By Olivia Scheck and Jennifer Glickel
HERALD SQUARE — Thousands of people lined up in the cold outside Macy's and other stores throughout Midtown early Friday for the annual Black Friday doorbuster sales.
Eager shoppers ignored the pleas of Reverend Billy and his followers from anti-consumerism group the Church of Life After Shopping as Macy's opened its doors at 4 a.m. Church members in green robes were escorted out the doors chanting, "Christmas isn't about shopping," while hundreds of shoppers rushed toward heavily discounted goods.
Aislin Azcona, 25, from Brooklyn, made a beeline for the jacket and boots she had scoped out online beforehand.
She spent $80 for the jacket, normally priced at $300, and $90 for $160 boots.
"I shopped online first so I knew where I was going," Azcona said, adding that Black Friday sales were more about the "pride of the bargain," than about saving money.
Asked if she was buying gifts, she replied "No, it's all about me today."
Elsewhere in the city, the shopping began early for many New Yorkers with some stores, such as Toys "R" Us and Old Navy, opening their doors on Thanksgiving night to try and get customers in.
Sandra Martinez, 56, of Washington Heights, got to Toys "R" Us in Times Square at 5 a.m. to shop for gifts for her grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
"I love Black Friday and I look forward to it all year. I wait for a year and I save chump change and then I buy whatever I can get. I bought mostly educational toys and I saved about $100 and I'm just a quarter done with my shopping, so that's pretty good," Martinez said.
"I'm probably going to save about $300 because I look for bargains and this is the best time."
Yazid Latreche, a 41-year-old French tourist, said he was getting into the spirit of America's holiest of shopping days at Herald Square.
"This is the temple of shopping," Latreche said. "I've got a suitcase and I'm going to fill it."
Some were less motivated than Latreche, passing out on the showroom beds while their wives and girlfriends did the bargain hunting.
With the economy still affecting retailers, many are banking on sales from Black Friday and through the holiday season to make up for lackluster consumer spending during the rest of the year.
Many stores were expected to offer up heavier discounts this year to get customers in the door.
"I spent so far probably $500 and I probably would've spent $700 to $800, so I saved a lot," said Bronx resident Fred Barreto, 35, who got up at 3:30 a.m. to start his Black Friday shopping at Best Buy.
"It's exciting at first, but then you know, you're waiting on line and you're waiting, and you're waiting and you're waiting," Barreto said of his annual Black Friday shopping experience.
"It's annoying, but you've got to go through it if you want to get the sales," he added.
But for some, like 21-year-old East Village hair stylist Sophia Sklansky, the spectacle was enough. She and her boyfriend stayed up all night, waiting in line to be part of Macy's Black Friday hysteria.
"We just thought, 'How funny would it be to go to a Black Friday sale?'"
Sklansky bought a crock pot and some underwear.