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story.lead_photo.caption Black Friday shoppers wait outside Best Buy on Missouri Boulevard early Friday morning. The electronics store let 35 customers inside at a time to encourage social distancing. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the post-Thanksgiving tradition of waiting in line for stores to open early on Black Friday continued this year for some Central Missouri residents.

A line started to form at 4 a.m. at Best Buy on Missouri Boulevard in Jefferson City. By the time the store opened its doors at 5 a.m., around 70 people were waiting to enter.

A few minutes before welcoming customers inside, store officials asked the crowd to continue to wear their face masks and stay at least 6 feet apart as much as possible. The Best Buy store allowed only 35 customers in the store at one time in an effort to maintain social distancing.

Travis Brenneke said he was surprised to find no one there when he arrived at the store and was first in line. He was there to get a KitchenAid appliance.

"The deal was too good to pass up, and when the woman wants something, she's going to get it," Brenneke said.

Justin Davison, of Holts Summit, was next in line and said he was there for deals on laptop computers.

"Online shopping was a fiasco, so that was the driving point for us to come here," Davison said. "The deals were worth the hour wait to get in."

At GameStop on Stoneridge Parkway, another line of shoppers waited for the store to open at 7 a.m. Some had been there a few days and others starting just after midnight.

Ken Dauderman, from the Lake of the Ozarks area, said he had been waiting to get a PlayStation 5.

"I've been fighting the online bots and resellers," Dauderman said. "They deplete online stock of the new gaming consoles in seconds. It was just better to come to the store and get it here."

Dauderman went to the store Tuesday and set up a small tent so he could be as comfortable as possible during his wait.

"I was determined to get it," Dauderman said. "They launched the sale earlier this month, but Black Friday was the first time you could buy them in the store. This store only had two."

James Mclellan said he was there to get an Xbox and, like Dauderman, he figured going to the store was better than competing with online bots.

"They just buy them all up within seconds and then they sell them at a higher price," Mclellan said. "All I want is just one."

Tim Ellis was there to buy an Xbox for his 10-year-old son. He said after one sale opened a few days ago, just 30 seconds later, it was stopped because a bot had bought all the items available.

As of last week, the Better Business Bureau had logged more than 53,000 complaints about online retailers and more than 15,000 reports of online purchase scams.

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The National Retail Federation estimates consumers will spend an average of nearly $1,000 during the Christmas holiday, according to the BBB. The federation expects Cyber Monday to be busy this year, with 60 percent of holiday shoppers planning to shop online.

At Capital Mall on Friday, Beth Elliott, who manages the Downtown Books II and Play to Learn stores, said they weren't sure what to expect this holiday season.

"It has been a very slow start, but the fact the mall has its doors open makes a difference," Elliott said.

She also noted she's seen more people in the mall wearing masks over the last couple of weeks, which she is glad to see.

"We didn't make any changes in how we got ready for Christmas last year," Elliott said. "Most of what we've been stocking is based on what our supply is like and those supply lines have slowed down, certainly in toys, but less so in books. The shutdown in the spring affected the publishing industry, and many publishers didn't come back."

If there is one good thing, Elliott said, it's that "it's not as crazy and much more manageable kind of busy."

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