By Jerry Jones
My first Black Friday working in retail was terrifying. A line stretched a mile long outside and as the doors opened a tidal wave crashed into me, drowning me in a sea of consumerism and frantic, angry people.
They rushed past, knocking each other around, clambering for deals marginally better than they could get year-round online. I was working in the appliances section of a major retailer at the time, with a small register hidden behind many full sized refrigerators. As shoppers rushed past me towards the electronic section, I sat quietly biding my time. My moment would come soon.
Then, 30 minutes after the doors open, the lines came; lines for the register so long they did double loops around the entire store. Shoppers eager to get on to the next rush of Black Friday sales were stonewalled, unable to move, trapped in lines that would take hours to sort out. My time had come.
A customer rushed up to me.
“Is this register open?” he asked, desperately.
“I’m afraid this register is only for appliance customers, sir,” I said, with an expression best reserved for funerals.
“What’s the cheapest item you sell?” he asked and I smiled widely.
That day I sold every useless item in my stock to customers willing to pay a bit more to avoid the line: electric can openers, cordless wine openers, stainless steel cleaning kits and luxury toasters. It was a win for everyone. They got out and on to the next store, and my departmental earnings soared on a day known for abysmal appliances sales. It was one of many Black Friday hacks that I’ve observed in the years I’ve worked retail since.
Black Friday hacks are all around you, little cheats that allow you to get the most out of your Black Friday experience. These range from online shopping to register tricks, all of which can save you time, money and deliver the same fantastic bargains you have come to expect.
Still, my best advice as a consumer advocate is to tuck in on Black Friday and watch the chaos from the comfort of your home. Here’s why:
The best time of the year to buy televisions is February
You may think you’re getting a fantastic door buster sale, but the best time of the year to buy is still in January and February, when stores have leftover surplus from the holiday season and new models will be coming out for spring. If you can wait two more months, you’ll save hundreds of dollars.
Kitchen appliance specials rarely sell out
Have your eye on a new kitchen appliance for Black Friday? You can start by sleeping in. Most “10 per store” appliance sales for Black Friday stay available for days afterwards. The 5 a.m. shoppers are interested in electronics alone and appliance bargains go unnoticed.
Door Buster sales are tricks
Door busters are hard to beat, and that’s because companies take a loss on those products to get you in the door. The math is simple; take a slight loss on 10 products to get thousands in the door. Odds are very high you will not be one of the first 10 in line, and if you are not, go home and enjoy a nice nap.
What’s not a Door buster is standard price
Every item that is not a door buster has been featured at that price during some point in the year. It’s a trick companies use, a “Best Of” pricing scheme to clear out old stock. Even better prices can be found during the retail slump in February/March, when most retail business struggle to survive.
Amazon crushes Black Friday sales
It’s just as true on Black Friday as it is any other day of the week. Amazon often matches many in store prices, and ordering off their website from the comfort of your pajamas is a touch more inviting than standing in line at midnight on Thanksgiving. Black Monday, the cyber equivalent of Black Friday, has become extremely powerful in its own right.
If you are still bound and determined to go, here are some hacks to keep you alive and shopping:
Choose city stores over country stores
You may think waiting in line at a Wal-Mart in the outskirts of town is a good idea, but fewer stores mean more people. The shortest lines can be found in the heart of the city, where many options means many places for lines to build.
Choose The Mall
If you don’t have your heart set on one item, head to the mall. Lines are big to begin, but disperse very quickly once inside. The plethora of stores means more division, and many of these smaller retailers are hungry for business and slash prices.
Look to smaller stores
The Salvation Army often runs an “Everything for a dollar sale”. Before Black Friday, research smaller store options for fantastic bargains you didn’t know existed. They often offer more diverse options and better deals than the retail giants.
Pack a lunch
Not just for the time spent in line, but for when morning comes. Shops aren’t the only thing slammed on Black Friday, restaurants, fast food and food trucks become miles deep with lines. If the craving to eat comes, you’ll have no choice but to wait a couple of hours for a burger. Save yourself some hassle and pack a lunch. It will allow you to spend more time shopping and less time surviving.
No one will price match
No one will price match a competing Black Friday sale or online Black Monday sale. Even stores that price match year-round will refuse you. The reasons are easily understood and pushing the issue with a sales associate will make them less likely to help you.
Seek other registers
Black Friday is the one day of the year sales associates can turn you down from departmental cash registers…unless you buy something from their department. Then they cannot turn you away. Decide if a $10 sporting goods item is worth skipping an hour-long checkout.