Meet the Robinsons.
The mom and three sisters lined up at Toys R Us about 5:30 p.m. Thursday for the store's 8 o'clock opening on Thanksgiving night.
But their planning started long before that. And it's not just any planning. We're talking color coding, tabs and master lists. After 16 years, they have it down to a science.
Oh, yeah, and they have matching Black Friday T-shirts, too.
They really mean it.
Each year, the women -- mom, Terri Robinson, and daughters, MaryBeth Sawhill, Brenda Sturgeon and Tara Cowden -- gather at the Robinson home in McDonald at 7 a.m. Thanksgiving day. Over homemade blueberry muffins and Starbucks coffee, they pore over the ads in the newspaper -- each with their own copy -- to figure out what they want and where they want it.
This year, with stores opening earlier, they ate their family Thanksgiving dinner at 2:30 p.m. and headed out a few hours later.
"We don't like this opening early," Tara said as they sat in their folding chairs about 70 people back from the start of the line that had gathered outside the Robinson store. "This year stressed us out."
Each woman was armed with her own list, although it contained gifts for each family. Instead of just shopping for their individual needs, they combined items to be more efficient.
"Divide and conquer," said MaryBeth, the oldest of the daughters.
The women's lists were all color-coded so they knew what they were responsible for. Terri was pink. MaryBeth, green, Tara, orange and Brenda, blue.
It was unclear if their brother, David Robinson, who was lined up at the nearby Walmart with his wife, Kelly, to get a deal on an iPad, got his own color.
At Toys R Us, Terri had no items specific to shop for but was in charge of getting in line and holding a cart into which the women dump all of their items.
"We each run in a different direction and load up," said Brenda, the second-oldest.
The women weren't seeking what might be the hot-ticket items at Toys R Us, but a lot of electronics. IPods, Xbox controllers and games.
They planned to be out of the store in an hour. After that, they would head to Target, stop for coffee at Starbucks, which was opening at 10, and then head to Dick's Sporting Goods for Under Armour hoodies for less than $40.
The women expected that twice throughout the night, likely around 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., they would call Larry Robinson, the dad, who would meet up with the women once the Ford Excursion they were traveling in was full. He would then transfer their goods into his work van so they could start anew.
"He's such a good dad," said Tara, the youngest.
The women didn't think they would be done with their shopping until some time this afternoon, when they planned to return to the Robinson family home to eat leftover Thanksgiving dinner.
In the meantime, they would be relegated to Coke and homemade pumpkin gobs in the Expedition.
"There are no breaks," Brenda said. "We usually make it a full 24-hour thing."
Each woman estimates that she will spend at least $1,000 during their first night and day of shopping. There are a total of 10 children they're shopping for, ranging in age from 5 months to 16 years.
The kids were all at their homes with their fathers, the women said. They consider Black Thursday/Friday to be their time, as their husbands then get Monday for themselves to go hunting.
Teri has the longest history with Black Friday craziness. She remembers, about 30 years ago, lining up for two days outside the Hills department store at Village Square to get her youngest daughter a Cabbage Patch doll. Teri and her sister took turns standing in line over that time, and when the store opened, she was able to grab two of the must-have, pudgy-faced dolls.
Terri gave one of them to the man who had been standing in line near her who came out of the pile empty-handed, and the other doll, a brown-haired, blue-eyed girl, went to her daughter.
Tara still has Katie Beth.
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com or 412-263-2620. First Published November 23, 2012 5:00 AM