5 ways to survive Black Friday chaos

November 20, 2009 4:19:30 PM PST
Find out the best times to get deals and five ways to survive the shopping chaos.

According to Freeman Hall, Black Friday represents retail hell at its worst and offers ways shoppers can survive:

  • Case the Place - Check out the store the day before Thanksgiving so you can make a beeline to the items you've coveted. Talk to sales associates to get the low down on what will go down!

  • Know what you want ahead of time - Not everything is on sale on Black Friday. The best deals are advertised because the stores buy them in bulk.

  • Be Sale Smart - Bring sale ads with you for clarification and extra in-store coupons which also make great leverage for price-matching. Hit the back clearance racks and look for additional discounts, take advantage of early bird savings and look for specially priced door-buster items.

  • Shopping after brunch? -Yeah right, Think again! - Don't mock the people that get up in the middle of the night - they'll be there to get the $10 computer and you won't.

  • Shop Gladiator Style - You are going into sale war. You are a shopper on a mission - think of this day as the Olympics of shopping. Leave uninterested spouses and children at home and bring teenagers who can run fast. (Gladiator shoes not recommended.)

  • Do the Black Friday Google -Don't have the time to go through the papers? Can't remember who has what from the ads you saw on TV? Do the Black Friday Google. There are hundreds of websites with Black Friday sale information, like www.black-friday.net where you can peruse the latest sale ads and updates at all the stores. You can also go to your favorite store's website for the sale skinny like www.target.com/blackfriday

  • Make Friends with an Associate - It's the best way to get the inside scoop on everything. A day or two before Black Friday, check in with them. Often times, they have been briefed on the exact location of all the hottest items their store will be selling, and how many they have. They usually know the quickest way to get from one to department to another. Tell them what you're after. Listen to their advice. Plan your strategy.

  • Have a Black Friday All-nighter Party - Afraid you won't wake up at 3 am to get in line? Then don't go to bed! Stay up and have a Black Friday All-nighter Party with friends! Make Black Friday-tinis with vodka, blackberry brandy, black raspberry liqueur and lemon twist! And you may not have to wait too long, as some outlet stores actually open at midnight on Turkey Day. Shop all night - sleep all day!

  • Be wired, not tired - If decide to drag yourself out of bed at 3 am, make sure you energize with massive amounts of caffeine. You know your limit. Maximize your jittery potential without needing Mylanta. Have snacks with you or hit the drive-thru before you get in line. It's going to be a long morning and you don't want to spend it in the bathroom with coffee stomach.

  • Put it in park fast - Don't waste time circling the lot eight times in hopes of getting a coveted location. It will only take away from time you could be using to get those great deals. As a plus, taking a distant parking space can help you walk off the half a turkey you ate yesterday.

  • Be calm in the Black Friday herd - Enter just-opened stores cautiously for your safety and for others, not like a stampede of angry elephants. The term "door busters" isn't meant to be literal. Let's have a stampede-free Black Friday. A $25 dollar stereo isn't worth an $800 dollar ER visit.

  • Stampede tip - If you find yourself in an unruly crowd, try to make your way to its edge, where the flow is lighter. Stand straight with feet firmly positioned. Stay calm and conserve oxygen and energy by not yelling or screaming. Brace your arms out in front of you, creating an air pocket for protection. If you see someone down, try and help them up. Or try blocking other people from walking over them.

  • Cart Blocking - Creatively use your cart to block approaching crowds. If there are carts in your way, ditch yours and start hurdling.

  • Build Team Black Friday - Find out what stores your friends are going to and build a Team Black Friday. See who needs what. Split up with lists and hit different stores. It can save time and win you your sale prize.

  • Line Networking - Make friends with people in line. Compare notes. You might discover some information you didn't know about. Maybe you can help each other out. You never know when you might need friendly backup.

  • Leave Dead Weight Behind - Leave uninterested spouses and others at home and bring teenagers who can run fast and be bribed.

  • Ask the right person your question - Stores will be in "all hands on deck" mode. In some cases, a cashier might be sent to watch over an item in electronics. Keep in mind that just because the person works there, doesn't mean they're going to know the exact location of every item in the store. Losing your cool because you've been told "I'm not sure" or "I don't know" isn't going to help the situation. It's going to get you pointed in the wrong direction.

  • Stay Black Friday Focused - Shop the advertised necessities. Things that aren't on sale or the hot items of the year will still be there tomorrow. So hold off on buying the groceries and underwear until later. Every moment you spend picking out socks for Aunt Gertrude is a moment you could be missing out on a $5 microwave.

