Gotta Get Down On Black Friday: A Shopping Survival Guide

The day after Thanksgiving, better know as Black Friday. The term sounds almost ominous. But it’s the official kick-off for the time of year when retailers finally begin turning a profit. Still, most associate the day with the horror of holiday shopping – early morning crowds, long-lines, surly retail workers, and Christmas music….oh, the Christmas music.

And all signs are pointing to this year’s Black Friday being a record-breaking sales event. It seems that this holiday season consumers are more focused on controlling their spending, a majority specifically telling a recent survey that they’ll be using their smartphones to compare prices instead of counting on retailers to give them the best deal on gifts. In response, the national chain stores have introduced a new tactic: letting people in on what’s on sale well in advance beforehand. In years past, most exact sales details weren’t known to the majority of shoppers until they showed up to the store. That new approach has led the National Retail Federation to estimate that stores will attract 152 million shoppers this weekend. That’s the highest number of shoppers for the Black Friday weekend in almost a decade.

Amanda Doherty, lives in Maine, but she’ll be sure to get in on all the shopping action this Friday at the Potomac Mills shopping mall in Woodbridge, Virginia while visiting her parents for the Thanksgiving holiday. It won’t be the twenty-eight-year-old’s first time partaking in the shopping holiday either, it’s a family tradition.

“The first one I remember going to, I was in elementary school,” She tells Daily Lounge. “To me, it almost wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if we weren’t doing it the next day.”

Amanda’s seen it all, from the lines out the door (“Stay away from the Gap, there’s always a line for that”), to someone slipping and falling on ice in a parking lot then getting back up and running into a store (“That I would not do”). And she was more than happy to share the below tips on how to survive shopping on Black Friday gleaned from her many tours of shopping duty the day after Thanksgiving.

  • Go Shopping at Midnight
    The classic Black Friday start time has traditionally been 5 AM, but in recent years many stores and malls have begun opening their doors five hours earlier at Midnight — something that Amanda and her family have been well aware of for a while. “What we have done in the past few years is taken a nap after Thanksgiving dinner, then gone at midnight, and come home and sleep when we’re done,” she says. The reason they prefer to shop at Midnight? Better sales. Amanda explains that a lot of the stores that start their Black Friday sales at midnight will include a bonus sale that ends before the 5 AM traditionalists get to the store. “So by us going at Midnight we are actually eligible for significantly more discounts than we might otherwise get.”
  • The Biggest Savings Are at Outlet Stores
    “We only go to outlets,” Amanda says. She emphasizes it’s the golden rule of Black Friday shopping with her family. “Even though there are discounts and various deals at regular malls, which is the sole reason we go on Black Friday, when you go to outlet malls the discounts are phenomenal,” She explains. “My mom and I actually go through our receipts when we’re done and add up how much money we save.”
  • Have Your List Ready Beforehand
    Black Friday is serious business. While most people would be tempted to spend their time perusing merchandise and scanning the shelves for that perfect gift for someone special to jump out at them, it’s not a luxury they can afford. The elite Black Friday shoppers know they need to go into this with a plan. So have your shopping list ready before you start fighting the crowds. “We already have our list of who we need to buy for Christmas and any ideas we have about what we may want to get them,” says Amanda. “That way we’re able, as we’re walking, to know if we need to go into a store or not based on who we need to buy for. “
  • Bring Backup and Work Together
    One of the great things about shopping on Black Friday that with it being the day after Thanksgiving, it’s easy to talk a family member into tagging along to go shopping with you. And while most people would be anxious for a break from family during the Holiday season, it makes sense to being them along as backup to help you cut your wait time. It’s a tactic Amanda and her mother rely on. “If there’s any kind of line, we’ll take turns,” she says. “I’ll get in line once we walk in and my mom will look around and shop and then we’ll switch, so that by the time we get to the front we’re both done shopping rather than shopping and then waiting in line.”
  • Ladies, Leave the Purses at Homes
    While it’s almost instinctual to bring your purse with you shopping, it’s best to ditch the accessory. “For women, it’s better to have a coat with pockets than a purse,” says Amanda. “You’re already carrying a bunch of bags – I can’t imagine having to be mindful about your purse.”
  • Pack a Snack
    Let’s face it: with the staying up late/getting up early, fighting the crowds, and lugging shopping bags, Black Friday sounds like a test of endurance. You’re going to need fuel to keep going. “I usually end getting a pretzel halfway through to help me stay awake,” Amanda admits. “But if you know you’re going to by hungry or thirsty it wouldn’t hurt to bring your own food or drink so you don’t end up waiting in a food line.”
  • Keep Your Head
    Finally, like all ordeals, you need to be mentally prepared to withstand the tribulation that is shopping on Black Friday. You will face crowds of shoppers, fatigued retail workers, and patience-testing lines of people – it’s just a fact. “If someone hasn’t been before, I tell them all the stories are true,” admits Amanda. She recommends focusing on the fact that you’re getting such great deals along with knocking out most, if not all, of your holiday shopping in one fell swoop.

“If you gear up for it and deal with it knowing that you won’t have to do it for another year, it’s bearable,” explains Amanda. She adds “If I knew I had to experience that for the entire Christmas season, I think I’d jump off a bridge. “

[Pic via Flickr- Conny Liegl]

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