It wasn’t easy accumulating the research data displayed in the following guide. I saw horrific sights working retail for seven long years in both a big box electronic store and a major shopping center. I saw things that will haunt me the rest of my days. I watched two kids get trampled by what I call Double-Wides because Circuit City clearanced-out Dreamcasts for $80 on Black Friday. I once hid behind a massive video display just for a few moments during the chaos. I’ve seen people fight, bite, and trample other members of our human race just to save a few dollars.
What follows is perhaps the most comprehensive Black Friday guide ever assembled. There are shopping tactics, buying guides, survival tips, and a thorough rundown of the different types of Black Friday shoppers you will encounter. Please, if you’re considering shopping on Black Friday, think about your family, your dog, your livelihood and reconsider. If you’re still convinced that it’s the right thing to do, be sure to thoroughly read The Black Friday Survival Guide. Your life literally depends on it.
Know Thy Enemy
This type of Black Friday shopper is becoming more and more common, almost as if there’s an epidemic sweeping the nation causing more of these types. These shoppers are nearly impossible to avoid, so use their sheer size for your own gain. Think more NASCAR than football. You’re going to draft behind of them as they plow through Smokers and Big Papis (see below). Once the target is within sight, a quick bump should cause them to stumble just long enough for you to shoot ahead and snatch the last Kinect holiday bundle before they can get their sausage fingers on it — just watch out for a Big Papi if you perform this maneuver. A simple “Look, it’s cheaper on that endcap.” might be all it takes for a half-second distraction.
- Strengths: Size, weight, and Medusa-like eyes
- Weakness: Top heavy, simple minded
- Primary Attack: A massive forearm
- Secondary Attack: A series of racial and off-color slurs
- Primary Targets: Kid’s toys, Lane Bryant sales, hunting equipment
Smokers are generally of the female orientation, but don’t be surprised to see some from the male gender either. This shopper generally spends 3AM to 4AM clam baking in their minivan, with the primary goal of creating a vile personal safety bubble that most will not dare enter. Be careful, these are wiry folks; hunched over from years of smoking three packs a day, they come prepped for Black Friday with at least one whole pot of Folgers Coffee in their gut. While they may be quick off the line, they also get winded quickly. It’s best to give them plenty of room to run with the goal of outlasting them.
- Strengths: Small stature, initially quick, stinky
- Weakness: Tires quickly
- Primary Attack: The vile smell of loosies seeping from their pores
- Secondary Attack: Fake fingernails
- Primary Targets: Makeup, house-brand clothing, diamond chip jewelry
Big Papis generally sport either NFL jerseys or Real Tree hunting appeal. Both make them easy to spot. The best course of action is to simply avoid these beasts at all cost. They might seem mild-mannered from a distance, but they generally accompany a Double-Wide during her hunting spree and will protect their property at all costs. If you topple a Double-Wide, duck into the crowd immediately, because a Big Papi would like nothing more than to justify getting up at 3AM by making the local news after pounding your face.
These dudes might also be shopping by themselves; this is where the NFL jerseys and camo come into play. It’s their way of maintaining a bit of manhood while participating in a generally female ritual. If spotted alone, use the same tactics for the Double-Wides as they are generally in the same mental state.
- Strengths: Height, longer arms, the natural ability to be a hunter
- Weakness: Verbal emasculation
- Primary Attack: Linebacker-size shoulders
- Secondary Attack: A nearly impenetrable beer gut
- Primary Targets: Cooking equipment, cheap electronics, ladies nightwear
This is by far the most deadly of all Black Friday shoppers. A Mothership’s primary goal is to hit multiple stores one after another by utilizing her teenage offspring and friends. These children will do anything to impress their mother and their small frame makes them perfect for ducking and diving through crowds while the Mothership waits outside the stores front door with the engine running. The teenagers are fine shoppers, it’s the Mothership that will kill wondering Old Timers when traveling between stores. She’ll peel out from a store with her eyes buried in her bags, inspecting each one to ensure the entire list was purchased. Scary stuff.
- Strengths: Dispenses a pack of shoppers
- Weakness: None
- Primary Attack: 6,000lb SUV
- Secondary Attack: A swarm of Red Bull-powered teenage girls
- Primary Targets: Doorbusters
These folks are more cute than they are dangerous. Old Timers can be either male or female; it doesn’t matter. Their Members Only jackets or London Fog overcoats generally give them away. The male Old Timers are generally found with their hands in their pockets, waiting patiently by the front door for their female counterpart. Women Old Timers might put up an angry front, but most of the time they’ll unknowingly handover a doorbuster to a teary-eyed Mothership offspring. Do the right thing, and side with the Old Timer.
