Ron Oliverio of Dundalk said he and his wife, Patti, found a deal in a $749 artificial Christmas tree that cost them $150 at Boscov's.

"I used to work retail, so it's not fun if it's your job," Oliverio said. "I'm sure everybody would like to be home and not doing it."

Kristi Hanlon of Parkville said she had "mixed emotions" about Thanksgiving Day shopping. But she said her mother, Colleen Bentz of Stoystown, Pa., woke and up and was ready to go.

"It's the deals," Hanlon said.

To some Marylanders, the sight of a department store opening Thanksgiving morning is still a strange concept. Belinda Zhou of Fallston, who had come to White Marsh Mall to pick up a friend from the bus hub there, leaned out of her car and asked: "Are they open today? That's crazy. I can't believe it."

Once she thought about it, though, she liked the idea.

"We always go to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving, and we never leave until 10 o'clock," she said.

For the Sears shoppers, it was all about the bargain televisions.

Bernard Davis, a truck driver from Randallstown who had been waiting for hours, said he initially thought he wasn't going to get a 50-inch set because he was sixth in line and there were only five available. But then a woman ahead of him changed her mind and gave her voucher to him. Davis, in turn, had taken a voucher for a 32-inch set and "paid it forward" by passing that on to someone in line behind him.

"I'm happy," Davis said. "But I'll never do Black Friday again."

Kevin Steeley, manager of the Sears store at Security Square, said he was "floored by the amount of people who are taking the opportunity to visit us on Thanksgiving. It's way more than I anticipated."

He said the store had a limited number of certain items at the "doorbuster" price, such as 5 of the 50-inch Toshiba televisions and 11 of the 32-inch sets for $97. Whenever bargain items were sold out, he said, employees pointed to "other great deals."

Saad Malik, a UMBC student and Black Friday veteran, missed out on the TV he wanted. He said he thought having stores opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving doesn't benefit bargain hunters as much as midnight store openings because the early evening crowds are larger and the competition is greater.

"Early morning is better," he said. "Not as many people are awake."

Jim Boscov, vice chairman of Reading, Pa.-based Boscov's, said it's the company's third year of opening on Thanksgiving but the first at its recently reopened Maryland stores.

Boscov said his company chose to open Thanksgiving morning, rather than in the evening as many other stores were doing, because it was easier on the employees.

"We thought it was more humane," he said. "It made a nice day for our co-workers to be open in the morning and to be able to spend the afternoon at home with their families."

This is the second year that Sears has been open on Thanksgiving. According to spokeswoman Carson Quinn, it was open on Thanksgiving in 2010 but not in 2011.

In Boscov's view, Thanksgiving Day operations will continue.

"The Christmas season, retailing in general, is very competitive. As Black Friday gets moving farther and farther forward, we can't ignore that and give business to our competitors."