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Cutthroat Tips for Black Friday Shopping

Cutthroat Tips for Black Friday Shopping
Rebecca Howard

The insanity that is Black Friday shopping seems to grow every year. In fact, it’s not even technically correct to call it Black Friday anymore, since they don’t even let you swallow that last bite of pumpkin pie before rolling out the deals. You can palpably feel the excitement and tension mounting, and yes, there are already people lined up in front of Best Buy. But don’t worry if you’re not one of them. All is not lost, because we have some super stealthy and cutthroat tips to help you conquer the Black Friday madness.

Conduct Surveillance

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As with any life-or-death mission, it’s vital to have a plan prepared well in advance. Ads are always released early, so use them to find out which store is offering the best price on the items you want. Then do some reconnaissance and learn the layout of the store and where the items you hope to score are likely to be found. This can be tricky, because often merchants don’t put doorbuster items in their usual departments, but other stores helpfully release floor plans of where the bargains are going to be, so make sure you take full advantage and study these maps.

If you don’t already have a friend who works at Target, now’s the time to make one. Treat an employee on break to a gingerbread latté and then grill him for the inside scoop.

Be sure you have any available coupons and store discount cards ready before you hit the sales. If you can save an extra percentage-off by using a store credit card or reward points program, you want to enroll in those well ahead of the big day. Some stores, like Toys 'R' Us, will even let you preview and shop Black Friday prices early if you’re a rewards member.

Stash Strategically

Here’s a little insider tip that’s worked for me in the past. Discouraged by long lines, I hid the merchandise I wanted behind other items that weren’t popular sellers (yoga mats), then came back late at night when the store emptied out, grabbed my stuff and checked out with ease. This wouldn’t work quite as well for Black Friday, since doorbuster items are usually not on the floor in advance; but if there is regular merchandise that is going to go on sale, squirrel it away the day before. Stores are onto this trick though, and do overnight sweeps to prevent it, so you’ll have to be super-sneaky with your stashing place.

Put Together a Crack Team

You know who’s bored at family get-togethers once the food is gone? Teenagers. Get yours to gather a group of friends and train them to aid you in your shopping mission. These guys can slip through the crowd like eels, already know the scoop on the latest electronics to grab, and will probably be happy to join you for the adventure and just to get out of the house. Split up your list and each head to different departments when the doors open, meeting up at the register once you capture your contraband.

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If you really want to make it fun, dress in all black or camo and smudge charcoal under your eyes to get into the spirit of battle. Or you could all wear matching brightly colored shirts or pointy hats with elf ears and t-shirts proclaiming "Santa's Helper." Never underestimate the power of entertaining the other shoppers to win you some goodwill when you’re scrambling to reach the last few items on the shelf.

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On the other hand, if you don’t give a darn about goodwill or peace on earth, you could pull a Monica-shopping-for-her-wedding-dress trick and hand out whistles so your gang can blast to each other when their missions are accomplished. I can’t guarantee your safety if you follow this tactic, though.

If all else fails, a really cute little kid with soulful eyes and trembling lips who can shed a few tears on demand could be your secret weapon. Few people could resist a sobbing, “Why, Daddy? Why did that mean lady take the last My Little Pony? It’s all I wanted for Christmas.” Disclaimer - try this tip at your own risk. If you end up with a tired, whiny kid who doesn’t have his head in the game, he’ll only slow you down.

Shop Smart, Not Cute

Black Friday is not the time to care about how you look. I know you want to show off your holiday outfit, but trust me, you’ll be a whole lot happier if you change into some comfy sweats before you hit the stores. And skip the heels unless you want to end up with your face planted in the $5 DVD display. Even us shoe addicts know that this is the one day sneakers were made for.

Further, don’t squander a prime place in line by wasting time applying makeup. Ladies, you are not going to meet your soulmate at a Black Friday sale. If there is one thing you will not find men doing after a day of football and food, it’s shopping. And the ones who are there will be the techie geeks who are more interested in getting that Darth Vader toaster than a date.

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Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Even if you’re not that person who’s going to camp out two weeks ahead of time to be the first one in line, rest assured that when you get to the store, there will be a line. Plan to arrive at least a couple of hours before the doors open if there are hot ticket items you don’t want to miss out on; which means you’re going to be waiting, probably out in the cold, for a long time. Make sure your smartphone’s charged so you can distract yourself by posting selfies and updating everyone on your status while you wait.

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It’s probably not necessary to pull a full-on Wolowitz-waiting-for-Raiders of the Lost Ark and strap a Stadium Pal inside your pants, but it is a good idea to stash a roll of toilet paper in your purse if you’re planning to make a day or night of it. At some point you will have to go, and I shudder to think what the state of those public restrooms will be.

That turkey dinner might start to wear off, or the tryptophan start to kick in, so bring along some snacks and hot coffee to keep your energy up. Better yet, share some double-fudge brownies with the crowd to get that aforementioned goodwill on your side.

And then when the doors are finally flung wide, blind your new friends with your phone’s camera flash, scream, “OMG, there’s David Beckham!” and take off running. Be prepared to “accidentally” knock a stack of Elmos in front of someone or grease the floor behind you with the remains of your hot buttered coffee. It’s not pretty; it’s not nice; but this is shopping war, people; and it’ll all be worth it when you emerge the victor at the cash register.

This kind of cutthroat activity is not for everyone, but it’s necessary if you really, really want that Xbox One. If you don’t think you have the heart to handle it, maybe just skip the stores and do your Black Friday shopping safely from home. Walmart and many other retailers are now offering the same great deals online as in-store, and the only thing you’ll have to wield ruthlessly is that mouse.

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