their must-haves and big deals, the family heads to the mall for a more leisurely pace, Megan Dorion said. They cap off the shopping with another tradition — lunch.

"That's where grandpa comes in. He usually pays for lunch," Megan Dorion said. "Before that he sits and watches the carts while we shop."

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