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Ryan Johnson, Published November 21 2013

Johnson: Follow these tips for Black Friday shopping success

Forget about turkey and stuffing – this time of year is all about standing in line.

Whether it’s waiting to get tickets to the next big movie, like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” last night, or trying to snag the limited new Playstation 4 or Xbox One, or lining up early to get Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals, many of us will stand in a long line this month.

After spending three of the past four Black Fridays hunkered down with anxious shoppers to write articles about their exploits, I’ve learned some simple tips that can make the experience much more enjoyable – and successful – for local bargain hunters willing to risk frostbite or miss a home-cooked meal to participate in some frenzied shopping.

• Be motivated.

There are sales everywhere this time of year. But unless a shopper personally cares about what they’re trying to buy, spending several hours outside on a cold, dark sidewalk can amount to self-inflicted torture.

My first Black Friday assignment was to stand in line overnight to get one of the cheapest items of the day, a $3 coffeemaker to bring back to the office.

I waited for about six hours before the department store opened, and I still was behind about 100 brave souls who arrived earlier. The first hour wasn’t bad, but as I slowly lost all feeling in my fingers and toes, I struggled to endure the wait.

If I hadn’t been required to write a story about it, I would’ve given up and gone home.

But I stuck it out, picked up a bargain coffeemaker and was the hero of the newsroom, at least until the appliance broke three days later.

If you’re looking for a new TV and know that an eight-hour wait will mean saving 50 percent, standing in line is probably worth it. But if you’re just trying to buy cheap candles or $3 DVDs, it’s likely not worth it.

• Be prepared.

Nothing will derail a would-be shopper’s plans like a lack of preparation.

During last year’s Black Friday, when a winter storm howled and temperatures plummeted, I was surrounded by line-waiters wearing little more than sweatpants, hooded sweatshirts and sneakers. Even with nice gloves, my fingers got so cold that I couldn’t write in my notebook.

Being underdressed will make the wait absolutely miserable, and you’re not there to win any fashion contests. Dress appropriately, and after that, put another layer on.

• Be partnered.

Don’t go alone.

The best way to pass several hours is to suffer through it with a funny sibling or good friend.

Sure, you might never speak to each other again because you’ll only be reminded of your shared trauma. Or maybe your bond will grow stronger. Either way, your time in line will go by much quicker if you’re not alone.

• Be strategic.

Make a shopping list, and stick to it.

Your brain won’t work properly after hours of standing outside, and you could end up with a cartful of stuff you didn’t plan to buy.

Many stores have Black Friday maps that show you where every sale item will be. Study it, plan a route and make it your goal to head for the checkout lane as soon as you find your items.

If not, you might end up like me on my first Black Friday assignment, when my exhaustion and lack of planning made me unable to pass up the savings. The $300 car stereo I bought was nice, though I’m not sure why I needed a new one – the stereo I already had was less than a year old and working just fine.

• Be patient.

This is the hardest advice to follow, but also the most important.

Try to keep in mind that it’s the holiday season. It’s not appropriate to shove people out of the way or budge in line, even if you think it will boost your chances of shopping victory.

Many advertised items will still be in stock whether you’re customer No. 1 or 100. Remember that no deal is worth the guilt you’ll feel for grabbing the last sale item from the hands of someone who has waited even longer than you.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587