It’s coming — the holiday shopping period that drives us crazy each year, but also gives up great bargains. BlackFriday is on its way!
According to Len Penzo, we have the City of Brotherly Love to thank for the modern use of “Black Friday.” Philly’s police force was so tired of the post-Thanksgiving crowds and congestion that they used it to express their disgust. But they didn’t make it up — “Black Friday” was also an antique term used to describe at least one of America’s all-too-regular financial panics.
It started as a physical shopping event. People who were willing to get to the stores early found incredible prices on every kind of gift possibility they could wish for. And that tradition has kept on, except now it’s extended to Thanksgiving afternoon and evening, as well, for many retail chains.
Shopping one of these events is both exhilarating and terrifying. Crowds of people clog up the parking lot and make negotiating the aisles a cross between a holiday party and Roller Derby. Young mothers looking for bargains are particularly frightening — one girl with wide shoulders and a shopping cart could have graced the Raiders’ defensive line. (On the other hand, I also found a armload of videos on the same trip for $1 and $2 each. Bliss.)
If you’ve decided to brave the melee in person, these tips should help:
*Go with a partner, or two. That way, one of you can find a cart and help dig for bargains, while the other goes in search of other goodies. They’re also good for holding a place in the checkout line — which can be interminable. (Bring along an extra-large person; they’re more visible in the crowd, and have more arm strength for reaching and scooping up things. Besides, they can block for you. Daughter’s boyfriend has performed this useful service for me several years now.)
*Hit the best items first. Go straight to those aisles, and worry about the rest later. (Some people will even stand next to the display, with their hand on an item or two, waiting until midnight, when the price drops.) If you’re allowed, put it in the cart a half-hour early, and shop for other items until time’s up.
*Look for hidden treasure. Shoppers will grab favored items, change their mind…and leave them on top of other displays or dropped in crazy spots. Don’t just look straight ahead — take time to scan up and down, especially on the aisle ends. (Known as “endcaps,” in retail parlance.) These areas are especially good hunting for electronics, small appliances and DVDs.
*Give yourself a break. Stopping for coffee or a snack can make the difference between an ordeal and an amusing, if somewhat zany, experience. (Starbucks, McDonald’s and others often stay open late for shoppers.)
*Stay polite. Black Friday shoppers can be an obnoxious bunch, pushing, shoving and using plenty of insults. They’ve even been known to trample people to death in the rush for an especially good deal. (The same crowd literally took the doors off the hinges before stampeding.)
Don’t stoop to this level. Nothing is worth it. Instead, take a minute to hold the door for someone, or say something kind. (“Whoa, what a bargain!” “You’ve got a good eye for quality — that’s a nice coat/kid’s outfit/whatever.” “Isn’t this crazy?”) Be patient. Don’t rush. A sense of humor is priceless in this situation.
Get the best scoop
Get the best scoop on Black Friday deals and bargains with websites that focus on just that. Black Friday.com is a good place to start, as well as ‘BFAds,’ or Black Friday ads. These spots often give you advance notice on what’s coming. Many store chains will have their ads on early, so you can study and compare for the best price. (Some prices are good now.) Some places, like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target (even Amazon, too) are saying they’ll match prices, making shopping even easier. (They will ask you to prove it, so print off or keep a copy of the ad in question.)
If you’d prefer staying home instead of trudging out for bargains, Black Friday’s still got plenty to offer. Everyone from the chains to Amazon are offering specials, many of them starting early. Many of the same tricks for coping are the same, whether you shop in person at the store or online, including:
*Check specials before you shop
*Sign up for e-mail alerts
*Use QR (Quick Response) codes when possible (those square black-and-white codes read by your smartphone)
*Pay attention to warranties and returns
*Look for combined deals. (What else can you get for the same price?)
Not to mention you can stay home in your pajamas, coffee and the latest Christmas movie at hand, and avoid the hassles here:
Don’t forget Cyber Monday, as well. The Monday after Thanksgiving has its own set of bargains and specials. U.S. News’ My Money blog recommends looking fpr clothes and accessories, large appliances, electronics and “older versions of hot items” – but skip digital camers (they won’t come down until new model pricing in January) and ignore any fancypants promotions on Twitter and Facebook. (Cut to the chase and go to the store’s website, instead.)
Black Friday is waiting for you. Have fun.