The Do's and Don'ts of Black Friday

As one relative put it, only in America do we have a shopping holiday the day after we give thanks for what we already have. It is a shame the two events are right after one another if you think about it, but ignoring the country's culture of excess, the savings on Black Friday just too good to pass up. Well at least at some shopping destinations. Black Friday derives its name from retailers who go from being in the red, or losing money, to being in the black, or making money, on the day after Thanksgiving each year. It kicks off the holiday shopping season that for many companies is a make it or break it time of year in terms of finances. The day has also come to be equated with long lines and pushy customers, and every year the stores open earlier and earlier. Having been a manager at a clothing retailer for many years and from my own experiences being a shopper, I know a thing or two about the biggest shopping day of the year. I've broken down what I have learned into types of stores, marking them as either do's or don'ts, but any shopping on Thanksgiving I say is a no no. Wait until at least midnight, taking the time to truly appreciate what Thanksgiving is all about.

Big Box Stores

Retailers like Target and Walmart are the leaders in Black Friday insanity. Expect outrageous lines and customers who are ruthless in their pursuit of discounts (remember all those trampling deaths a few years ago?). They have big ticket items like TVs and Blu-ray players for next to nothing, which draw the crazys in, but keep in mind they are usually off brands of questionable quality. My favorite steals at these stores tend to be TV series on DVD (a season of Vampire Diaries for $10? Yes!) and top toy brands for 50% off or more. With these deals, I mark these stores a DO, but because of how intense the shopping is at this type of store, I would only recommend heading there if you have specific items you want. Black Friday definitely isn't the day for browsing the aisles.

The Outlets

Outlets are seen as having great deals all year round, but the marginal decrease in price over the regular store usually equates with a decrease in quality making them not worth it. But on Black Friday many outlet stores are 50% off store wide, which is a much better deal, especially for items that are expensive like shoes and vests. How can they afford to have prices that low? Outlet stores deal in volume and how much they make is based on how much you buy. Coming from a family of mostly girls and with Christmas lists comprised mostly of clothing items, I am marking the outlets as a DO.

Department Stores

Department stores have a lot of promotions throughout their stores on Black Friday, but they are the same sales they will have throughout the holiday season. The best thing about department stores? The door busters, which tend to be housewares like bedding, cutlery, or cookware, are available for $10 to $20, a fraction of their usual price. Like big box stores, you have to be wary of what brands the door busters are. I love enamel cast iron cookware, but it is way out of my price range except on Black Friday. Macy's has a no name 2.75 quart pot for $24.99 and all the Martha Stewart enamel cast iron cookware is 60% off (prices usually start at $120). With the exception of some of these door busters, I mark these stores a DON'T. Head to these stores on a less crazy day during the holiday shopping season.

Specialty Retailers

Stores that focus on selling their own brand of items are known as speciality retailers. As I said before, I have worked at a big name clothing retailer for many years. Speciality retailers jumped on the Black Friday wagon late and don't put as much emphasis on the day. They still want some of the spending action, so they do early bird specials with glaring signs at the front of the store with $70 jeans for less than $20 and $60 sweaters for $10. Sounds like a great deal right? Wrong. The reason those items are on special is because the store overbought and the item is not selling well. Retailers are trying to get you to buy the item before they have to mark it down and effect their margins. Trust me, there will be dozens of every size and color in those items on sale for $5.97 at the end of the season. For that reason, specialty retailers are a DON'T.

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