Saturday, November 28, 2009

Keep Calm and Carry On

No doubt you twitterers saw the #BlackFriday hashtag as a popular trending topic yesterday. It’s a visceral issue for nearly everyone; I have a hard time finding people who are indifferent to it. They either love the challenge of finding the best bargains and fighting the crowds, eagerly anticipating marching into the malls with coupons, lists, and battle plans. Or, they stay inside their turkey-reeking homes and enjoy a lackadaisical day of lounging and leftovers, fully embracing the lingering effects of their Turkey Day food comas.

The sanity of people who participate in this madness every year used to be highly suspect in my mind. I’d see the news coverage of people waiting in lines outside in the cold and shopping at midnight…at Walmart. I’d hear about the fights that suburban moms would get into over Furbies and Tickle Me Elmos. I’d like to think that on any other day, these people would pass for normal humans.

It’s true that Black Friday doesn’t really bring out the best in humanity. The mob mentality rules as logic and manners are thrown to the wayside and impatient and entitled people push each other around in the stores. Plus, it’s the one day a year that the very worst parkers and drivers go to the malls. Judgment is entirely led by the desire to feel like a victorious consumer. BUT, if you can tough it out, you really can find great deals with minimal pain—financial, psychological, or otherwise.

The thing is…you’ve got to want it. Black Friday is not for the weak-hearted. No.

So, here are some of my tips for a pleasant (yep, I said pleasant) and productive Black Friday experience.

1. Don’t get up earlier than 5. I mean, have some self-respect.

2. Do go to Starbucks. You have just ripped your body from the womb of a warm bed; listen to its screams for caffeine and fuel. Secondary benefit: those ever-pleasant baristas will help you start off that stupidly early first hour of your day with a smile. When I went in yesterday to grab a peppermint mocha, the first barista asked me if I was heading out to shop. The second barista rolled his eyes and said, “Well, I don’t think they’re going deep-sea fishing.” That’s comedy, people, and it’ll start your day off right.

3. Wear comfortable clothes that are easy to change out of. While other shoppers focus on electronics or toys, I focus on clothes. Yesterday, I probably tried on twenty party dresses and fifteen pairs of jeans. (Like I said, you’ve got to want it.) Oh, and never enter a dressing room without three items, minimum; make the hassle of changing worth your time.

4. Be nice to everyone, but especially store employees. There are two reasons for this: First, it’s important to be nice in general, but I especially feel sorry for all the crap that people in retail have to put up with from shoppers who want to argue for ten minutes about the validity of coupons or the misleading fine print in a mail ad. I sympathize with them. And second, they’ll be much more helpful and responsive if you’re nice. One lady gave me an extra 11% discount yesterday because I just asked how she was doing.

5. Keeping tip #4 in mind, don’t get too friendly with employees. I made the mistake of trying to joke around with a GAP girl yesterday like she knew me. “These jeans are so cheap, it’s stupid!” I told her. I think all she heard me say was that GAP was stupid, because she looked a bit wounded by my comment. (Sorry, Annie. I forgot we’re not real-life friends.)

6. Leave your pets at home on Black Friday. I saw a man shopping with his canine companion at Macy’s yesterday. And it wasn’t even a small purse dog like the kind women use to accessorize…it was big! And it was wearing a sweater. Like, why would you do that to your dog?

7. Make a list and stick to it so you don't buy things you don't need just because they're on sale. I needed a skirt and sunglasses; I bought a skirt and sunglasses. I also made sure I had a list of people I needed to buy gifts for. Remember to never buy something just because it’s on sale; only buy it if you really love it.

Alright…now, start planning your shopping strategy for next year!

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