SALEM, Ore. — Mary Beth Baker has worked enough Fred Meyer sock sales to see just about everything. A co-worker falling into a play pen of socks. Others trapped behind doors as shoppers rushed into the store. A loyal customer waxing poetic about the sale.

“It’s actually my favorite day of the year, without a question,” said Baker, a 47-year veteran who’s been with Fred Meyer since before the first sock sale.

For 37 years, the Black Friday event — where all socks are half-price — has been an Oregon family tradition that can quickly devolve into shopping chaos.

Customers who love it return year after year, bringing family members along for early-morning adventures.

Fred Meyer expects to sell about 1.2 million socks this year across all of its stores in Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Idaho, spokesman Jeffery Temple told the Statesman Journal. That would be on par with previous Black Fridays.

Mid-Willamette Valley stores will open at 5 a.m.

The sale started long after Fred G. Meyer moved to Portland in 1908 and eventually founded the first Fred Meyer store in 1922.

Fast forward to 1980, when the company kicked off its sock sale as a holiday challenge and a fun event for customers and employees.

“The first one was absolutely a zoo,” Baker said. The store had never done something like that before, she said.

“The customers loved it. And every year it just got better and better, and bigger and bigger,” she said.

‘Oh my god, this is tradition’

The same customers started coming back year after year. “Pretty soon, it got to be where customers were saying, ‘Oh my god, this is tradition,’ ” Baker said.

She said one customer wrote a poem about the sock sale on Thanksgiving, then came into the store and read it aloud to employees.

“We just cracked up,” Baker said, though she couldn’t remember how the poem went.

Employees used to empty socks into playpens for the sale. At least one time, an employee fell into a pen they were filling, said Baker, now an apparel coordinator for 21 Fred Meyer stores.

Employees end up finding socks all over the store long after the sale ends. “You find socks for weeks everywhere,” Baker said.

Customers have their own chaotic stories.

“Craziest thing my daughter recalled seeing was a woman dive into the table full of socks,” said Kimberly Jones, of Salem. “That’s her fondest memory.”

Jones says she has gone for at least the last six years. She’ll go again when the sale returns Nov. 24.

Customers at any of the three Salem stores can expect free coffee and donuts to fuel their deal hunt. But last year, Jones got so excited about the sale that she passed up the free food.

“When the doors opened it’s a mad dash to where they’ve set up tables with boxes and boxes of socks,” she said.

She rushed to the socks with a battle plan: White socks for one son, black for the other. Wool socks for one daughter, and colorful, no-show ones for the other. For her husband, it’s dress socks.

‘She hit my mother-in-law with her cane’

About 13 years ago, Carole Ashworth was with her former mother-in-law when an elderly woman started grabbing socks from their cart.

The two urged the woman to stop.

“She hit my mother-in-law with her cane,” then took off with the socks, Ashworth said.

It was a what-the-heck moment, but “we just let it go,” she said.

At least every two years, Ashworth drives about an hour from her home in Sheridan to the Salem Fred Meyer on Market Street NE for the sale. She usually arrives around 2 a.m., waiting with dozens of other shoppers in the parking lot until the doors open.

Writer Angela Russell has blogged about the sock sale after starting her “frugal-living” site, thecouponproject.com, in 2009. (Fred Meyer at times sponsors her to promote its sales.)

Russell’s tips for Black Friday sock shoppers:

Stock will be good! Fred Meyer does an excellent job of preparing for this sale. In fact, don’t be surprised if you see boxes and boxes of socks start to make their way to your store’s apparel department in the next few days.

Stock may be in multiple locations. It’s not uncommon to find the socks in a number of places. At my store, I’ve found the half-price socks throughout the Apparel Department, in Accessories and even down the center aisle of my store.

Deals will be good all day. This year, Fred Meyer is running their Black Friday specials, including their half-price socks, all day. This means you certainly don’t have to be there at 5 a.m. (unless you really want to, of course).

Pack your patience. Expect to find the socks sorted into general categories in boxes (think men’s, women’s, and children’s). However, you may have to spend a little time digging to find what you’d like.

Pack a smile. Remember everyone’s there for the same reason and is encountering the same crowds. Try to be mindful of your cart and move out of the way when you’re done looking. A smile can go a long way, too.


Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com