Friday, November 28, 2008

15 Black Friday Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Shopping is in my blood. It does something for my soul (sick, I know), and I’m good at it. So good, in fact, that I managed to walk away from this year’s Black Friday (BF) sales with EVERY item on my list. Not an easy task when that list is a page long, but I did it. I’ve learned from mistakes—both made and observed—and I want to share my knowledge with you. Just call it my little BF gift to you. ;) By avoiding these common blunders, you can have a much more enjoyable, successful BF experience, and you’ll save some serious coin along the way.

Mistake #1: Taking things too seriously.
My Advice: Enjoy the thrill of the hunt, but do so within reason. I just read a story about a poor Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death in NY by shoppers trying to get to the deals. There is absolutely no room for this kind of behavior. My heart goes out to this employee’s family, friends and coworkers. My cute little niece just started a job at Wal-Mart last week and had to face the masses today. I don’t know what I’d do if some maniac stomped over her fallen body to save a buck. Get real! BF is supposed to be fun, not a contact sport. So, in the spirit of fun, I’ll continue my guide to successful (and enjoyable) BF shopping.

Mistake #2: Going into Black Friday unprepared.
My Advice: Never, ever, ever just wander through the stores hoping to find the deals. Oh no, you need a plan. This means spending valuable time with the newspaper ads the day before (I recommend at least an hour), planning your route, making your lists (both of things to buy and people to buy for), and prioritizing your stops (by deal and by opening time). Also, part of being prepared involves transportation. Cute Cory filled up my car at midnight last night so that I wouldn’t have to make a stop along the way this morning. He also gave me wings in the form of a cool and delicious Red Bull. DO NOT waste your precious AM time doing tasks that can be done ahead of time.

Mistake #3: Wearing the wrong attire.
My Advice: Dress for the task at hand. Shopping is a sport, especially when it’s BF shopping, and like any good sport, you need the right kind of clothing to be at your best. For me, this is a puffy vest. You know, the sleeveless winter vests that are in style right now? This is the perfect BF attire. It will keep you incredibly warm (and this is coming from a gal who is ALWAYS cold) without the need for a heavy coat (which is beyond annoying when you’re making your way through the stores), and it can be unzipped when you need to cool off after working up a sweat in your retail outlet(s) of choice. Believe you me, you will sweat! It’s tough work! Also, sneakers are a must. None of this ‘slippers’ nonsense (yes, we have seen women in their pj pants and slippers). And, despite what the stinkin’ cute Kohls ad may suggest (the one with the Jack Russell pups), heels are out of the question! I also suggest you leave your purse at home. Only carry the essentials with you (ID, credit/debit card or cash, and your cell phone to keep in touch with your BF team). Purses only weigh you down and slow you down – two things that aren’t really compatible with extreme shopping.

Mistake #4: Spending valuable time getting ready, when you could be sleeping (AKA preserving energy).
My Advice: Forego the shower (you’ll work up a sweat shopping and want to shower when you get home anyway), forget doing your hair (that’s what hats are for), and don’t even think about makeup (nobody will be looking at you anyway). Instead, set your alarm for 20-30 minutes before it’s time to go, and use that time to get dressed (in the clothes you prepared the night before), brush your teeth, and gather your gear. This will give you more shut-eye, which means more shopping fuel.

Mistake #5: Flying solo.
My Advice: Always have a wingman. I almost always shop alone. It’s easier and I can spend the time I want to spend making my purchases, but BF is definitely a time when I make an exception. For one, it’s more fun to share your victories with someone. And, it’s also the best way to get the deals. You’ll need help. I would suggests teams no larger than 3, however. Any more than that will just slow you down. You’ll understand why as you read more. (You are going to keep reading, aren’t you?)

Mistake #6: Going for the cart first.
My Advice: Carts aren’t what you came for; the cheap (excuse me, “affordable”) goods are what you came for, so why are you wasting time with a cart? Always, and I mean always, go for the goods first, with your partner, of course (see #4), and get what you came for. Then, once you’ve staked your claim, you or your partner can go back for the cart while the other waits with the merchandise. Carts will SLOW YOU DOWN. There’s no more weaving through the clothes section to avoid the main walkways with a cart, so wait until you’ve got your grasp on your treasures, and then load up a cart.

