FOR some, Black Friday is a day best spent safely at home nibbling on leftovers. But for the more zealous shoppers, it’s an endurance challenge, and she who returns with the most spoils wins.
Just ask Columbus residents Kristina Arnholt and Lisa Stephenson, who will be among the 147 million shoppers braving the cold and dark this Friday morning.
The pair are close friends, but on Black Friday, there is no time for pleasantries.
“We’re good friends,” 35-year-old Arnholt said. “She shops and I shop, but we don’t talk on that day. We’re not friends on that day.”
It’s understood among dedicated shoppers that if you’re out in the wee-early hours of Friday or the late hours of Thanksgiving Day itself, you’re on a mission.
“If you’re not in line to buy something, get out of the way,” Arnholt said. “If you’re there just to window shop, stay home.”
And no shopper should embark on such a mission without a few weapons in the arsenal. Let these Black Friday pros show you how it’s done.
Stephenson prefers to fly by the seat of her pants, opting instead to plan her Black Friday shopping trip Thanksgiving day. Last year, she set a personal record: 28 straight hours, beginning at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night. She says she completes nearly all of her Christmas shopping on Black Friday, and manages to find a few things for herself in the process.
“I’ve always been a shopper,” 40-year-old Stephenson says. “I end up with a lot of things I don’t need, just because they’re good deals.”
If 20 years of braving the crowds on Black Friday have taught her anything, she’s learned:
- Knock large items off your list early.
- Bring several bags to carry your spoils. Lugging around bags chock full of stuff is like a badge of honor, Stephenson says.
- Considering bringing a partner in crime. “If you’re traveling in a group and the bag gets too heavy, you can always send one person back to the car to make a drop,” she said.
- Drive the biggest vehicle you can to avoid having to swing by home midway through to unload.
- Don’t stop until at least 11 a.m. That’s when the big doorbuster sales are generally finished. “You don’t stop to eat,” Stephenson says. “And there’s no napping allowed.”
- Always travel light, wear comfortable shoes, and only wear extra clothing if you’re planning on standing in line outside in the cold.
- Downsize your purse to something manageable and inconspicuous, like a wristlet, and keep it on you at all times.
Arnholt maps out her trip weeks in advance. She leaves home between midnight and 3 a.m., and has usually hit three stores in three cities, including Indianapolis, by 8 a.m.
Planning is essential for such a feat. Endurance is important, Arnholt says. The 20-year veteran Black Friday shopper trains throughout the year, by walking and running, to maintain stamina for her marathon of holiday shopping on Nov. 23.
“If you plan ahead, it’s not such a mess,” Arnholt says.
To eliminate unnecessary distraction and keep your focus, Arnholt recommends having a game plan and preparing for possible pitfalls.
Use online resources, such as blackfriday.com and theblackfriday.com, which begin posting ads from big-box stores weeks before the items are marked down.
- Start early. Some stores are open on Thanksgiving Day and begin offering their best deals in the early evening.
- If the items on your list are small, forgo a cart. It will be easier to navigate the aisles, and you will be less likely to grab things you don’t need.
- Bring cash. If you charge too much, your credit card may suspect fraudulent activity and block your card.
- Limit your fluid intake. “I don’t like to drink a lot of fluids that day in the morning because then you have to use the bathroom,” Arnholt says. “I don’t have time.”
- Leave the kids at home. Overzealous shoppers have no qualms using their carts to run others over.