Last year, Sandy Phung and her mother hit Walmart around 4 a.m.

"It was just horrible," Phung recalled. "I got good deals … but people were pushing to get in the stores and stepping on each other."

This year, the 20-year-old cafeteria cashier slept in until 7:30 or so before heading to Best Buy near the Inner Harbor. She managed to get one of the few remaining Samsung laptops, paying $299 and saving about $500. She saved $50 more buying three pairs of shoes for her niece and nephew.

Eileen Ambrose

Monitoring the wallet

Cynthia Eley of Baltimore sat in the lobby at The Gallery at Harbor Place around 10 a.m., taking a break from a shopping trip that started at 7:30 a.m.

A phone operator for a state agency, Eley said her goal is to spend less this holiday season than a year ago, although the deals are tempting. She said she shops with cash to avoid overspending. "If I don't have the money for it, I am just not going to buy," she said.

Eileen Ambrose

What recession?

Shoppers began lining up outside the Best Buy near the Inner Harbor in Baltimore around 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving. By the time the electronics store opened at midnight, more than 350 shoppers were in a line that snaked around the corner.

"The line was eight times larger than last year," said Ron Mara, general manager of the downtown store.

Mara said shoppers were enticed by the deep discounts, such as a 55-inch Samsung for $999. Mara bought the same model last year for $1,899.

Many of them wore Ravens jerseys, he said, coming straight from the game to the store.

"Although it was a lot of people, they were happy," he said. "They were in great spirits."

Of course, the fact that the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers might have had something to do with their moods.

"That makes a difference when your team wins," Mara agreed.

He said sales so far have been strong and up from last year, although declined to give out numbers.

Consumers "were out in force. They were spending," Mara said.

Mara said his wife and two brothers work for other retailers, and all of them texted each other during the early hours of Black Friday with the same message: What recession?

The long hours aren't over for Mara and his employees. Workers will be back at 6 a.m. on Cyber Monday to pull items off the shelf to be picked up by consumers who purchased them online.