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Black Friday tips from a pro

If you’re like any of the whopping 75 percent of respondents in a recent High Point University poll, you have no plans to shop in stores this Friday.

For the rest of you, the shrinking minority: I’ll see you out there.

That’s right. I am one of those crazy people who braves the crowds and the bitter cold in the wee small hours of the morning.

For what, you ask? I’d be lying if I didn’t credit the sales, to some extent. But most of it — the best of it — is the experience.

It sounds miserable, right? Bumping elbow to elbow with people, standing in forever long lines, battling your neighbor for a limited-quantity item.

Here’s my admittedly rose-tinted perspective. I see people out in droves buying gifts for the ones they love. I see cashiers and store clerks wishing shoppers a Merry Christmas or happy holiday (whichever is your pleasure). I hear holiday music playing, see festive decorations and cars with trees tied to their roofs, and I think, by and large, this is a community spirit I could get behind.

I have been out and about on Black Friday for nearly 15 years, and it’s fair to say there’s a learning curve to enjoying the experience. If you’re thinking about joining the fray, here are a few insider tips:

• Get your plan together.

Take some time while digesting your turkey dinner or watching the Macy’s parade to flip through the mountains of sales papers you’re certain to receive. Pick out the top deals you’d like to take advantage. If you can prioritize what you’d like the most, you can hit that store first for a better chance of snagging the item before it sells out.

• Scope a lay of the land.

If you know you’re likely to visit a store on Black Friday, try to swing by earlier in the week. Get an idea of where to find the item you’re after so you don’t waste time wandering aimlessly.

• Call ahead.

This is a big one. Stores sometimes hand out tickets for heavily sought items to those waiting in line before the store opens. This is a preventative measure as it helps avoid a stampede, but you can use this to your advantage. Call to see if your item will be ticketed; then you’ll know before the store opens whether you’ll be one of the lucky few taking it home.

• Remember, time is money.

Let’s be real: if you’re shopping on Black Friday, you’re going to wait in line. Is it really worth saving a few bucks on an item sold at multiple stores just to have to start the process all over again? You may even weigh the time you’ll spend somewhere else against the hourly rate at your job. This helps me stay motivated to be efficient with my store selections.

• Use the buddy system.

This one may be taboo, but it works in a pinch. If the lines are ridiculous (and they will be), shop with a friend. Have one person do the footwork shopping and let the other hold your place in line. Make sure the person playing place-holder has a phone with a full battery or some other means of entertainment, of course.

• Prioritize your family.

The last but most important: Don’t skip out on time with your loved ones just to catch those Black Friday (or Thursday) sales. If your family is like mine, this may be the only time you have together for months. Don’t miss the opportunity for fellowship with your inner circle in an effort to save some pennies.

Sales will happen all season long. Chances to share some good food and give thanks in our society of constant motion? You could blink and miss them.

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