NORTH ADAMS -- One Walmart wasn't enough for some of Black Friday's early morning shoppers.
As an estimated crowd of 500 lined the waiting area outside North Adams' store before its 1 a.m. opening, customers could be heard remarking on earlier successes and failures at Walmart in Bennington, Vt.
That store had been open all night, a feat of time-staggered deals and employees asked to put in 12-hour shifts, and while not quite so ambitious, the 1 a.m. opening at the North Adams store was its earliest ever.
Edward Gonzalez said he and his wife finished with turkey and pie and were out the door by 6 p.m., headed for Bennington for laptops priced down by hundreds.
"We left our Thanksgiving dinner to get there at 7 p.m.," Gonzalez said.
But in Bennington, the two found themselves battling for tickets that would prioritize one's access to particular sales once they began, but to no avail.
"There was nothing in the fliers they sent out that said anything about [sales tickets]," Gonzalez said. "But [the tickets] turned our trip up there into wasted time. It was a madhouse. There was no control at all. We left empty-handed."
Fortunately, they were able to grab a good spot in line in North Adams, where front-runners began arriving as early as 8 p.m.
According to these shoppers, Friday's list of most-desired items was dominated by electronics. Laptops, iPads, cell phones, LED televisions, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 bundles and digital cameras monopolized the attention of those earliest arrivals, while sales on towels, scooters, Fisher Price playsets and coffee makers also merited mentions.
Ten-year Black Friday veteran Cindy Smithers was on the hunt for a 24-inch LED television, being marketed by Walmart for under $150 on Friday, and explained the motivation of the day.
"The deal's are good enough to be out here," Smithers said. "If I thought I could get [an LED television] for that little somewhere else then I wouldn't be out here."
Her husband, Justin, wasn't quite so experienced, and didn't expect to be anytime soon.
"First and last [Black Friday] for me," he said. "I'm going to stay home with the dogs next year."
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), $52.5 billion was spent by 226 million shoppers over Thanksgiving weekend 2011. NRF predicted holiday shopping to increase by 4.1 percent in 2012.
In the first week of November, Walmart announced that some locations would open doors at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving this year -- earlier than ever -- sparking talk of worker walkouts at stores across the nation, according to the Associated Press.
Sentiments in favor of better treatment of Walmart's employees weren't absent from the city's shop-fest Friday, as roughly 10 protesters took to the front lawn to speak the cause.
Richard Dassatti, of activist groups Western Mass Jobs with Justice and the April 4 Coalition, spoke for the group.
He said a study published by Bloomberg News said the average Walmart Associate's salary is $8.81 per hour; that this employee poverty costs taxpayers nationwide over $1 billion annually, as many seek state subsidized benefits to stay afloat; employees who work under 24 hours per week receive no health benefits and premiums are up dramatically for full time employees; female employees receive lower wages; and the company engages systematic anti-union tactics.
"We want to draw attention to the needs of employees," Dassatti said. "The entire world could be lifted up if Walmart's conscience extended beyond profit margins."
Michael Wilber was another of Friday's protesters.
"We're part of a nationwide movement to help [Walmart] associates seek better treatment," Wilber said. "We wouldn't be out here if they'd pay their workers a decent, living wage -- and we shouldn't have to be the ones saying it. [American businesses] should lead the way."
To reach Phil Demers, email