No tradition can be all bad.
The crew at J.C. Penney at the Rock Hill Galleria enjoyed apple dumplings and an éclair cake Wednesday night before making final preparations for the Thanksgiving shopping spree.
After washing sticky fingers, the eight-person crew installed signs announcing "door-buster" sales from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday on sales racks with a small green dot. Signs signaling "big buys" went on racks with a red dot.
Merchandise was carefully arrayed around the store. Some of the store's unusual merchandise was removed to make space for holiday sale items.
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"You have to think like a customer thinks," said Kathy Hogue, baker of the pre-sale treats and the store's pricing and replenishment supervisor.
Hogue had spent most of the week with a copy of Friday's 28-page advertising sale booklet - "It's our bible" - making sure everything on sale was where it was supposed to be.
And at 3:55 a.m. Friday, five minutes before the official opening, Hogue opened J.C. Penney front doors as co-workers chortled, "Follow me, troops!" - and the shoppers poured in.
For many shoppers, the stop at the Galleria was the second or third of the morning.
Walmart, which is open 24 hours, never closed its doors. Toys 'R Us started its sales at 10 p.m. Thursday. Kohl's opened at 3 a.m. Friday.
In all, more than 138 million people are expected to shop nationally during the three-day post-Thanksgiving period.
The National Retail Federation estimates each shopper will spend $688.87 this season - about $7 more than last year's average.
The stores' staggered starting times didn't seem to affect shoppers in Rock Hill. Many waited in long lines for hours to be among the first to get into their favorite stores.
Tamika Brown of Richburg got in line at Belk at 1:30 a.m. Those at the front of the line reportedly got there before midnight.
"I can't wait for Christmas!" Brown said.
This is the first year she is shopping for grandchildren - 1-year-old Jalen and 7-month-old Jayscan. Brown planned to complete her shopping Friday, going all day to find what she wants to give.
Rich and Wendy Zeboica went shopping to celebrate an anniversary tradition.
They were married seven years ago - on Nov. 15, 2003, in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 15. That Thanksgiving, they were back in Rock Hill, and Rich took his new bride on her first early morning "Black Friday" shopping spree.
They have been getting up at about 1 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving ever since.
The Zeboicas stopped at J.C. Penney to get one of the store's annual snow globes. They stopped there the first year to get the special snow globe. They have been back every year since.
"I don't care about anything else but the snow globes," Rich said, while Wendy looked for other gifts.
Black Friday was not all about gifts. Many shoppers were shopping for themselves.
Luggage is a traditionally a strong seller after Thanksgiving.
Jack Craven, a local truck driver, bought a five-piece set at J.C. Penney only a few minutes after the doors opened for himself.
He and his friend, Jo Oliver, had planned their Friday shopping "to the T" - knowing which stores offered the best deals on what they wanted. Next on their list was a GPS system, mostly likely from Target.
Women's shoes - particularly boots - were a strong seller. It was shoe madness for women at Belk. At J.C. Penney, Rachel Spruill, visiting from Atlanta, had almost convinced herself to buy a pair of boots.
"Women love to shop, and women love shoes," she said. The combination drives more traffic to the stores, she said. Good deals were just icing on the cake, Spruill said.
Final sales results won't be tabulated until the end of the weekend, but the number of early shoppers buying looked promising.
The electric beeps of cash registers drowned out the sound of Frank Sinatra crooning Christmas carols over stores' sound systems.
And, as bags and receipts were exchanged, sales associates said, "Thank you."
At J.C. Penney, store manager Denise Todd said the company standard for saying "thank you," as measured by a survey, is 95 percent. The Rock Hill store's average is 97 percent.
"We all like to be thanked," she said.