Hundreds leave their homes before dawn, still digesting Thanksgiving turkey, to wait in anticipation before locked storefronts.
When the key turns and the "open" sign lights up, they clamor inside to snag the best deals and begin the Christmas shopping season.
This year more major retailers, following in the footsteps of Walmart, opened the night of Thanksgiving to give shoppers a jump on Black Friday savings. The sales-frenzy dubbed Black Thursday appears to be here to stay.
Following Black Friday, stores such as Target and Old Navy are extending their hours, opening earlier and closing later as Christmas Eve approaches.
Auburn students working in retail face a particular set of challenges during the holidays.
Amy Camp, a senior double majoring in psychology and social work, has been an Old Navy sales associate for three years.
Camp said juggling an internship in Tuskegee, school and a part-time retail job is demanding, and her weekdays are often as long as 14 hours.
"It's definitely something you have to balance -- you're not only having to study your academics, but you're having to go to work as well," Camp said.
Despite time constraints, Camp said she has maintained a high GPA and is graduating this semester.
"What I've always been told in school is that for every hour you're in class, you should spend two hours studying," Camp said.
Josh Bennett, a senior in psychology, works in guest services at Target in Tiger Town, which opened its doors to Black Friday crowds at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Originally from Montana, Bennett has been part of the Target team for five years and has been a full-time employee at Target in Tiger Town for six months. Every week, Bennett has to juggle 40 hours at work and 17 hours of school.
"You go from school to work and then home to do homework, and that's kind of your entire day," Bennett said.
Both Bennett and Camp confirmed managers, especially in and around Auburn, work with students' class schedules.
Suzanna Sweeney, a sales team lead at Academy Sports and Outdoors, said much thought goes into the hiring process of student employees.
"We always hire based on availability, so it's never an inconvenience," Sweeney said. "Usually, we have our openers and our closers, and it's all based on availability."
In lieu of the holiday shopping spree, sales associates are aware upon hire they will have to sacrifice time that would normally be reserved for friends, family and a relaxing break from school.
This year, Camp opted to open for Old Navy's first Black Thursday.
Her shift began at 6 p.m., after returning from Thanksgiving lunch in Mobile, and ended at 3 a.m. on Black Friday. Given that the store will be closed Christmas Day, Camp potentially has three days off for Christmas vacation.
"They told us this year -- which they haven't done in the past -- that we could only ask off for two days in a row," Camp said.
Bennett worked a 10.5-hour shift this Black Friday which started at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, making a trip to Montana impossible, but management has granted him three weeks off at Christmas to visit family.
"This Target recognizes that they have that college populous that does live out of state or far away," Bennett said.
Sweeney, whose Black Friday shift began at 3 a.m., said days between Nov. 1-Jan. 1 are "blacked out," meaning employees cannot request time off and are expected to work some of the holiday rush at Academy.
"Our managers make considerations for those students who live further away," Sweeney said. "They give them an amount of time off to be with their family."
Department stores' preparations for the holidays began in mid-November. This involved associates staying well after closing to organize, decorate and rearrange the stores to better accommodate throngs of shoppers.
After the holidays, one might expect in-store traffic to slow down.
According to Sweeney, this isn't true.
Shoppers line up once again in the wee morning hours the day after Christmas, clutching gift receipts to make returns.
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