My colleague Darrell Smith got to cover an actual shouting match at a jam-packed West Sacramento Wal-Mart. Me? Everyone was unfailingly polite at Downtown Plaza, with plenty of elbow room to go around.
One shopper told me she likes to shop there on Black Friday because it isn't too crowded. Probably not what the mall managers want to hear.
What was striking was the lack of frenzy. Shoppers were being careful, deliberate. If the price wasn't right - meaning, if it wasn't deeply discounted - they walked away. If it wasn't something they needed - or really, really wanted - they went somewhere else.
Manuel Vela and Blanca Garcia of Sacramento told that they used to shop late in the season and buy things on impulse. Now they were out early on Black Friday and watching the sale signs closely, and sticking to a budget.
"If I see anything that's on sale, I'll buy it - only if I need it," said Vela, a UPS worker.
"Before, I'd wait until the last minute and not really care (about discounts)," Garcia said.
At the Comic Lounge, a recently-opened comic books and DVD shop upstairs in the mall, owner Roque Yanez opened at 6 a.m., or two hours before the mall officially opened.
He even hired a DJ to turn Black Friday into something of an event. But the morning wasn't off to a good start. He joked that his clientele was probably still "rolling over from Thanksgiving dinner" and hadn't gotten out of bed yet.
Yanez, who's been in retailing for 12 years, said this is the quietest retail climate he's ever seen.