For some a beloved tradition, for others a nightmare, Black Friday called on brave souls to go shopping in the wee hours of the morning to snap up the best deals of the holiday season.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday to retailers, signals the start of the holiday season and often bumps their finances back "into the black."
J.C. Penney at Lakeshore Mall opened at 4 a.m. Friday to customers waiting lined up at the doors.
"It's been very good and exceeded the traffic more than we expected," said Faye Newton, a 24-year veteran of the shopping holiday with J.C. Penney. "We've had a big turnout."
Many people, like Gail Stowers, went out just as much for the sales as they do the tradition.
"I haven't been to bed since yesterday," said Stowers, who has been shopping the day after Thanksgiving since childhood. "We may not get the best deals but we have the best time. It just puts you in the holiday spirit."
Sonya Rucker said she started shopping at 3 a.m. Friday and was doing her best to find the deepest discounts on a day-long shopping excursion.
"If it's not $6.99 or $8.99, it can wait," said Rucker, looking at a flannel shirt that had been marked down from $30 to $8.88. "I don't think I've spent $200 yet."
While many shoppers were enthusiastic and like the odd hours, others were less than excited.
Kim Caldwell and Joyce Hicks of Dahlonega decided to try shopping the after-Thanksgiving sales for the first time this year and admitted it wasn't worth the hassle.
April Robinson went shopping with her grandmother, mother and
daughter on a mission with organized gift lists.
The women went to the mall along with many other stores in town, including Big Lots, Walmart, Target, Old Navy and Sam's before the day was over.
"It's kind of fun and torture both. I guess we like the pain," Robinson said.
Robinson was waiting outside in the cold for Old Navy to open at 3 a.m.
"They had $5 fleeces," Robinson said. "But I don't know if it was worth fighting through the crowds."
Early reports from Best Buy and mall operator Taubman Centers offered some encouraging signs that consumers were buying more for themselves and that crowds were larger than last year. Toys R Us CEO Gerald Storch reported that on average about 1,000 were in line for the midnight opening for each store.
Still, worries about jobs clearly were on shoppers' minds as they lined up for big bargains on TVs and practical gifts.
Many stores tried to maximize on after-Thanksgiving shoppers by releasing ads early this year.
For years, deep-pocket retailers battled Black Friday Web sites that shared leaked advertisements with impatient consumers. Best Buy and Target Corp. were among the many retailers that routinely sent out cease-and-desist orders.
Most of the Walmart stores were open on Thanksgiving to prevent the mad dash for the 5 a.m. opening in the aftermath of the death of a Walmart worker on Black Friday in a Long Island, N.Y., store.
Many retailers also touted Thanksgiving Day specials that will last through Nov. 30, also known as Cyber Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report