PLEASANTON -- "Who needs sleep" read the sign at an A'Gaci store in Concord during the wee hours Friday morning, symbolic of the latest overnight Black Friday shopping spree in the Bay Area.
Yet by 3 a.m. in Pleasanton's Stoneridge Mall, some shoppers were doing just that, sleeping even while they clutched shopping bags containing their purchases. For the shoppers who were still awake and patrolling the corridors of the big regional mall, views differed on whether it was all worth it to be awake and shopping for discounts.
They weren't alone: Thousands of Bay Area consumers crowded into malls and other retail outlets starting Thursday night and continuing Friday morning, deciding to forsake Thanksgiving feasts and a regular night's sleep in a quest for bargains that officially kicked off Christmas shopping in 2013.
"We found good deals on most stuff, some stores had 50 percent off sales," said Bianca Ruiz, Pleasanton resident who was shopping at Stoneridge. But Ruiz also added that "With the stores opening at 6 p.m., that kind of ruined the point of Thanksgiving."
Mike Calvin of Sacramento said he decided to be very picky before buying anything at the Pkeasanton shopping mall.
"It's a lot of hype for deals that are only kind of O.K.," Calvin said. "The sales tend to be the same kind of sales you'd find on any other day of the week. I only spent my money if something was at least 50 percent off. There was limited opportunity to get those deals."
Campbell Dawson contemplated her shopping expedition that began at 9:30 p.m. Thursday night at Concord's Sunvalley Mall and ended around 2 a.m. on Friday.
"I got some really good deals on boots and jeans" Dawson said. She added, a hint of weariness in her voice, "I think I'm done," adding that she and her companions weren't planning to venture to any more stores.
The night shopping at Sunvalley was a way for Eric Alcala of Martinez to cope with the Thanksgiving dinner he had consumed just before hitting the mall.
"It was something to do after dinner, to walk that all off," Alcala said.
For Andrea Alcala, the latest Black Friday adventure marked the second straight year of shopping in the middle of the night.
"It was all right," Andrea Alcala said in a mixed assessment of the overnight discounts. "Some stores had really good deals, but some of the other ones weren't good at all."
Chris Braun of Pittsburg said he wanted to do more than simply shop, although he and his wife did some purchasing.
"Some of it is the experience of being out here tonight and some of it is the buying," Braun said of his group's trip to Sunvalley. Braun bought some clothes and his wife got a Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
In Hayward, two sisters renewed a tradition of shopping in the middle of the night as a way to mark their family bonds amid the throngs of consumers at Southland Mall.
"It's like our sister spending time together tradition," said Briana Brown, a Hayward resident.
Brown and her sister were taking a break from a night of shopping at the retail center while they did some people watching and planned which store to visit next. The sisters figured the most recent commercial expedition was the fourth straight year of overnight shopping for Christmas.
"It's weird that Black Friday is starting so early this year," said Heather Brown, who also lives in Hayward. "The earlier shopping cut into Thanksgiving dinner. But this is a way to spend time with my sister."
At Southland Mall, the sisters bought toys and other presents for children in the family, including nieces, nephews and a daughter.
Hoping to gobble up bargains on Turkey Day, customers crammed into lines that snaked towards store entrances throughout the Bay Area.
At NewPark Mall in Newark, customers said they found good bargains -- but also noted that the discounts weren't necessarily deep enough to justify the night-time excursions.
"I expected better sales," said Liz Vasquez of Fremont, who shopped at Macy's. "The deals were all right. But they were not what I was expecting."
Some shoppers said it would likely be possible to find similar or even better discounts or later during the first weekend of holiday shopping.
Customers will have plenty of opportunities to find deals, since a number of stores will wind up being open continuously from Thursday evening until late Friday night.
The Hollister store at NewPark Mall opened at 8 p.m. on Thursday and is due to stay open continuously until 9 p.m. on Friday -- 25 hours straight. Both the Kohls and Macy's stores in Hayward opened at 8 p.m. on Thursday and were expected to stay open until midnight on Friday -- 28 straight hours of being open.
"I feel sorry for the people who have to work in the stores all night," said Leon Vasquez, a Fremont resident.