  • Put things back where you found them - Stop yourself from being a Piggy Shopper and throwing things on the floor or dumping them where they don't belong. If everyone did this, you wouldn't find what you need. More times than not a store might not be sold out, the missing item just might be hiding in the frozen dinners freezer. Compliments of a Piggy Shopper.

  • Leave your Black Friday Diva at the door - Kindness and a smile go along way. Sales associates will be more willing to help you if you treat them nicely. They might give you a coupon you don't have or inside info on shipments. Being rude, snappy and taking a sales associate's head off because the store ran out of an item fifteen minutes earlier isn't going to make it magically reappear, and the only thing you'll get is thrown out of the store.

  • Don't use Sob Stories and Lying on Sales Associates - Putting on an Oscar performance of how poor little Katie will be so disappointed because she can't have that new Barbie for Christmas isn't going to get you one. Sales associates have heard it all before and they have no magical wand to make your sold out item suddenly appear. At most, all you'll get is "I'm sorry, Katie will have to wait till next year."

  • Do use Sob Stories and Lying on Shoppers - While flirting, crying, begging, bribing, and bullying won't work with sales associates, it may be your perfect Black Friday weapon with other shoppers. If you need that Barbie for Katie, make sure your tears are flowing, you have a lot of cash on you, and little Katie only has six months to live.

  • Remember "no" means "no" - If the sales associate says they're out of an item, then they're out! Asking the cashier to check, and then asking for a manager to do the same thing is going to waste everybody's time. Including yours. And no, they do NOT hold certain amounts of items in the back for the cashiers/associates/managers. It's the biggest shopping day of the year and retailers aren't going to be holding out on the shoppers by hiding stock in storage. If they say they are out then they are out.

  • Expect to be touched, pushed, and perhaps even shoved - These sales can at times bring out the worst in people, and often times the words "personal space" cease to exist in favor of getting the best deal on the hottest item. If you're shoved aside because you're moving too slowly for the liking of the person behind you, try to remember that the store can't control it, and often times, unless you've been hurt, won't do anything about it either.

  • Bring Your Ad's If You Want To Price Match - Target and Walmart are offering the same exact printer, but Target is selling it for $10 cheaper, and you're at Walmart. Unless you have a copy of the ad to prove it, Walmart WILL NOT PRICE MATCH. Unfortunately, they're not just going to take you at your word and give you the item without proof. So if you forget the ad and the cashier hasn't been provided with a copy, expect to pay the higher price.

  • Planogram Your Number One Item - Every year, there's always one item that's considered the most sought after of the season. And each year, there are customer riots because of it. Call the store ahead of time and get a department manager. Find out where they plan to place the item. Often times it might be in multiple locations. Knowing this could give you the edge you need.

  • Keep an Eye on Quotas - Some items will have purchasing limits on them. This is usually mentioned in the sales ad, and if not, the associate working the area will know. So if you get caught trying to buy four of an item that's limited to two per customer, don't take it out on the associate if they say something to you. They're just doing their job.

  • Bribery doesn't work - Every year customers attempt to bribe sales associates into using their discounts, holding things, or getting ahead in line. Associates cannot be bought, and aren't going to risk their job just so you can get your hands on a $10 laptop for Johnny. Save the bribing for fellow shoppers.

  • Make sure you have everything you want BEFORE you get in line to check out - Once you've loaded all of your items on the belt/counter, and the cashier has begun the transaction, it's not a good idea to say "oh wait I forgot!" In most cases the store will simply suspend your transaction, and then require you to leave the rest of your items in sight of the cashier, while you go back to get that item, and then get BACK in line and wait again for an available cashier. Bad move.

  • Have a back-up plan to pay - If your credit card is rejected the first time, it's going to be rejected no matter how many times the cashier tries to run it. So make sure you have a back up method to pay for things so you're not going home empty handed. And, no they won't hold everything. And no you shouldn't try to make a run for it.

  • Hold your Black Friday horses - Be patient at the checkout. You've gotten everything on your list and it's down to the home stretch...but there are 56 people in line ahead of you. Take this moment to relax and collect your thoughts. Focus on your next stop instead of tapping your foot and sighing expectantly. The line won't move any faster.

  • Do a Random Act of Retail Kindness - Do something nice for a Sales Associate on Black Friday. Their Thanksgivings were ruined and they are working long hours. Buy them a drink or candy bar. Pick something up off the floor. Or just be friendly. It will make their day - and yours! You will gain Shopping Karma points as well!
About Freeman Hall:

Freeman Hall is a retail survivor who began working in retail at the age of twenty at Macy's. His most notable retailicious experiences was with specialty clothing store Nordstrom where he spent fifteen years as an award-winning handbag manager and salesperson. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

For more information, visit www.retailhellunderground.com


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