Kieu Tran worked everything out in advance. She was going straight for the big-screen televisions inside the Target at Serra Center, while her husband Hao would look for accessories. Anything else would be a bonus.
The Trans arrived at Target a few minutes after 9 p.m., when the doors were opened and hundreds flooded through the doors.
Just over an hour later, the Trans walked out of Target with a HD TV, a DVD player and a few other items. Most of their time was spent in line.
"It was worth it," Tran said. "I got a remarkable deal."
And so, Black Friday started three hours earlier than usual, with stores like Target and Sears, both at Tanforan and Hillsdale, open for business before the surrounding stores.
Once everything was open, by 5 a.m., it was quite a scene. Tempers flared over parking spots, especially at the Stanford Shopping Center, where parking is usually plentiful.
There were more traffic jams at the major shopping centers -- Tanforan, Hillsdale, Stanford -- on this one day than seemingly a week on 101 and 280.
There were major people jams in department stores, electronics stores, toy stores and other clothing stores.
"Some people get a group together and one will go to electronics, one to the kids department, one to clothing and one stands in line," said San Francisco resident Danajane Vargas at Stanford. "It's madness. It's crazy. It's cutthroat and sometimes people don't care what they are buying."
Gallup Poll administrator Peter Newton told NPR Radio that based on polling data, he expected 18 percent of all Americans to do some shopping during Black Friday and 95 percent of those who will be shopping said the No. 1 reason was the deals.
At Target, Best Buy and Sears locations, the evidence was clear. Kohl's in Millbrae, which opened at midnight, had a near-full parking lot and people in line nearly an hour ahead of the doors opening.
The Serra Center parking lot was nearly full, with a few empty spots along the perimeter. Anyone looking for video games, tablets or e-readers were out of luck just an hour into the sale.
All 30 available checkout stands were being used, and the line just to get to the cashier started 36 rows away.
People were dragging shopping carts overflowing with purchases. Electronics was the most popular spot, followed closely by toys and clothing.
"It's like a magnet," Molly Ball said at Hillsdale. "You can draw a crowd just by pretending to see a good deal. People don't know what it is, but they want the deal."
Ball's teenaged daughters, Jennifer and Rebecca, are veterans of Black Friday, having endured the crowds for several years. They were with friends, which made it easier.
"Everyone is kind of funny," said Jennifer, a student at a local junior college. "It makes me happy really. I don't want to stand in line alone. It's much better to be with friends."
Jennifer said she got $50 off a necklace. Rebecca decided she was going to get her Christmas shopping done early.
"I got a bunch of good deals," Rebecca said. "The first time I just went with everybody and it was fun watching all the people."
Best Buy stores were also popular. Although the one in Tanforan didn't open until midnight, there was a line of over 125 people in line, some of them for as long as 24 hours.
"I saw people there yesterday," said Vargas, who started a tradition of going to Black Friday four years ago. "Being in line is the best part. You can finally relax and chat with people around you."
Vargas once grabbed the last set of Tupperware, just ahead of another woman. While standing in line, she saw another set that had been abandoned and picked it up hoping to run into the woman. Vargas did run into her and gave her the extra set.
"She was ecstatic and remembered me," Vargas said. "I like going to Target because that's where they have everything. I got a vacuum cleaner for $8."
William Myers, who works with a Foster City production company, said this was his first Black Friday.
"I'm doing it solely for the experience," Myers said at Hillsdale. "People are followers in general and they seem to be happy getting last year's crap for today's prices. I also think it can be a bonding thing among friends. We're all liable to end up in long lines somewhere."
Michael Bianchini, a student at Cal Poly and Foster City native, said he's using the sale to get his Christmas shopping done.
"I've always been a big procrastinator," Bianchini said. "This is a chance to get it done early. It's actually enjoyable and entertaining to be in an environment with people in this kind of state of excitement."
Out in the parking lot, Bianchini, Myers and a few others were sharing a bottle of Chivas Regal, mixing it with Fresca.
"This," Bianchini said, "is how you get through Black Friday."
Santa Clara University student Ellie Pringle was specific in what she wanted out out of the available deals. She went to Hillsdale to shop at GAP and Victoria's Secret.
"I love the savings," she said. "I hate the lines but it's worth it for $2 panties."
Clay Kasdorf, a freshman at Cal State Fullerton, was sipping away on an energy drink while waiting for Kohl's to open.
"I'm here with friends," Kasdorf said. "Last year I waited for an hour to get in and got myself a nice shirt and tie as basketball traveling clothes. I wasn't there for anything in particular, but when I came across them, I had to get them. The cool thing about last year was a lady in line shared some food with me."
Hailey Reese-Gawthorne, an Oakland resident, was in town with her boyfriend, Rick Alvarez.
"I went by myself last year," Reese-Gawthorne said. "It overwhelmed me. It was too much. People go a little crazy just to get discounts. I went to Victoria Secrets because they gave you a huge tote bag is you spent $65. I even got the last tote bag."