This Thanksgiving marked the first time for overnight shopping for Jessica Rodrigez of San Leandro. She wasn't really looking to buy a lot of things although she did purchase some items.
"I just wanted to see what this was all about and I liked it," Rodrigez said. "It's better if you go just to look. There's no pressure."
Thursday night marked the second year in a row for early bird shopping on the part of Jessica's shopping companion, Samantha Rodrigez, a San Leandro resident. She also preferred the no-pressure approach.
"Last year, I was really looking for specific items and it wasn't fun at all," Samantha said. "This year it's much better. And you can get the same deals online."
Among the first customers to shop at stores Thursday night were people who jammed parking lots and formed huge lines at outlets such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart.
At the Best Buy in the McCarthy Ranch retail complex in Milpitas, a crowd of more than 1,000 lined up outside the consumer electronics store spanning nearly five city blocks and looking like a line at Disneyland in mid-summer.
Milpitas residents Michael Guinto, 21, and Andrew Rosas, 22 were in the vanguard of the line. They had spearheaded a line-waiting system that went back to Friday of last week.
With a tent and a generator to power their TV and XBox, Guinto and Rosas secured their place in front of the Black Thursday line with seven days of fast food and a shift-based system that encompassed 11 total participants.
What did they covet? A 39-inch Insignia LED television for about $170, or less than half of its typical price.
They did learn that they probably could spent less time in line in line and still been first to get in the Best Buy. They didn't even get confirmation that they would be assured their sought-after items until an hour before the 6 p.m. opening Thursday.
"Next year we won't do it as early," Guinto said. "Maybe just a couple of days before."
On the other end of the spectrum -- and line -- was Milpitas software guru Chris Stoner, who casually showed up before the opening and took her place in the queue, expressing surprise at the breadth of humanity in front of her.
"I thought it was going to be crazy," Stoner said. "But not this crazy." For Stoner and her party of three, the quest was a post-dinner jaunt, so no meals were foregone. Her target? An HDTV, but she wouldn't say which one.
As for the promotional gambit of Thanksgiving Day store openings, Palo Alto resident Greg Mitchell lamented the new development as an impediment to family time. Yet he was still in line. No. 3 to be exact after his group spent three days in their spot.
"The economy knows what it's doing," Mitchell said. "We can't pass up these deals."
Yet 16-year-old Emi, a Fremont resident, said she resents what appears to her to be a steadily intensifying commercialization of the holidays.
"It's like Thanksgiving doesn't exist any more," said Emi, who didn't wish to provide her last name. "They set up Halloween stuff in September. Then on November 1st, they put up Christmas stuff in the stores. Everything is about consumerism."
Stephany Lemos, a Fremont resident, was waiting with her son to get inside the Wal-Mart store in Fremont that opened its doors at 6 p.m. Thursday.
"It's the first time I've done this. I think it's going to be worth it," Lemos said.
Lemos hoped to buy a 50-inch flat-screen television for $288 at Wal-Mart. Lemos said she came over to the store right from Turkey Day dinner.
"This is something I've really wanted," Lemos said. "I got here a little later than I had planned."
A rough count of the crowd indicated that about 1,000 people were waiting in lines soon after the doors opened at the Wal-Mart on Osgood Road.
"This is a little bit too much," said Clifford Chavez of Livermore, surveying the throng at the Wal-Mart. "I just can't believe this line. I'm surprised there are so many people."
Chavez wasn't sure whether to go or stay. He thought a different store might be easier to handle. Chavez was primarily interested in buying electronics items such as an iPad and a flat-screen TV.
Srina Banai of Fremont said he was pleased with what he found at the same Wal-Mart, primarily an array of household items.
"It's our first time doing this," Banai said. "It was well worth it. We're done shopping for the night."
Raj Singh departed the packed Wal-Mart in Fremont with all the items he wanted and said he was done shopping for the evening, even though it wasn't even 7 p.m. yet. But that didn't mean he would repeat the experience of Thanksgiving night shopping.
"I pretty much found everything, mostly electronics stuff," said Singh, whose purchases included a digital camera. "We are going to dinner now."
Singh said the Wal-Mart was chaotic inside and directions about how to find items were confusing.
"Overall it wasn't worth it," Singh said. "Never again."
Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. twitter.com/georgeavalos