The Ultimate Black Friday Survival Guide
How to get the best deals without losing your mind or losing a limb.
Also, pick your battles. Retailers deliberately place the hottest items at opposite corners of the store in the hopes that you'll pick up other items as you traverse the sales floor. All this traveling takes time, especially in a deal-hungry crowd. "If another deal is on the other side of the store, either send someone else to get it or forget it," says John Paul Zahary, a Black Friday veteran in Toms River, N.J. "Otherwise you will be stuck in line for hours."
Go with a posse. This naturally leads to another strategy: Find a band of brothers and sisters for your Black Friday campaign. Different members of a team can focus on different parts of a store, or go to different stores at the same time. "Because we have multiple people, we increase our chances of getting the item," says Daggett, who often goes with two or three friends.
Shopping with your spouse, however, can cause some awkwardness if you plan to buy him or her a Christmas present. One tip from the Black Friday forum: Take some blankets to throw over your cart so that your husband or wife can't see what you've purchased as you wait in line.
Control your impulses. For retailers, Black Friday deals are a tease; they're hoping you come in the store to get a cheap TV and walk out with a bunch of regular-priced or not-greatly-discounted items. Try your hardest to resist: The only reason to brave the crowds on Black Friday is to secure savings of 30 percent or more on items that you actually want.
Even if you do find deep discounts, you've still got to make sure they're worth the effort. For one thing, you should only go shopping for stuff that won't be on sale later in the year. Clothes, for instance, are always deeply discounted at the end of the season, so it doesn't make sense to stand in line for hours to get them the day after Thanksgiving. Also, pay attention to the fine print on a deal that looks too good to be true. "There will be cheap laptops available but you get what you pay for," says Zahary. "Many times, you get lower-end processors and not as much memory. You can probably get more bang for your buck during a back-to-school sale in the summer or when certain items reach clearance."
Have fun! Black Friday superfans concede that they're an odd bunch. They all know that these days it's possible—and maybe even likely—that you'll get better deals online. So why go out at all? Because for some people, shopping on Black Friday is insanely fun. And if braving the cold and the crowds isn't your idea of a good time, you shouldn't bother.
"I love the thrill of going out and getting a deal," Zahary says. "It's very satisfying, like you conquered an objective in life, while still saving money and getting something wonderful for yourself, family and friends." Steffj89, a BFads forum regular, writes, "I love the crowds, the thrill of the deal, the people, the noise, this is MY SUPERBOWL."
And here's what Daggett had to say: "I'm a little guy—I weigh no more than 120 pounds and I'm 5-foot-6. So, yeah, it could turn deadly at any moment, but that adds to the adrenaline rush. As crazy as it sounds to most people I would rather not be anywhere else but in that crowd of customers beating the crap out of each other for an item. If you can grab that item you feel like a million dollars. I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it's true."
Good luck, be safe, and get a good deal!
Farhad Manjoo is Slate's technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter.