How To Do Black Friday: An Insider's Guide


By Jordan Elizabeth. I have gotten up at 3am to shop Black Friday. I have gotten up at 3am to work Black Friday. I have gotten up at 9:30am and have poorly attempted Black Friday. At this point, I think of myself as the Oprah (okay, maybe Gayle) of the magical shopping day we call Black Friday.

Raised by a woman who never left a coupon unused, I was a child on the lookout for a deal. So when I was about 11 years old and shopping the day after Thanksgiving really started to be a “thing,” I was on it like white girls on holiday-themed coffee. Shockingly, my mother was not so into waiting in line all night to get a $15 scanner at Best Buy, but my father, amused by the idea and wanting a scanner, said he’d take me. In the end, we did not get there remotely early enough to nab the $15 scanner, but I got a taste of that sprinting-down-the-aisles, arms flailing, Supermarket Sweep kinda rush and was hooked. Who needs teenage binge drinking when there’s THIS?

 Seven years later, I got a job at Best Buy during college to pay rent, but also in large part because the discount is awesome. When the holidays rolled around and the other employees gripped about working Black Friday, I was psyched. Not only could I put aside all the stuff I wanted...but I could have the best seat in the house for the pushing, shoving, addict-in-search-of the-next-back-alley-hit crazed shopping I have come to love and revere. Long story short: it was the most magical 15-hour shift OF MY LIFE.

 Dipping into my now 18 years of shopping experience, here are my Top 5 DO’s and DON’Ts  for Black Friday:

  1. DO research. Running in willy-nilly “just to see what’s on sale” is a waste. Black Friday is like that movie “The Purge,” only instead of killing people, it’s a race to buy 30 extra brush heads for the electronic toothbrush you don’t actually have, but got at a great discount.Most stores leak their sales circulars online at least a day ahead of time. So while you’re watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and pretending like you’re still delighted to see that same Snoopy balloon bounce around, flip through the sales circulars and check out the Door Busters. Lately, it seems like there’s not a ton of “great” Door Busters, so take this time to judge if it’s even worth doing. (I think people just love the phrase “Door Busters.” This is actually a good Thanksgiving drinking game. Every time a commercial yells “Door Busters,” take a sip. You’ll be hammered before the Packers kick-off at 3pm). Do you need to deal with the crowds and hassle just to get a few $3 DVDs (Most likely that new one. You know, the one about kids living in some weird, distopian, segregated world and want to fight the power!) Probably not. And those will also be picked over by 10am, so don’t even bother going out later. Sleep in and enjoy a leftover turkey and stuffing omelet.
  2. DO Compare Prices. If you’re looking for a particular item, compare prices. A lot of people use this day to get big-box items like computers/TVs. (If you think you’re getting anything Apple-made for a discount today, you might as well start hoping Britney Spears will sing live again, because neither will ever happen). Most stores have the same model TV/computers onsale for whatever reason. So see which one has the best price and is the easiest for you to get to.Also think about how badly do you need or want this item at that price. Is it really worth getting up at 3am to stand in line for 3 hours, then run to the back of the store to grab said item while possibly elbowing a small child to do so? If not, sleep in and order it online while eating some leftover cranberry-sauce-shaped-like-a-can.  
  3. Make a List and Get There Early. I like to make an ordered list of the stores I want to hit and what I want at each one (I’m sure only people with Type-A personalities enjoy this day, now that I think of it.). Stores that have the big items at huge discounts usually only have a certain amount they’re selling that day. (It’s alllll part of the game, kids. No one said it was fair.) Hit that store first and early - and by early, I mean get there 2 hours before they open and stand in line. I personally refuse to wait more than 2 hours for anything (which will make childbirth interesting). But if you’re up for it, get there even earlier. There’s nothing worse than getting up at the ass-crack of dawn, waiting in line, and NOT getting the 72” flat screen.Keep in mind: the bigger the discount, the quicker they’ll sell out. 32GB memory cards for $5? They’ll go fast. The Friends DVD Box set for $150? Probably not so fast, because that’s only $50 off and we already know they were on a break!  Steve Madden boots for $20? Line up early. Jessica Simpson sweaters at KOHL’s buy-one-get-one? That can probably wait. And do you really need anything Jessica Simpson made? I’ll answer that one for you, NO.  Also, stores open at different times that morning, so keep that in mind - that could dictate the order in which you shop.My list usually goes like this:
    1. Best Buy (if there’s a big item, or some must-have new gadget). If not, this comes later in the day. Usually opens the earliest.
    2. Kohl’s / Your local Department Store - They’re always good for clothing/kitchen/home goods deals, and also open the earliest. Last year I even got a Sonicare electric toothbrush for $40 after an in-store discount and mail-in rebate! (As a general rule, I avoid Macy’s at all costs, on normal days. I think I’d rather get bamboo shoots shoved under my fingernails than do Macy’s Black Friday. That is only for those shoppers with nerves of steel. Godspeed to you).
    3. Target - Unless they have a big must-have item at the best price, then move it up the list. But I usually go later to see if they have any of those $3 DVDs left and obviously there’s always at least 10 things you can get at Target on any given day. They usually have a lot of general deals on slippers, workout gear, toys, stuff you buy then regret once you get home - that aren’t high priority.
    4. Old Navy / Gap - They just have a huge percentage off the whole store and don’t limit quantities. So use this day to stock up on stuff for you and people on your Christmas list, but they won’t sell out of anything. I tend to buy most of my gifts here. I love my friends, but not enough to pay full price for cotton-blends.
  4. DON’T Get Overwhelmed. Once you’re inside, things gets crazy, so keep your head on a swivel and pay attention! Shoppers rifle through piles (this especially applies to clothes), so make sure what you’re grabbing is the item that is actually the “Door Buster” (DRINK!) - cashmere blend is on sale, not cashmere. (You know you can’t afford real cashmere, and they do not give that stuff away.)
  5. DO use the buddy system. It’s a great idea to go with someone else so if you do get in line and realize you forgot something on your list, or you want to swap an item out, someone can run and grab it while you stay in line. (Like tag-team WWE wrestling only without, well, less body slamming). In this case, the old “if everyone jumped off a cliff, blah blah blah” is true. Yes! Jump! Break rules! It’s Black Friday, world order halts from 4am to noon!If you plan ahead and make a list, you’ll still leave with anxiety, but you’ll also leave with your arms full...and hopefully with a lot of your Christmas shopping already done. Good luck shopping, and remember to be courteous to your fellow shoppers - we’re all just trying to get a deal. Unless that fellow shopper is holding the last pair of $20 boots in a size 7, then feel free to accidentally-on-purpose trip her, because you really did see them first.