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Shoppers rummage through a pile of sweaters on sale at a J.C. Penney store, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, in Las Vegas. Despite a surge of resistance as the sales drew near, with scolding editorials and protests by retail employees and reminders of frantic tramplings past, Black Friday's grip on America may be stronger than ever.

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Why must we buy? Black Friday's powerful pull

Lured by earlier-than-ever Black Friday sales, people left Grandma and Grandpa in search of Samsung and Toshiba. They did not go blindly: In dozens of interviews, people acknowledged how spending has become inseparable from the holidays. Older folks pined for the days of Erector Sets and Thumbelinas while in line to pay iPad prices. Even some younger shoppers said it felt wrong to be spending money instead of quality time on Thanksgiving.

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