Black Friday Survival Guide

My favorite day of the year is coming up. No…not my birthday. No…not Halloween. No…not even Christmas time. No, my favorite day of the year is Black Friday.

Now I realize that the mere mention of the words Black Friday is enough to send shivers down many spines. I am well aware that there are horror stories galore mixed with some personal narratives as well as a sprinkling of urban myth. However, Black Friday can be looked at in a positive and dare I say, fun way. I look at Black Friday as a day when a lot of people come together with a common mission and goal. In a way, there’s almost something inspiring and beautiful about it (wink).

I always acknowledge that I look at Black Friday as survival of the fittest. I look at those who bitch and moan about Black Friday as weak and uninspired. I think Black Friday requires both great patience and determination. I wouldn’t be opposed to advocating that people practice skills and coping techniques in the privacy of their own home, in preparation for the big day. JUST KIDDING!

However, there are a few things that everyone can do to make Black Friday more successful and actually…dare I say…enjoyable.

Look at it as an activity.

Part of the reason that Black Friday is my favorite day of the year is that it’s one of the only days of the year that I get to spend with my sister, Heidi. We don’t get to see each other enough. Other than two or three times throughout the year, we mainly see each other on the holidays. However, Black Friday has turned into a tradition for the two of us, and it’s something that I look forward to all year. Therefore, I would suggest that you take this dreaded day and turn it in to somewhat of its own tradition.

We do our Black Friday shopping in Conway, since it’s close to our house. We do our Saturday after in Little Rock and always hit up Pottery Barn, The Container Store, Williams-Sonoma, and of course…Cantina Loredo. However, that day is more about relaxing because Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma have never met a sale that they really embraced.

No, Black Friday is our work day. We get up around 3 a.m. or so and hit Target, Kohl’s, Belk, Wal-Mart, Pier 1, Old Navy, Bath and Body Works…and a few trips to Starbucks between stores. YES…Starbucks normally opens early on Black Friday to supply us with our much needed adrenaline.

Get up early.

I know that it might not always be the most fun thing to do on the day after Thanksgiving, but it’s extremely important and crucial to getting the best deals or “door busters.” Most stores offer the deepest discounts between 4 a.m and 11 a.m. However, read the fine print on the print ads that come in the Thanksgiving paper. Most of the ads have disclaimers near the popular items that say “5 per store,” or something like that. Therefore, the stores will have a very limited number of those popular items and you must make a beeline for those heavily desired items.

The other reason to get up early is simply for parking and placement. After the disaster last year at a Wal-Mart with an employee getting trampled, this year, Wal-Mart is instituting new policies for its popular items. The retailer will be offering tickets for the popular items and even entry into the stores. One tip to remember with Wal-Mart is that many are open twenty-four hours. However, the sales won’t begin until four or so. Therefore, show up at the stores early to get near the items you want. That way, when the sale goes live, you can stock up.

With regards to Target (my personal heaven) and Wal-Mart (my personal hell), both stores offer many of their Black Friday specials online earlier than they do in the stores. For instance, last year Daniel and I really wanted a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer and Wal-Mart was having a CRAZY good deal on them. However, they advertised that they might only have as few as four per store. So starting at 1:50 a.m., I got on the computer and found the item at their website. It kept saying $399.00 over and over. I just kept refreshing and then at exactly 2 a.m., it went down to $129.00. Luckily, I had already created my profile, so I was able to just one-click purchase the item. By 2:03 a.m., the website was listing the item as sold-out. By being persistent and pressing refresh over and over, I was able to capitalize on the sale.

Price match.

I know it’s a pain, but popular stores are price matching each other this year like crazy. I normally make a list of popular items and the prices that various stores are offering for them. I then have that list handy when I go in. Then when I get to the register, I am able to have the items price matched. Remember to bring the ads with you as stores will require actually seeing the ads.

One thing to remember is that the last thing that a sales clerk wants to do when he or she has a long line of people is look at tons of ads. I’m not saying that this is your chance to be dishonest, but it is something to consider. For instance, if you know that a popular unnamed online retailer has a book on sale that Wal-Mart doesn’t, it would be entirely wrong to suggest that the nice Target across the street has that book on deep discount, too (even though they don’t). I promise you this…Wal-Mart would rather you buy the book with them than purchase it online…and you saved the shipping costs, though many online retailers are waiving them.

Be smart with your family.

Last year, Daniel accompanied Heidi and I on our little shopping trip and I must admit that I was a somewhat apprehensive about allowing a new person into our little group. Yes, I know that Daniel is my partner in life and crime, but could he handle the Black Friday relationship test? It’s of note that not only did he handle it, but he passed with flying colors.

I also noticed that Daniel was able to provide us with something that we didn’t have before. He was able to be a peg in the extremely long cue at the store. Basically, the minute we entered the store, we stuck Daniel near the front of the store. That way he could get in one of the many lines and hold a spot for us when we came with our purchases. We were able to get in and out of the stores quickly. With a simple cell phone, we kept Daniel on top of our progress in the back of the store.

One other way that we remain smart in our planning is to head over to electronics (always the busiest section) and load up our cart with every single sale DVD and CD that we can, whether we intend to purchase them or not. Going through the stack within the electronics department is way too hard and congested. Therefore, we mosey on over to the produce section or the baby formula section etc. and sort through our items. Those sections never have anybody in them because who in their right mind does their actual weekly shopping on Black Friday. Those places offer a nice retreat from the crazy to actually sort through our items and turn them into purchases.

Plan Plan Plan.

It is not simply enough to whip out the ads on Thanksgiving evening from the newspaper. No, it really pays off to be smart. Start early and head over to or one of the other countless sites that posts the Black Friday ads early. Yes, it can be very difficult to find them, as the stores legal departments are constantly suing the websites, but with enough digging, you can normally find them.

Also available online are store maps which will show you where popular items will be stored. You might think that DVD’s would be in the electronics department. But alas, you would be wrong. Last year, Target and Wal-Mart were moving popular items around the stores (CD’s in the baking section, Vacuums in the furniture section) to try to even out the congestion within the store to help with crowd control. You can normally find the plans on where the popular items will be located on-line.

Finally, be prepared that the popular items may simply be sold-out. Have a back up item or a back up plan which may involve purchasing the item on-line. However, NEVER pay shipping. If the website isn’t offering free shipping, do a search for codes and cheats that you can cut and paste into the store website to obtain free shipping or discounts.

Take it all with a smile.

A few years ago, Heidi and I watched an older woman ram her cart into another woman at Target and scream at her to move her “fat ass.” We also noticed one woman straight up kick a child out of her way in her pursuit of purchasing a fifteen dollar children’s tool kit. That could be enough to stop some people for pursuing the sales. However, we simply smiled and still joke about it. From our perspective, nothing is so wonderful to merit such behavior, so we just laugh it off. I would advocate that you do the same.

Now please don’t post a ton of comments about this not being the true meaning of Christmas. If you don’t want to go out and shop on Black Friday or any day before Christmas (the Saturday before Christmas is also brutal), then don’t. Stay at home and enjoy your family with your leftovers and your football. However, don’t bitch and moan about how it’s not the meaning of Christmas. For many people (myself included), this is an exciting and even fun part of our Christmas tradition.

I hope that these pointers will help make your Black Friday and holiday shopping season successful. I hope that whether you get out and tackle the stores or simply stay home and tackle the internet, that your Black Friday and your Thanksgiving weekend are both fun and enjoyable. Now, if any of you can provide coping tips for dealing with your family…PLEASE SHARE?

Wayne Bell is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Masters Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.