Mistake #7: Shopping first and lining up later.
My Advice: Have someone in your party get directly in line, while you make a run for the sales. This rule applies to the first stop on your journey in particular…especially if that stop happens to be Kohls 4:00 AM sale. The line at this store is out of control. Last year I made the mistake of going it alone, and I spent TWO HOURS of valuable shopping time in line. This year, my shopping partner in crime, Gina, immediately made her way to the back of the line (which was already long at 4 AM, BTW), while I sniffed out the deals. Once our door-buster deals were in my hot little hands, I relieved Gina of her post to do some shopping, she later returned to relieve me, and so on and so forth. Worked like a charm…even if it only shaved off 30-minutes from our wait time (we still waited 1.5 hours). Hey, that’s 30 more minutes we had to get to Target.

Mistake #8: Taking a small automobile.
My Advice: Make sure there’s plenty of room for your purchases. Plan ahead, taking into consideration the items on your shopping list, as well as the unplanned for finds, and drive accordingly. Want that 32” flat screen TV for $598? Better not drive your Mustang.

Mistake #9: Not opening your coffee establishment when herds of cold, tired people are just standing outside the door. (OK, so this one is targeted to merchants instead of shoppers, but it’s worth including.)
My Advice: Open your doors, Beans & Brew. What were you thinking?! People are lined up in front of Kohls for hours (which happens to be a yards from your front door), just sitting with chattering teeth and money to spend, and you’re closed? Why isn’t every employee in your store working that crowd, with coffee carts in tow? You missed a gold mine, my brewing friends.

Mistake #10: Letting the coupon be your guide.
My Advice: Read the fine print. Most of the coupons found in the ads are not what they’re cracked up to be. Take Macy’s, for example. Its “$10 off any clearance item” suckered me in last year, even though I wasn’t after anything in particular. I got there, wasted valuable early-bird hours looking for a clearance item to redeem, only to find out that my item of choice didn’t qualify. Come to find out, just about every brand they carry didn’t qualify. Penny’s had a similar jig going. They had a “10% off your entire purchase” coupon, good for…3PM to 11PM!?! Any good BF shopper will be sound asleep by this time. Plus, all of the door busters will have been long since expired, so what’s the point? Tricky, Mr. Macy. Clever, J.C. But you won’t fool me again.

Mistake #11: Falling for the Mail-In Rebate Price
My Advice: Again, read the fine print. Some of the best deals require a little more work…a mail-in rebate. This means you won’t get the full sale price at the time of check-out, so you need to have more money than the signs my indicate (unless you read the bitty print and prepare ahead of time, which is something I rarely pause to do.) And I’m beyond lousy about mailing in those stinkin’ forms. If this sounds like you, then I suggest comparing prices in the Thanksgiving Day ads to see if one store has that same digi photo frame you’re after for a few extra bucks and no rebate. Trust me; the extra $5 or $10 will be well worth the time and hassle avoided.

Mistake #12: Discarding something because it’s the wrong size or variety.
My Advice: Buy and exchange at a later date. Did you have your eye on that steal-of-a-deal coat, but they only have XXXXS left? Never fear. Buy it anyway, and return in a week or two to exchange the tiny trench for a human size. They’ll be back in stock, and stores should exchange it straight across. I happened to run into an old friend from college today who is now managing an Old Navy store. I asked her about this before making my purchase, and she assured me the exchange would be made. True, some stores’ policies may vary, but, worst-case, you can always return the coat if they won’t make the switch.

Mistake #13: Carrying your purchases home in plastic shopping bags.
My Advice: Go green. Not only will your reusable bags come in handy when you’re running from aisle to aisle, filling them up, but they’ll also have those stores you visit saving a few more of their harmful plastic bags. Here’s a tip from my sis-in-law, Gina: Take your jumbo, reusable IKEA bag. These mondo bags are super roomy for filling, but will crumple up to the size of a softball when you aren’t using them. So, when you’re out saving some green, remember to go green.

