A veteran’s guide to making the most of Black Friday

Customers wait outside of a Walmart in Maryland on Black Friday in 2012. | Courtesy of Diariocritico de Venezuela/Flickr
Customers wait outside of a Walmart in Maryland on Black Friday in 2012. | Courtesy of Diariocritico de Venezuela/Flickr

On Thursday, Walmart, J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Target opened their Black Friday sales a day early, as I sat at home eating Thanksgiving dinner and watching football.

Many people have found these early openings un-American, and I generally agree. But I mostly grieve the loss of the true Black Friday.

I have long braved the cold early mornings of late November in search of Xbox’s, laptops and pea coats, and I have always loved the hunt. I come from a long line of bargain hunters, and stories are still told about my mom’s role in the Black Friday of 2003.

However, this year my career will come to a close, so I will pass on the wisdom I have learned to any who wish to hear. I hope my words will bring success to any of you who will head into the fray on Turkey Day.

Preparation

The first, perhaps obvious, bit of advice I can give is that preparation matters.

Advertisements must be gathered and sorted long before you head into the madness. I would recommend collecting the paper ads that come with the newspaper, because all of the major deals will find their way in there.

With markers or pens, have all of your loved ones circle desired items. Then, check online to see which sales will actually save you the most money and build a prioritized list of desired items, sorted by which store is advertising them.

Deployment

Once priorities are agreed upon, all willing family members should be used as troops to most effectively capture as many of these items as possible.

This usually means getting to as many store openings as possible. The most common reason my family has missed desired sale items in the past is because the sale was held at a store that was a second destination.

However, if there are not enough willing family members to get to every store’s opening, have no fear. For 2014, Walmart will match any legitimately advertised deal, and we all know that Walmart sells everything. This is a huge bonus, and I definitely recommend attacking Walmart with your best troops.

Teamwork

Especially for this year, I would recommend deploying in pairs. Two family members working as a team can help each other make crucial in-game decisions.

With this strategy, one family member can also start holding a place in the checkout line while the other is still hunting. My family has employed this strategy for years.

Other tricks of the trade

  • Don’t get a cart. Carts seriously decrease mobility, and the cart retrieval slows down your initial entrance to the store.
  • Move quickly once in the store. Watch where you go to avoid trampling, but quickly knifing through the aisles can seriously increase productivity.
  • For big-ticket items, get there really early. Sure, that extra hour at home is nice, but is it $100 nice? Sometimes, you will receive a ticket for being there early enough. You can then leave (unless they tell you not to) and come back when the sale starts. We employed this tactic in the laptop raid of ’10. We left Walmart at 10 p.m. and came back for the sale opening the next morning.
  • Stash and dash. This is my favorite play I’ve ever executed. During the 2011 hunt, my assignment included capturing candles at Kohl’s. The candles were incredibly cheap but not worth waiting for in line. I stashed the fragrant torch in a microwave that wasn’t on sale. Hours later, with the sale still on but the lines way down, I returned to purchase the candles.

The stash and dash (patent pending) was an in-game audible I called at the height of my sales hunting career. I hope this article inspires the next generation of sales hunters to brave the bad hours and bitter cold. While they do, though, I will sit at home eating green bean casserole. I can hardly wait.


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