The line’s at the stores, not at the Thanksgiving dinner table

Ashley Duncan felt bad about spending Thanksgiving Day waiting in line at Best Buy instead of having dinner with her family.

But not that bad.

“I need that TV,” she said Thursday afternoon. “It’s a 50-inch flat back for only $199. That’s the best deal you can get.”

Yes, Duncan said, her mother was angry.

“I just told her, ‘That TV is going away,” she said. “You guys aren’t.”

Duncan was among hundreds of people who lined up in front of Tacoma’s big retail stores on Thanksgiving, forgoing the traditional turkey for the blockbuster deal.

Duncan was No. 50 in line of about 300 that stretched around the corner of Best Buy and into the parking lot across South 48th Street from the Tacoma Mall.

Duncan waited for about 3 1/2 hours, which qualified as only a medium-long wait.

The man at the head of the line, Mike Stark of Roy, said he’d been been there since Tuesday morning, sleeping in a tent at night.

“I’m first in line a lot,” Stark said.

At the Tacoma Mall, about 300 more shoppers waited for the 5 p.m. opening of Toys R Us, another retailer that this year got the jump on Black Friday by opening the heavy Christmas shopping season a day early.

J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Target, Sears and Walmart all joined the rush by opening on Thanksgiving, along with Kohl’s, Office Depot/Office Max, Shopko and Staples.

“It’s ruining Thanksgiving,” said Diana Wild of Tacoma, who wasn’t in line but agreed to come to the mall to help her 23-year-old son, Bronson, transport the 50-inch television he wanted at Best Buy.

“I don’t think it’s right,” she said. “It’s too materialistic. They don’t seem to get the value of family.”

Wild said Bronson missed a gathering of 38 people at her home, for which she cooked three turkeys and two hams.

“It was a big thing, with relatives we hadn’t seen in a while,” she said. “And he wanted to stay here. Not only that,” Wild said, “he’s already got a 42-inch in his room.”

Waiting shoppers were for the most part calm and good-natured, adhering strictly to the rule of first-come, first-served, and, when store doors opened, courteously filing in one by one.

At Toys R Us, store manager Neoma Kline, wearing a Santa hat, controlled the rush by ushering in customers in groups of 50 at a time.

“I’m giving it five or 10 minutes between groups,” she said, “just to keep it nice and smooth.”

Kline and other retailers said that while this year’s Thanksgiving openings were successful, the crowds seemed to be down from 2013.

For one thing, the Seattle Seahawks-San Francisco 49ers game started at 5:30 p.m. just as most of the stores were opening.

“I think the Seahawks game affected the turn-out,” Kline said. “I would say we had about a hundred more people last year.”