- Strengths: Honesty and kindness
- Weakness: Honesty and kindness
- Primary Attack: The old lady look
- Secondary Attack: None
- Primary Targets: Kids toys, space heaters, and coffee makers
The Buddy System, Always
Black Friday is serious business; potential for danger is very real. Please, always travel in packs of two. You’ll have each others backs. Double-Wides tend to rush product displays like $7.99 food buffets, but remember, a nonchalant shove in their upper half will likely cause them to lose balance and could save the life of your partner — or at least net you the last half-priced Hannah Montana Dream Star Acoustic guitar.
Another potentially risky maneuver: the “Blind Checkout”. This calls for sending one shopper into the fray while another immediately gets in line upon entering a store. It’s best performed if you’re getting to a store shortly after the doors open. Rude Smokers will generally cause a stink if this is noticed, but a person waiting in line can counter this by grabbing a random product to hold while waiting. Simply give this unwanted item to the clerk while checking out. Your timing needs to be spot-on though. If the line waiter gets in line too early, they’ll be left awkwardly empty-handed if the shopper doesn’t return with the items quickly. (Pro-tip: if you’re next in line and product-less, pretend to answer an important phone call, step out of line, and just jump right back to the end 30 seconds later.)
Communication Is Vital
Watches need to be synced and there should always be an open line of communication. Get Bluetooth headsets, learn how to use the conference call on your cell phones, even using two-way radios are worth the cost of your pride to ensure team members can communicate — for both safety and efficiency reasons.
People die on Black Friday. If a team gets split up (intentionally or not), being able to locate other members dramatically reduces the chance of death by Double-Wides or Motherships. It instills a sense of security and clears a shoppers mind if they’re not frantically racing through the aisles. Those attempting the Blind Checkout can generally achieve success with a constant open line.
Know Your Route
The best doorbusters are at the largest stores. It’s best to scout out these locations the day before Thanksgiving as most of the time the stores are already prepped. Doorbusters are generally piled up on endcaps or in the middle of the aisles. Make a mental note of these locations and the best way to circumvent the hoard of Double-Wides and Smokers.
If abiding by the Buddy System rules, take your partner with you. The worst thing that could happen is to scout the locations by yourself on Wednesday, only to suffer an early injury on Black Friday pushing you to the role of Line Waiting. If both members of the shopping party know the layout, each member becomes virtually identical and able to perform multiple roles.
Bring Extra Supplies
If shopping in the ‘burbs, pack your car with extra solid and liquid foods. It’s best to stay away from fiber-rich energy bars or greasy fast food breakfast sandwiches. Instead, pack lunch-type foods: ham roll-ups, peanut butter sandwiches, even your kid’s Lunchables will work. You need good protein from a substance that your body is more likely to hold on to rather than want to evacuate quickly.
Don’t fall into the trap of coffee either. That is, of course, unless you’re well away of its effects on your bladder and can work a potty break into the shopping schedule. The same applies for large energy drinks. Don’t fuel up on an unknown drink as it may cause unknown consequences. Instead, drink plenty of water and let your body’s natural adrenaline provide the extra rush of energy. Plan for a nap the day before by ensuring your home is in the proper state post-Thanksgiving to allow such an activity.
Plan, Plan, Plan
There’s no reason to get taken advantage of on Black Friday. Utilize online Black Friday sites now to make sure the deals are really worth it. Is saving $10 on a $100 item really worth getting plowed over by a Mothership? No. But saving $300 on a $1000 HDTV probably is.
The most important thing to remember about Black Friday is that stores are out to make money, not save you money. Only buy doorbusters items. Retailers capitalize on the notion of a perceived sale and gently inflate the prices of other items in the weeks preceding the biggest shopping day of the year. Don’t wander into Best Buy on Black Friday’s afternoon with the goal of buying any ol’ HDTV. That’s playing into their hands. Wait until the following weeks when the entire selection goes on sale for real. If the Doorbusters aren’t your thing, save some stress and stay in on Black Friday with your Turkey Day leftovers. Then you can prepare for Cyber Monday.
[Note: This was originally published in 2010, but it is a timely less post and deserved to be resurfaced. Enjoy!]
images from The Zombie Survival Guide