Black Friday - 8 Survival Tips

Black Friday

Image courtesy of Iamnee /

What happens when you take tired, frustrated and stressed customers and throw them into a turkey fueled marination of family drama, a heavy dose of overworked, underpaid, minimum wage earning retail store employees and sprinkle with stressed out members of management being squeezed by corporate to do even more work with ever diminishing staff and what do you have? Well that would be the biggest retail day of the year. Black Friday!

Now, this isn't the first Black Friday and this upcoming one is my sixth rodeo with my current employer and before that I've seen nearly ten previous renditions of this retail holiday; over half of which was while I was in leadership roles with various companies and I would like to take a few minutes to bestow, just a few simple rules to live by while visiting your favorite retail store be it Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Target, Best Buy, or Sears.

So, below is a simple list of rules to aid you, and those who have the distinct privilege or serving you, survive this year's Black Friday Extravaganza!


1. Have a plan.

Whether you are doing Black Friday with a group of seasoned veterans, by yourself, or a cart load adult children that grab hold of the first shiny thing they get there mitts on, you should have a well thought out plan.

You should know where you are going, what you are getting and where it's located in the store. If you are personable you may be able to talk to a member of management (especially if you frequent the store often) and find out where they might be placing that 400 inch TV that's only 15¢ for the first 32 seconds that the store is open. However, if they can't or won't share that information with you, don't take it as a personal insult. They are just trying to be fair. Make sure to thank them. (They have a lot to do over the next couple days and probably haven't slept much.)

2. Shop with a group. (aka Divide and Conquer)

This goes hand in hand with #1. If you have a good plan, it should include multiple people with a good ability to follow directions. Optionally, everyone should have a cell phone ( a smart phone if available) that they can use to contact people within the group and, in a pinch, something to entertain you while you wait in line

Before entering a store, or even before you leave home, everyone should know what they are doing and what they are getting in every store. They should be someone you can trust to make decisions without help, but also have a singular focus to go get what they are supposed to get and not dilly dally looking at all the entanglement merchandise.

3. Research Research Research

Nearly EVERY company has released their Black Friday ads by now and you should have downloaded them all, printed them up, and cut out little pictures to give to each person. You should know, what the cost should be for all the items and be certain there is enough room on your credit card(s) for all the items you want. This is crucial!

The last thing you want to do is get all the items you want, stand in line for 30 minutes to check out and be unable to purchase the items because you don't have enough room on your credit cards. This is frustrating for you, for the cashier, and for the other 10,000 people standing in line behind you.

So take the time to research all of those things and make sure you have a buffer for any entanglement merchandise you didn't want to waste time getting entangled with. (More on this later)

4. Respect others.

You know all about this, you learned about it in kindergarten and frankly its a good practice to use for your everyday interactions with others; not just in a retail environment and not just on Black Friday.

This applies to both the store staff, the members of management, AND other customers who are in the same boat as you.

Smile. Say, "thank you" and "please". Drive carefully (both inside and outside the stores). And wait your turn!

This leads right into...

5. Don't FUCKING run like a crazy person!

Seriously... don't run. The store has generally enough product to support the demand. And really, what are you trying to prove? Slow THE FUCK down; getting there 27 seconds before another person might make the difference between getting that item or leaving empty handed, but was it really worth it to push that middle aged woman out of the way, or trampling that four-year-old?

Just, seriously, slow down the worst thing that can happen is that you miss out on a great deal today. If you run, the worst thing that happens is you trip over a child sending them careening down an escalator while you fall eye socket first onto a pencil and (to top it all off) don't get the item you want.

Which reminds me...

6. Keep your expectations low.

Do try to get what you want, but don't expect that you will get all of it. Don't even bank your entire holiday season on getting everything on your list. Take your time. If you miss out, you miss out. There will be other sales and, in most cases, better sales.

If I walk away from a Black Friday having got one of the items I wanted, I feel accomplished. Anything else is a bonus.

And sometimes those bonuses are completely unexpected! As an example...

7. If you have it in your hand, buy it!

Now I'm not advocating buying EVERYTHING you pick up, but I am advocating having a safe margin of "extras" you can buy while Black Friday shopping.

So here's a little insider secret. Companies use Black Friday sales to drive you to their stores in hopes of packing your cart with "entanglement merchandise" or stuff that isn't on sale right now, but you will probably buy because you are there. For example, batteries, decorations, candy, food, other normal sale items, accessories, and add-ons.

This is where a good budget or a large credit limit can come in handy. Just buy it, most stores have very lax return policies especially if the item is unopened and you still have the receipt (both of which you should).  But IF you should lose the receipt and are trying to return the item, be gentle with the employee doing the return. Their options are often limited when there is no receipt. Don't argue with them, be happy you can do anything. OR don't lose the receipt in the first place!

And finally... if all else fails and none of these things seem to prepare you or the stress is completely spiraling your sanity out of control...

8. Stay home.

It's where all your stuff is. You know... all the stuff you just HAD to have last year for Black Friday. Also, its warm and there aren't crazy people trying to run you over for the latest fad, best deal, or because you just didn't move fast enough.

Yea... if I didn't have to work this Black Friday... I know what I would be doing.

Drinking... at home...



Justin is a cohost on the immensely popular I Think, You Think Podcast. He also supplements this by actually working a mere 40+ hours a week as a Manager for a retail store.

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