The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Why do shoppers camp out for Black Friday?

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Kelly Williams doesn't want to miss an unbelievable bargain: $199 for a 50-inch television on sale at Best Buy starting Thanksgiving.

So she started camping out in front of Best Buy in West Los Angeles on Tuesday. There were already four people ahead of her.

"We did this last year, too," Williams said. She nabbing a great deal for a TV late year, too. That one went into her son's room. This year's big screen is going into her bedroom.

"I’m a very frugal shopper," she said, "and I love knowing I got the absolute best price."

Like shoppers who walk by her on their way into the store, Williams' husband is skeptical of why she should spend three days camped out for a television.

"It's not quite as insane as it looks," said Kit Yarrow, who's studied consumer psychology for two decades and is author of the new book "Decoding the New Consumer Mind."

Part of the allure for people who camp out for Black Friday doorbuster sales is the thrill of the hunt, she said. Another part is the socializing and fun  – yes, fun – that comes from waiting in line.

"People really do enjoy what they get more when they feel like their shopping prowess is the reason they were able to get it," Yarrow said.

The popularity of Black Friday has led to its expansion into Thanksgiving. Target, Walmart, Kmart, Best Buy and other retailers will open on Thanksgiving.

Yarrow said it's also changed how retailers price items year-round.

"We've become very much a bargain culture," Yarrow said. "Retailers have come to understand that, so they'll stock their shelves with merchandise that they never anticipated they would sell at full price."

To help pass the time outside Best Buy, Williams constantly checked her iPhone, just to make sure she's not missing a better bargain somewhere else.

Her nephew will come to relieve her at night and her skeptical husband will let her take a break during the day to shower. Her kids will visit, too. 

When she walks out with her $199 television on Thanksgiving, she said the days of waiting will have been worth it.

"I feel better when I worked for it," she said.

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