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Nov. 17, 2011

Black friday tips and tricks

by Helen Bowers, Print Managing Entertainment Editor and Ruth Aitken, Print Features Editor
For those who willingly haul their post-Thanksgiving selves off of their couches to engage in competitive shopping early in the morning, Black Friday is an annual tradition. Naysayers, however, regard Black Friday as a materialistic mad dash. Whether you're a Black Friday enthusiast or rookie, there are some things that every bargain-savvy Blazer should know.

Battle plan

There are two things you should never plunge into head first: boiling acid and crowds of Black Friday shoppers. Like all major events, Black Friday requires necessary preparation. The first step is to do a little bit of research before you set out for the mall. You don't want to find yourself bragging to your friends about the sweater you just got, only to find that they got it for a lower price somewhere else. Ideally, you'll show up to the mall with printouts of the price lists for your favorite stores, which you can get online at theblackfriday.com, or blackfriday2011.com.

But don't let flashy deals fool you; buying pants that rip the day after is annoying enough, but imagine getting a new laptop that crashes the day before your essay is due. If you're looking to buy major products like a new computer or television, then you'll want to do a little research on brands before you go shopping. Consumerreports.com and About.com are both great sites where professionals and buyers can rate the product you're thinking of getting.

Besides getting good quality merchandise, the best way to have a fulfilling Black Friday experience is to shop strategically, with your emphasis on planning ahead and using your common sense. With massive crowds bent on getting the best prices, wandering around and browsing is not really an option on Black Friday, punctuality and efficiency are substantial factors when planning your shopping extravaganza.

If being stuck behind hundreds of cars (all filled with eager shoppers gunning for the same stores you want to get to) isn't frustrating enough, imagine having to drive back home through that traffic when you're exhausted from shopping all day. Early is the name of the game on Black Friday, so choose a mall that has a lot of stores that you're interested in and where transportation won't take a long time.

Before you set out into the traffic jam that is Black Friday, make sure you bring a shopping list. You don't want come home completely thrilled with your new stuff, only to find that you've blown all your money shopping, and don't have any money to do things with friends on the weekends. You'll also want to make sure your friends and family know what's on your list, so they don't get you the same thing. Having a list will also help you figure which stores you want to visit, and which mall is the most logical. And don't worry, having a list doesn't mean you can't splurge a little bit, you can always allot yourself a certain amount of money for those "Oh man, I NEED to have that!" items.

So now that you have a list and a plan, the next thing to plan is what to bring when you're in the stores. Backpacks and small purses are inadvisable to say the least. Fanny packs, though ultra unfashionable, are probably the safest bet, otherwise use tote bags or something similar, putting your stuff in shopping bags can over stuff them, causing them to tear at the worst possible moment.

So once you've found your bag of choice, you've got to fill it with the right stuff. Make sure to bring snacks (power bars, water, etc...) because food court lines will be unbelievably long, and you won't want to waste any time. Make sure you can fit a sweater in your bag; it will be cold in the mornings but things will heat up as the day goes on, and you might want to shed a layer. Most importantly: get a lot of sleep the night before and eat a protein-packed breakfast, you'll need all the energy you can get on Black Friday.

Botches

Although Black Friday is some shoppers' wonderland, unsuspecting shoppers can fall victim to any of a number of classic Black Friday pitfalls. Fortunately, well-informed shoppers can avoid becoming casualties of the day's festivities.

Amidst the frenzy of caffeinated customers rushing to claim triple-markdown products before their competitors, it's easy to grab the occasional novelty item that seems like a great bargain in the moment, but is actually a piece of junk. At the end of the day, you may find a few such items in your basket, at which point you should ask yourself, "Do I really want this glow-in-the-dark Spongebob coat rack, or am I buying it because it was on clearance?" The smartest shoppers are those who are wary of impulse purchases.

If you do decide that the coat rack is a must, make sure it fits into your automobile. Obviously, if you have no way of transporting your purchases, you have a problem. Similarly, leaving any packages or bags in plain sight in your car is a mistake. Thieves have been known to target unsuspecting and careless Black Friday shoppers' vehicles, and you don't want to count yourself among the unlucky victims. Instead, put purchases in your trunk or hide them beneath a seat.

Shopping with a friend can be much more efficient and enjoyable than browsing sale racks alone, but feuding with your friends is a major faux pas. Don't bring a friend with whom you may find yourself battling over the last pair of designer shoes; bickering over those Jimmy Choos is not a good reason to put strain on a friendship. Besides, you'll need those friends to help you retain your sanity throughout the day.

Black Friday for the claustrophobic

If the prospect of navigating through disorganized isles crammed with disgruntled strangers is unappealing to you, then Cyber Monday may provide a convenient alternative. On the Monday following Black Friday, many Internet retailers similarly mark their products down, offering shoppers the same deals without any of the crowds or actual physical exertion.

On Cyber Monday, many retailers offer free shipping and lucrative sales to entice shoppers to purchase their merchandise. Often, the same products that can be found on haphazard store shelves can be purchased in Cyber Monday sales and delivered right to your door.

Of course, some problems exist on the Internet that can be avoided by braving the crowds in stores. Always ensure that your computer is properly equipped with antivirus software. If you receive any emails following an online transaction that claim that your information was not processed properly, do not ever resubmit any personal info. Instead, call the company and ask about the status of your purchase. Often, identity thieves send fake emails with the intention of acquiring personal information.

Avoid any ads from questionable or unfamiliar sources advertising Cyber Monday sales that seem too good to be true. Even on Cyber Monday, it is not very likely that Apple desktops will be selling for ten dollars apiece. As for pop-up ads, you are not really the millionth page visitor this month every single time you visit that page- it probably would not be wise to try to collect the iPad you just won.



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