At the Best Buy in Pleasant Hills, about five minutes before the store opened Thursday evening, a few dozen employees gathered near the front.
From the outside -- through the closed sliding doors -- the group could be seen shouting, cheering and ultimately breaking away as if in a football huddle.
"It was a pump-up speech," said Lindsay Ronick, a 20-year-old employee from the electronics and appliance store. "The managers were telling us our game plan; to have a good holiday. Telling us thanks and how much they appreciate us."
Shoppers take advantage of early store openings
Shoppers take advantage of early openings at stores around the region. (Video by Nate Guidry; 11/28/2013)
It was Ms. Ronick's third year working Black Friday. She was scheduled from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. today.
"You need to pump up employees to work a 12-hour shift," she said, adding that she likes the holiday shopping madness.
"I like the upbeat, fast-paced environment."
She clearly was not alone, as customers formed a line that stretched around the front of the building and along one side, hoping to cash in on early bargains.
Like many big chains this year, Best Buy opened earlier than in the past.
At the nearby Toys "R" Us, doors opened at 5 p.m..
By about 6:15, Karrie and John Stewart of Whitehall were already loading up their car.
"We got everything we were looking for," Ms. Stewart said.
"We got a lot of good deals."
They spent about $600 there and still planned to hit Kohl's, Target and Walmart.
"I love it. I do," Ms. Stewart said. "It's the hunt."
The couple's goal was to finish all of their holiday shopping in one night.
Nearly all of the shoppers interviewed agreed that stores should not open on Thanksgiving evening.
"I believe being open at 5 p.m. is horrible, but the deals are the deals," Ms. Stewart said. "We have to bow down to the stores."
Linda Burris of West Elizabeth, who was waiting in line with her sister from North Carolina at Kohl's, agreed.
"We think they should leave it on Black Friday like they used to," she said. "But I guess this is society. With money the way it is, you've got to do what you've got to do."
The sisters were on the lookout for a 32-inch LED TV for $140.
At Walmart, Nickie and Rob Fialkovich of Brentwood were pleased with the ease of their trip inside in the store.
"We went straight to where we needed to go to get what we needed to get," Ms. Fialkovich said. "The lines weren't even bad at all. They might have been better than they usually are."
Among the gifts they bought were Nerf Blasters and Thomas the Tank Engine items.
"I love it," she said. "I don't come out with a mission. It's just fun for me."
Back at Best Buy, Roxanne and Jake Lower of Baldwin got in line about 90 minutes before the store opened, hoping to get their hands on a Nikon camera that normally sells for $800. It was on sale for $500.
They want it to take pictures of their 3-month old son, Lucas, who seemed not to notice the frigid temperatures bundled up in his infant carrier inside a fleece papoose.
"We keep checking him," Ms. Lower said. "His cheeks are warm."
At the back end of the line, Mark and Beth Wisniowski of Baldwin waited only briefly, hoping to get a Toshiba laptop for $100 off the regular price.
"I'd stand outside for $100," Mr. Wisniowski said.
Their family ate Thanksgiving dinner at 2:30, cleaned up and headed out. It was the couple's first time doing Black Friday shopping.
Although it was cold, Ms. Wisniowski was holding a can of Mountain Dew in her gloved hand.
"We brined our turkey," she said. "It was salty. I'm thirsty."
Ryan Martin, 33, of Uniontown got in line at Best Buy at 7 a.m. Thursday, hoping to get the new PlayStation 4.
But after spending almost 11 hours at the front of the line -- aside from three hours when he left for Thanksgiving dinner while his buddy held his spot -- he found out that the store had no gaming consoles for him or anyone else.
He was mad, telling a manager at the store that he had called repeatedly during the week, and even spoke to the corporate office, and was assured the Pleasant Hills store would have what he wanted. "I could have stood in line at Walmart or Target," he said. "But I'm an elite rewards club member, so I chose here."
Even though the manager apologized "like 50 times," Mr. Martin walked away empty-handed, even before the store opened.
"He offered me nothing."
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.