By Tamera Adams

On Black Friday, we arrived at Target just as smiley-faced employees were passing out Target Shopping Survival Kits, cute environmentally correct red bags filled with a breakfast bar, flavored coffee and animal crackers. The tag on the bag promised the contents would give us the stamina we needed for the shopping marathon ahead.

The doors opened at 6:00 a.m. sharp and the line of customers speed-walked through the sliding doors, grabbed idle carts and commenced shopping. The majority of the crowd made a beeline to the electronics department. I headed for the nearby toy section, which became swelled with customers too. The clothing department and jewelry counter looked like no-man's-land.

Despite retail reports of reduced staff for the holiday season, customer service was commendable. I was even able to get a decent response to a question I annoyingly asked one staff person as he was quickly re-stocking a shelf with hi-def DVDs.

Wal-Mart, TJ Maxx, and Best Buy were the remaining stops on our retail tour. We made no attempts to go to the shopping mall, and I don't know anyone else who braved those crowds either.

Compared with last year, the stores we visited had fewer items with reduced prices, and the discounts were signficantly less. And the crowds seemed a little smaller. The take-a-ticket dispenser at TJ Maxx's jewelry counter still seemed full, indicating customers were probably sparse and the wait to be served was non-existent. But recent news reports on the declining economic climate predicted retailers' actions and consumers' response to them.

Nonetheless, I had a ball and picked up a few gifts for myself and others too. I'll be going again next year and may even muster up the courage to hit one of the malls. If that's where you went this Black Friday, share your experience.

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