Mistake # 14: Overlooking the freebies.
My Advice: Keep your eyes peeled. I’m not talking the sucker freebies – the free mug for the first 100 in the store. It’s a mug. Do you really want to face the mobs for a lousy mug? No, I mean the free gift-wrap options. This morning, Kohls had an entire cart of shirt boxes parked next to the exit, and people were just passing it by. How many times have you been wrapping, only to find yourself with that hard-to-wrap item, wishing you had a box? It happens, and these days more and more stores are charging for their clothing boxes, so when you see ‘em for free, grab ‘em. You’ll be glad you did.

Mistake #15: Staying home.
My Advice: Don’t shy away. (My cute hubby will argue this to the end, but go with me.) There is money to be saved and an economy to boost. Plus, there’s something to be said for the thrill of the victory. You prepare, plan and strategize, and you’re rewarded with more for less. I don’t know about you, but more money is good for me, even if it means a little less sleep. I saved hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of dollars on my shopping today. Plus, I have a good majority of it done now, with weeks to spare. What’s not to celebrate about that?

Did you come away with any screamin’ deals or wild stories to share today? Do you have additional mistakes you want to help others avoid? I’m always up for a good shopping story, and I hope to read yours. But, first, I’m off to take a nap. I’ve been up for 12 hours now (and it’s only 3:30 PM).

Happy BF, BF (Blog Friend)!


Unused Account said...

Last year was my inagural voyage into BF. And my tip is...

- Ask about stocked numbers of the item you seek.

I ventured out for a Cricut last year and asked ahead of time at Wal*Mart and Michaels how many they would stock for the BF earlybirds. Walmart=2 and Michaels=4. Huh?!!

After almost being killed at Michaels at 4:00 am by other crafters I arrived at Roberts Crafts at 10 AM to find they had ordered 100 Cricuts to prepare for their BF sale. (I actually hugged the sales manager). I bought one for a better deal than the other two stores.

Unknown said...

You are TOO funny Megan!! Congrats on your BF accomplishments!
I helped 'boost the economy' from the comfort of my home, as I did a bit of online scrappy (damage) shopping. I envy you brave BF shoppers... although I LOVE deals and steals, I just don't have any BF shopping willpower in my blood.
(((hugs))) ;)

Emily Call said...

I love this post! It is full of some great info! It was fun to see you yesterday for a quick second in Target. Glad to hear you got everything on your list. I would add that if you don't find the item you want, try going back to that same store a few hours later because people will change their mind in line and the item will get put back on the shelf later.

Anonymous said...

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Unknown said...

Good for you!
I would rather pay double that do the whole BF thing.
I am not a morning/crowd/aggresive person.

The Sonboul's said...

I'm a big time lover for BLACK FRIDAY!!! I'm so happy to hear you also love it and do it safely!

I go out ever year and this past Friday was my 6th year :)

Anonymous said...

OMGosh you crack me up!! I wish I had your stamina chickie - you really scored some deals :)

Nicole said...

Love Love Love this post. Me and my hubby are big Black Friday shoppers and your advice is prefect and super true. We usually wait of line at Walmart, but with it being open at midnight we don't have to wait in the cold. After Walmart Target and any other stores on the list. Have fun this yr.

FYI - Winter vest for Men,women,and kids $7.50 at Target

Anonymous said...

There is absolutely NO way I'd ever go out on BF. I agree with your husband. I have worked in retail and seen way to many ugly people on BF. People stealing things out of other peoples carts and hands, people shoving each other just so they could get "the deal", I've seen women knock over old ladies. There is nothing I need that bad, NOTHING!

laura vegas said...

LOVE this post megan! even if i do NOT brave the BF sales. lol! so many great tips, and advice. and if i were to go ... i would take every one of them into account. but i just don't have it in me either. i can't handle crowds, people up in my space, fighting for things, etc. i did, however, take advantage of some deals online. and the best part was ... i got to stay in my jammies ;)