I spend a lot of time in retail stores. Probably because I work in one, but also because the only thing I do more than help others shop is shop myself. I’m your neighborhood shop girl and with years of retail experience on both sides of the cash register, I can give you all the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
Since everyone is looking to score a deal this week, I thought we’d start things with some tips on shaking off the tryptophan hangover and hitting the stores this Friday. The day after Thanksgiving is the holiest day on the shopping calendar, the Olympics of retail, the day when dreams of designer fashions and home electronics at affordable prices are made and broken. This isn’t just a President’s Day Sale people—this is Black Friday.
1-Mentally prepare for the melee. Have coffee, tea, a yoga session, or a meeting with your spiritual advisor or palm reader. Whatever it takes for you to be in top mental condition at 4 AM, do it.
2-A little reconnaissance work can go a long way. Make a list of stores and the items you want from each one. Check store web sites and Facebook pages this week—there may be extra coupons and savings if you’re on their mailing list, or some extra deals you can print out and take with you. It doesn’t hurt to know the floor plan of the store either. Sales don’t count if you’re lost in the wrong elevator bank.
3-Use credit cards. It’s faster than cash and harder to steal. Use this opportunity to get your frequent flier miles, sale price protection, extra warranties, or points (but don’t use it as an excuse to buy everything in sight—trust me, you do not, under any circumstances, need harem pants).
4-Bring back up. Alexander the Great was nothing without his army, so there’s no way you’re going to conquer the furniture gallery at Macy’s on Fulton Street without some help. Divide and conquer, my friends (and all the better if there’s a group to carry home your spoils of war).
5-Wear the right clothes. Leave the five-inch heels at home and travel light. Don’t waste time waiting in line for dressing rooms—wear clothing you can slip items over. Avoid bulky coats and bags because they’ll weigh you down as you maneuver the sale sections.
6-Be nice to the sales people. The only thing more frightening than shopping Black Friday is working it. Sales associates are the only people who know where that last Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer in pink is, or where an extra cashmere sweater in your size is hiding.
7-Bring sustenance. You can’t shop ‘til your drop if you’ve already dropped from low blood sugar, so stick an energy bar in your bag and bring some water. Door busters are almost as important as your health. Almost.
8-Confrontations. You and a fellow shopper grab the same dress. Be polite, but firm. That dress is going home with you because the shopping gods told you so and it’s fashion destiny. If all else fails, tell her you’re pregnant, have cancer, or you “just want to try it on for size” before bolting (but only if you think you can outrun her—that’s where tip #5 comes into play).
9-Stay home. If it all seems too overwhelming, stay in your sweatpants and score some Black Friday deals online. Sites like retailmenot.com and couponcabin.com have additional savings, and most stores have the deals available on their websites, sometimes starting the night before. Get your online bargain hunting practice in before Cyber Monday (the Black Friday of internet shopping).
I hope these tips have you geared up and ready to go for the biggest and baddest shopping day of the year. Above all, remember to play nice. No one wants to end up like that lady who got trampled at Wal-Mart last year. Happy shopping!
Lauren Soroken is your friendly neighborhood shop girl. She lives in Prospect Heights with a very large collection of vintage accessories.