Photo (cc) by Rob Boudon
Shopping malls and retail outlets become war zones on Black Friday morning. So to get what you came for, you have to think like a warrior. That means going in with a solid strategy, and employing some stealthy tactics.
If you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the best deals and save money on holiday shopping this Black Friday, try some of these maneuvers…
1. Follow a strategic schedule
Post-Thanksgiving sales can be time-sensitive down to the hour, so you have to be at the right place at the right time to get the best deals. Being the first one through the door at 3 a.m. doesn’t necessarily guarantee you the steepest discounts.
For instance, I was slowing down at about 11 a.m. last year, figuring I’d seen the best to be offered that day. But on a whim, I decided to pop into one more department store before heading home. Good thing I did – the store was offering an additional percentage off purchases from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. only, and I scored some super-cheap Christmas presents by shopping late morning.
Before you head out and brave the crowds, sift through print and online Black Friday ads to determine which stores you really want to visit, find out what time of day the lowest prices will be offered, and then schedule your shopping trip accordingly.
2. Hide merchandise ahead of time
If you’re going after a popular item of Tickle-Me-Elmo-like proportions, don’t be one of the poor souls who wait in line for three hours and end up going home empty-handed. While not the most ethical solution, one thing that might work is to find the item you’re targeting ahead of time and hide it among other merchandise in the store.
Here’s what I’ve done: Find a table or shelving with stacked merchandise, like T-shirts, scarves, or shoe boxes, and put whatever you’re hiding at the very bottom. It will take a while for frenzied shoppers to make their way all the way down and you can go straight in for the kill when you get there.
While effective, this strategy will obviously be considered by some people, including store employees, as unethical. Your call.
3. Make it a solo mission
You may believe bringing your significant other or best friend will help you cover more ground while also enjoying the camaraderie, but double-teaming the same Black Friday sales will only slow you down.
Even the tightest schedule falls apart when others are recruited. Why? Because they get easily distracted by newly discovered sales, free samples, and shiny objects.
Whether you have trouble sticking to your plan of action or end up arguing over purchases, allowing another person to come with you is a recipe for disaster. And whatever you do, do not bring children.
The way to work with friends is to divide and conquer. Share lists, then stake out different stores.
4. Buy ahead and come back for the discount
In a post-recession era, anything is up for negotiation. If a competitor is offering a better deal, bring in the ad and ask the retailer to beat it.
Wal-Mart, for example, offers an ad match guarantee, which allows you to have the price difference between an in-store item and a competitor’s print ad refunded to you in the form of a gift card.
Of course, there are a number of caveats to this and similar offers. Make sure you’ve read the fine print and fully understand the terms of the offer, and don’t be afraid to haggle a bit – you could get a sweet bargain if you’re persistent.
Always ask to see the manager in the case of a discrepancy regarding price matching. Seasonal hires at the register aren’t always the most knowledgeable about the store’s current deals, so don’t trust them if they say a match isn’t valid.
Then do some recon work and check out retailers’ Black Friday ads. You can go today or tomorrow and buy key items at your convenience. Then on Friday, you’ll only have to deal with lines at the customer service counter when you go in to have the difference refunded. Just keep in mind, this may not apply to certain items, so it’s imperative you fully understand the terms and conditions of a price-match guarantee.
5. Shop the night before
If you already know about a particular sale that will be occurring on Black Friday, why put yourself in the line of fire when you can stay at home base and still accomplish your objectives?
Online shopping exists for a reason, namely because it’s way better than setting foot in a crowded store. The night before Black Friday, fill your shopping cart will everything you intend to buy. You can wake up super early the next morning, check out, and go back to sleeping off that turkey.
Black Friday shopping is not for the timid or weak. If you want to make the most of the big day, you need to create a plan of attack. Think like a soldier and be devious, cunning, and assertive. Otherwise, just stay home.
Casey Bond also writes for www.GoBankingRates.com.