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Veteran Black Friday family in line at Best Buy since noon Wednesday

November 26, 2009 |  3:59 pm

Edmund Urquiza’s victory had been years in the making. After about a decade of attempts, he and his family and friends finally scored the first spot in the Black Friday line outside a Best Buy store.

The area around the Burbank location seemed almost desolate in the early afternoon on Thanksgiving Day, where a small, straggly line of shoppers was camped out from the door to the end of the sidewalk, near a pair of portable toilets.

But Urquiza’s crowd of roughly 12 people had been in position since 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. As an added bonus, they had also laid claim to the front of the line at a nearby Target, a spot they had taken since 2 p.m. Wednesday.

“I’m surprised it’s so light,” he said of the Best Buy line. “This is nothing.”

Accompanied by a large bag filled with $400 worth of goods he had just picked up from RadioShack, Urquiza said he plans to spend another $400 at Best Buy. The sports memorabilia salesman is especially hoping to land a $197 HP laptop to replace the one he bought at an earlier Black Friday stakeout.

“I only buy electronics once a year, on Black Friday, because I can be dumb about it and still get a good deal no matter what I touch,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

But with a scattershot economy and a scaled-down Christmas gift list, the group had second thoughts this year. In past years, Urquiza said he has dropped as much as $2,000 at Best Buy alone; this year, he will use only cash or debit.

“We almost didn’t come,” said Urquiza, who had scouted Best Buy stores as far south as Anaheim Hills. “Money’s tight, and the deals didn’t seem worth our time. But once you make the commitment, your perspective changes. Now, it’s like, look at all these laptops!”

The group might trek over to Hometown Buffet for dinner, leaving someone to guard the two large tents and tables blanketed with newspapers, coloring sets, bags of toys, board games and a radio. A proper Thanksgiving feast is scheduled for Friday night, he said.

Among the group: Urquiza’s sister Iberia Brogmus, 37, a librarian, her husband and their two young daughters. Urquiza and Brogmus’ mother relaxed in a lawn chair – she planned to pick up a 32-inch television from Target and a video iPod from Best Buy.

“We all have different motivations,” said Urquiza, who said he often acts as a personal shopper to friends, who put in their purchase reservations early. “It’s almost like a family tradition for us.”

The family members are veterans at “urban camping” – they waited for days outside the Nokia Theatre recently, waiting for the Michael Jackson documentary “This Is It.” But they occasionally camp in the traditional sense too.

“It’s kind of a sport,” Urquiza said. “It doesn’t take a mastermind.”

As he spoke, drivers nearly slowed down and stared. One man in a white car joked, “They don’t do anything like this in England!” and another pulled up and asked to see the newspaper ad for the Playstation 3 system. Earlier in the day, Urquiza said a stranger had bought him hot chocolate as he waited in line.

“You help each other, even people you don’t know,” he said. “Everyone’s trying to get the best deal, and we’re helping with that. It’s the start of the holiday spirit.”


-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times