Surviving Black Friday
With supermarkets stocking up on Halloween candies and selling pumpkins out on the sidewalk, you know there are only weeks left to plan for your Black Friday shopping spree. The year’s best sales after the Thanksgiving holiday is a tough hand-to-hand combat with other shoppers, so you will need planning, preparation, and a lot of help to get ready. Just because you will be running with the bulls, it does not mean you cannot give yourself a head start.
Even before deciding between shopping online or braving the crowd, make a list of everyone you will be shopping for. This list should not be limited to just Christmas presents, but also upcoming birthdays and anniversaries. If you know what they want, write the item and the price down. If the price is unknown, use an Internet price comparison website, Google’s shopping service, or even Ebay.com as a way to establish the basis of your budget. For people you do not know what to buy for, roughly classify the gift into large categories, such as toys, electronics, music, jewelry, or clothing. Next to these categories, assign cash value on how much you would want to spend on each item. When you finish with the list, you have both the shopping list and the budget. You also have a darn good idea how many places you would have to go on Black Friday to cross most items off the list.
The shopping list is very important for your Black Friday shopping because it will focus your mind on getting certain items and protect you from buying discounted item that has no recipient. This is your first defense against busting the holiday shopping budget. Another reason to make a shopping list is to maximize your saving while minimize your travel time. For example, if your list has 10 clothing items, 3 electronic items, and 2 toys, you can decide which store to go to and in what order. Because of your items, you might prefer a mall to a large discount store.
Armed with the shipping list, you can now decide on the big question; do you want to sleep in on that day and shop online, or brings your family, friends, and significant other to wait outside the store? Even if you plan to brave the cold with friends and gallons of coffee, you should still use the Internet to lessen the hassle.
The Missing Piece
The special Black Friday sales ad usually arrive a week or two before Thanksgiving. Buy a few copies of the newspaper if you need to, and start matching the special sales items against people you have no idea what they want. This is the best way to fill in the missing information on your shopping list, by fitting the special discounted item to replace those categories names. This process also allows you to stay within your budget.
Seal the Deals
More and more retailers are putting their Black Friday doorbuster items on the website, and the website price are the same as the in-store price. What is even more encouraging is the increasing number of stores allowing the customer to pre-order the item on the website and complete the transaction with an in-store pickup. Of course, trying to pick up a pre-ordered item on Black Friday gives you the certainty of having the item at a set price, but you will have to work with the harried store clerks to make sure the item is not lost in the shuffle.
Bring on the Night
Make sure you dress warmly, bring something to sit on, and have small amount of food and snacks. Depending on the location of the store, there may not be any public bathrooms near. Ideally, you want to have someone with you if you are camping out so you have help when you need to step away. If you are going by yourself, make friends with those other people in line, since you’ll need placeholders when you need to run to the bathroom or get something from the car.
No matter if you are part of a small army or a solo warrior, you want to be ready to charge into the store about two hours before the door open. This means getting the folding chair, portable TV and DVD player back into the car. The two-hour mark is important because this is when the people who have waited all night get restless. They are more likely to challenge and confront people they perceive as cutting into line. This is also when the store manager will come out and pass out vouchers to the front of the line as a way to prevent the door opening being a stampede. Some store passes out numbered ticket that they will only allow certain number-holder in at a given time, and that will increase people’s agitation. So make sure you drop off all the dead weight and be ready to get into the store and shop two hours before the posted opening time.
Surviving the Retail Rampage
Protect your identity. The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that pick pocketing are at their highest during the November and December holiday. The day before Thanksgiving, go through your purse or wallet and remove everything from it. Bring only cash, the credit cards you will actually use, and a few detached checks. This will decrease the likeliness of your losing some valuable items when you are reaching for something inside your purse, and minimize the inconvenience if theft should occur.
Dress comfortable with running shoes, and cloth that will keep you warm but are not too bulky. Have bottled water and some snacks. Charge your cell phone. The cell phone is the retail warrior’s best friend. With it, you can contact your friends of family members for an on-the-spot price check on the Internet, or check it yourself if your cell phone supports mobile Internet. If you are part of a shopping cabal, you can call other members for update on sales, deals, and parking situation. Most importantly, it allows you to call for help if you are stuck somewhere or need someone to pick you up. Don’t leave home without your cell phone.
Bring the ads. Print out the Internet advertisements and bring out the newspaper sales ad. This is important because some have coupons on them (which you can always trade with other people in the line), some stores may have different pricing than the advertised one, so the printed ad will help you settle those unnecessary disputes. Most important, some store will honors “price-matching” on Black Friday. If you find an undiscounted item in a store that honors “price-matching”, not only will you save a trip, and because the item is not discounted on the sales ad, they will have more of the items in stocks, so you increase your chance of getting the item. Bring all the ads; it could be as valuable as the coupons. However, not all stores honor this policy, while some store suspends their usual “price-matching” policy on Black Friday and a few weeks after it. Double check store policy and call up the store manager if you have any doubts.
When you buy the items, make sure you ask for a Gift Receipts, even for items for yourself. This will make sure that the gift recipient can return the item without risk of being declined. This also means if you return the gift a few weeks later, you will get the sales price, and not the permanent slashed price the retailer marks them down after the holiday. Put the receipt in with your credit cards and put the gift receipts with the purchase so you always have a copy of it.
With these proper planning and tips, you will walk away from Black Friday with all of your holiday shopping done and at a steep discount, and not sitting on the sidewalk, like those unsold pumpkins after Thanksgiving.