Five men robbed a 14-year-old boy of his shopping bag outside Arundel Mills mall in Hanover after he walked out of a Bed Bath & Beyond store about 2 a.m. Friday, Anne Arundel County police said. The victim told police that one of the men punched him as another grabbed his purchases.

Arundel Mills wouldn't comment directly on the crime, instead releasing a statement saying that thousands of customers had been bargain-hunting "without incident since midnight," when the mall opened.

Around lunchtime, a security guard patrolled past the Bed Bath & Beyond on a Segway. Melody Creswell of Severna Park, walking out of the store a moment later, said the mugging is a prime reason she doesn't care to join the before-dawn portion of the shopping frenzy.

"There is no sale that is worth standing in line in the middle of the night," said Creswell, 41, who started the day at 6 a.m. "My kids don't need anything that badly."

Protests mingled with shopping this year as Walmart workers unhappy about hours, wages and working conditions walked off the job at some stores across the country Thursday and Friday — including those in Severn, Laurel and Landover Hills.

"The people who work for Walmart are in a hard place, a very difficult place," said Cynthia Murray, an employee at the Laurel store who is a leader with Organization United for Respect at Walmart, the group that helped organize the walkout. "A whole lot of things need to be better, but I think today was a really great day, because I think today, [store officials] finally are truly listening."

It's unclear whether the protests dinged Walmart's bottom line. The company said Black Friday crowds were larger than last year's and came on the heels of 22 million customers in the stores on Thanksgiving.

The "high traffic period" from 8 p.m. to midnight Thursday produced sales of almost 5,000 items per second, Walmart said in a statement.

On Friday, shoppers came and went in waves throughout the region. Lisa Bisenius, general manager of White Marsh Mall, said her parking lot was at 90 percent capacity at 1 a.m., and she expected customer traffic to hit a second peak around lunchtime.

That proved true at The Mall in Columbia, where parking lots and garages were nearly full at noon.

"Every year we say we're not going to [shop on Black Friday], and then we do it anyway," said Shirley Whitcomb, 66, of Glen Burnie, seated at a table in the food court with her family.

She'd already spent $600, a chunk of it on a Nintendo Wii game system for her 6-year-old grandson. She figured she'd be spending more on gifts this Black Friday than in years past.

"I like to give," she said.

So does Jacqueline Hill of Baltimore, but she expects her spending will drop this year to $700, down from $1,500 last year.

With nine grandchildren to shop for, this was her bargain-hunting strategy: She went to Toys "R" Us while one of her daughters headed to Walmart and the other drove to Kmart. They phoned back and forth to make sure they were getting the best prices.

Hill, 54, was particularly happy with the Fisher-Price Power Wheels toy she picked up for $50, half off the usual price.

"Things are on sale, so I'm kind of staying within budget," she said.

Kelsey Richards, 16, finished her holiday shopping Friday. At lunch, she was taking a well-deserved rest on a bench near the Constellation at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Next to her sat Brandon Lavender, 19 — her polar opposite, giftwise.

The Rosedale resident figures he'll get started a bit closer to Christmas. Like Christmas Eve.

"It gives me more time to think," he said.

Baltimore Sun reporters Jessica Anderson, Scott Dance, Candus Thomson, Timothy B. Wheeler and Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.

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