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Black Friday for Newbies

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I am pretty amazed at how many people either do not understand what Black Friday is or have never taken part in it before. It is by far the best time for shopping if you want great deals, but it is also often misunderstood. This article serves as a guide to better understand why the day is so important, as well as what you need to know before getting involved.

When is Black Friday?

Black Friday is always the day after Thanksgiving. Since Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, it makes sense, right? Traditionally, the Black Friday sales have always started on Friday morning. As of recently, however (especially this year) they have gotten earlier and earlier, even getting to the point where they are occurring on Thursday night (and evening) as well. It is a little backwards from the name, but things have been changing from year to year.

What is Black Friday?

Basically, the best way to view Black Friday is as being the day where all the best sales are happening. There are tons of great deals to get, and most stores celebrate the holiday. If you are looking for things like Christmas presents, this is an awesome time to get them, as the discounts can be pretty substantial (this year, for example, there were fifty inch televisions for $229). The issue, however, is actually being able to make one of these awesome purchases.

How Does it Work?

When you go to a store, you find what you want and you buy it. If the store does not have what you are going for and it happens to be on sale, you can often get a rain check that allows you to purchase it at a later date for the same sale price you missed out on. Black Friday is vastly different from this, in that almost nobody offers rain checks. This year Wal-Mart did allow it on some items, but there was only a small selection. Past this, I have never heard of another store doing this since the holiday is a huge one for the shopping season.

When you are looking for items that are on sale, the best plan is to pick up the newspaper the week of Thanksgiving (I think it is usually the Wednesday one). This will have ads for the different stores, and they will all be based on Black Friday. This is important because different locations, even while having the same stores, can have different items or sales going on. Ensuring that what you are looking at is for your specific location is important to ensure that you are hunting down the right items.

Pick a route. If you are hunting solo, this can be harder. What you want to do is take the items you want and the stores they are located at (along with the times of the sales for each item, since some stores have multiple different times) and write them in an organized chart. From here, you want to start working to figure out your path. You can either start based on the place that has the most items you want or the place that has the item you want most. The worst feeling is when you spend all of your time dealing with this and you end up with absolutely nothing due to not planning it out, so you want to be sure you know what you want to do. One store may have just one item and it is the one you want most, and another may have items you want less but have multiple of them. It is up to you to decide which is the most important for your trip, as the chances of being able to hit up multiple stores and get the sale items is usually low (unless you have friends or family that can help out as well, in which case you work with them to help everyone get what they are going for).

Prepare for a long wait. This will largely depend on what location you are going to, and it is best to learn about this from past years. I have been to multiple cities for Black Friday, and each one has worked a little different. For example, I have seen some places where you can easily get the sale items just by going to the store at the open time (at least the door buster open time) and others where people line up many hours prior to opening to ensure they get their items. If you happen to be in an area where the latter is the norm, be ready to spend many hours waiting. It may seem like a long and boring period of time, but it is just like everything else; it is what you make of it. You can meet a lot of other Black Friday shoppers and get to know people while everyone is waiting outside, so it can be a bit of a social event if you take part. If not, you can just sit around and wait as well.

Vouchers. Some stores will give out vouchers for the hot items that are limited in number. This allows people that have been waiting in line to ensure that they are getting what they were going for, but these tickets go out fast. If you happen to be at a store where this happens and you get a ticket, you are free to go do whatever you want and purchase the item once things have calmed down a bit. The issue with these is that you never know when and if they will be given out. Our Best Buy does it, but one in a nearby city does not, for example. And when they do, sometimes they will come out hours before they open and other times they will wait until just prior. In any case, it is important to understand how they work but not to expect to get one.

Price matching. So what happens when you find that your favorite store has an item you want that is on sale at other stores but not that one? Sadly, there is no price matching on Black Friday (I think there was one or two stores that did allow it under certain situations, but that is far from the norm). You are pretty much stuck with whatever store has the sale, and if you miss it you are out of luck. This becomes a little problematic when the store you want something from is a decent distance away from you, being that you can not just get it locally for the same price you see advertised.

Safety. Black Friday brings up a lot of safety concerns with consumers. It is amazing what people will do to take your discounted item, and the fights (and things like stabbings) occur both in stores and outside them. You need to be very careful and be sure that you are always being safe. The number of fights that happen inside stores alone is pretty massive. You could just be grabbing the last DvD player that is on sale and find yourself in a much more problematic situation. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that nothing is worth losing your life over and nothing is worth putting yourself in to jail for. Just be aware of the people around you, and if you can, have someone pick you up at the front of the store (especially if you parked far away due to a full parking lot), as this will cut down on the issues you have getting your new purchases out to your vehicle. If you have any reason to believe that you are already in danger, stores with Black Friday sales have security that can help escort you to your vehicle. There is no shame in asking for the help!

Sale Items

Sale items can include just about anything. Clothing, dishes, electronics, etc. are all pretty popular, with electronics being by far the most sought after. If you are going for items that are less desired (in the case of this year, it was towels and curtains), you will have a much bigger chance of being able to get what you are looking for than if you are going for the same items everyone else is. This, of course, does not mean that you will be able to get everything (or even anything) that you want, but it does increase the chances.

If you are wanting to see examples of what to expect, you can check out previous years' sales online (just Google the previous year and Black Friday). For the most part, the same general items are on sale from year to year, so it should help at least get an idea of what you are looking for. Do keep in mind, however, that some items that are on sale for Black Friday are not actually on “sale” and will still be full price. Examples of this would be the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 this year. While not so important to know every item that is going to be full priced, just be aware that just because an item is listed in an ad somewhere does not mean that you are going to be saving money by buying it. These cases are pretty rare, though, and are generally used by stores more as a way to say “hey, that hot item that nobody has in stock? We are about to have some!” Even without the discounts, some of these items are great to get.

Conclusion

Black Friday can be an awesome day to go shopping. Whether you are looking for items for yourself or for family and friends for the holidays, there are some great deals to be had. You can save a lot of money, but it requires patience and proper planning. You can easily waste the entire day and get nothing if you are not diligent in ensuring that your plan should work. If you are new to the scene, you can also ask others that you know of and they can help guide you in the right direction. Once you have done the shopping spree once, it is that much easier to do it the next year since it is pretty much all the same thing, just different items, times and prices. Just be safe out there!

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