Black Friday: Tips from a Seasoned Shopper
By Liam M. Truchard
The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.)
It can be treacherous, confusing, and even slightly dangerous to go shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
The number of sales seem overwhelming…was that a Black Friday bargain or a Shop Local deal or, for gosh sakes, web only!?!
Deep breath. Trust me, we can do this. Here are some strategies from a savvy holiday-week shopper:
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
Not as silly as it sounds. A high-definition TV, or a curved screen?
Pick three things you really want: one that you will wait for, one that will be available for about an hour and the third you know will be there because every store is offering one.
Don’t fall prey to impulse buys. You can save $400 on that TV — and blow your savings on junk.
BRANDS? OR BARGAINS?
Do you want an iPad? Or just any tablet?
At this time of the year, off-brand merchandise makes its way into stores, stuff that’s not there the other 11 months of the calendar.
Maybe it’s worth the amazing price. Maybe not. Buy brands you’re familiar with.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
This may sound self-serving, but buy a newspaper on Thanksgiving Day. Doing online research is great, but the old-fashioned, ad-stuffed, mega-sized edition works so much better.
I get papers I don’t subscribe to, because not every store advertises in every paper. I get there early, because many convenience stores sell out of papers before most people wake up.
Then, relax and read.
Last year, several stores advertised the Nikon D3100 with one lens for $399. Good price. Another store listed it with two lenses for $449.
But, because I did my research, I knew that Nikon had released the upgraded D3200. One store — just one — had it with two lenses for $499. I got the upgraded camera with the same gear for around the same price as its predecessor.
It wasn’t a big enough item to get online attention, but it was in the newspaper ad.
By the way, the camera has worked great.
HOURS, NOT DAYS
The earliest I’ve ever gotten to a store was 2:30 a.m. for a 7 a.m. opening. And I was there a good two hours too early.
There is no item — none — worth three days of your time.
Many stores hand out vouchers for the big ticket items to people in line 90 minutes or so before the sale. THAT’s when you need to be there. If you’ve shopped there before, you know the timetable.
A number of the stores have big 24-hour sales.
They don’t close, but they put new products on sale at designated times. And there are predetermined lines for those “door-buster” items. It’s warmer — and safer — inside.
And if the number of people in those lines outnumber the number of that item, you know you can move on.
MAP IT OUT
Few Inland communities have only one of a discount store.
Find the one in the most out-of-the-way place, and go there. Shorter lines.
BRING A BUDDY
As bad as the line may be to get into the store or buy an item, it’s worse trying to get out! The cashier line is usually one massive queue that doesn’t get divided up until you reach the registers.
And, if you’re carrying a TV, a video-game console and whatever “Frozen” toy you were able to get your hands on, its going to be very heavy.
Your buddy gets in the checkout line, you get the item.
WALK AWAY FROM WORRY
I won’t lie. The closer it gets to the time stuff goes on sale, the more it gets … sketchy.
Most people in line are actually enjoying the experience. Not everyone. Be on watch for those edgy folks.
Then there are the “swoopers,” who show up at the bewitching hour and try to muscle into line.
If you get the chance, start a conversation with employees. Crack a joke. Tell them you feel for their plight on this day. Point out odd activity. Show them you have their back, chances are they will have yours.
And if there isn’t enough security, time to move on to the next store. ___