The Black Friday Survival Guide

The time for civility has passed. Heed these tips to survive and prosper this Black Friday.


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If you're considering not heading out into the wintry night to face the hordes on Black Friday... well, maybe that's a good idea. The best deals are all online, anyway, and you never know what kind of craziness will go down at your local Walmart. Wouldn't you rather just sleep off the Thanksgiving feast? We know we would.

But if you're dead set on joining the fray, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of scoring that perfect purchase. From your choice of dress, to your diet, to your in-store tactics, we've got you covered with our definitive Black Friday Survival Guide.

After all, with the simultaneous release of Xbox One and Playstation 4, you should probably prepare for the worst.

1. Choose the right shoes

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow will keep you from shopping this Black Friday, so you had best prepare yourself for some slippery linoleum floors. Non-slip shoes and boots will keep you afloat, even during the busiest hours of the day. Comfort will be paramount, too, during the endless time you'll spend waiting in lines. Make sure your shoes give plenty of support.

2. Bundle Up, Strip Down

If you live in the northern half of the U.S., this week's arctic blast means you're going to want to wear layers to avoid frostbite. But while it may be cold outside, the throngs of red-eyed, irritable shoppers inside are likely to ramp up the ambient temperature—especially near the checkout line. For that reason, be sure to dress warm, but not too warm. You'll want to have layers you can easily strip off when you're pressed into the herd.

With this last point in mind, Floridians and Californians might want to dress even lighter than usual.

3. Caffeinate Dermally

Yep, you read that right. The geniuses over at ThinkGeek have invented perhaps the greatest Black Friday preparation tool known to man: caffeinated soap. Why spend crucial minutes brewing coffee or stopping at Starbucks when you can amp up while you freshen up? You'll arrive at the store ready and rarin' to go—all without coffee breath.

4. Get doorbuster vouchers

Black Friday lines can start forming hours in advance of the stores actually opening, and lots of the line-sitters are there to get specific, limited-quantity deals. Some stores will send out employees who will ask you what you're in line for. If they've only got a few of your item and you're toward the front of the line, they might hand you a voucher that can be redeemed for the item of your choice during the first few hours the store is open.

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The end result? You can retreat to the warmth of your car, or even head home for a quick nap. No tent required!

5. Use department-specific check-out counters

At many big-box retailers, specific sections of the store will have their own check-out counters. Whether it's the electronics section at Target, the ladies underwear counter at Kohl's, or the computer kiosk at Best Buy, these registers will likely be overlooked by many of your Black Friday compatriots.

For you, that means less time spent in line and more time shopping. Most of the time, you don’t even need to be purchasing a product from that department to complete the sale.

6. Bring a paper reminder

The moment those doors open, you're going to be overwhelmed—both physically and psychologically. Amid the commotion, you may suddenly find that you've forgotten the items you were there to get in the first place. Something tactile, like an ad with the items you want circled, may be more helpful and convenient than a list on your phone. Be sure to keep a Sunday circular or print off the store's web ad and highlight the deals you're after.

7. Read the fine print

Though a lot of doorbuster deals sound great, many of them are ultimately pretty disappointing. And even if the products are good, deep in the fine print, you'll find all kinds of stipulations and limitations. "Limited quantity" is the most common, and that makes sense for doorbusters. But this year, many stores are running hourly specials—you need to doublecheck the hour that the deal you're after is going to be offered, and get there on time. You don't want to brave these crowds and find out you've risked life and limb for nothing.

8. Get friends and family to help

Once you're in the store, you need a strategy to effectively corner that TV you're dreaming of. We recommend employing as many of your (adult) friends and family members as possible.

If your shopping list includes more than one item, you can deploy your team to grab multiple items in one fell swoop. If you're after one highly sought-after item—your Black Friday holy grail—you can form a phalanx to effectively box out the competition while you grab it. Just remember to be polite while you're muscling in there. Store security doesn't take kindly to wanton displays of force.

9. Look past the usual big-box stores

When you think of Black Friday, you probably envision crowds of people outside a Walmart, a Target, or a Best Buy. Know what you probably don't think of? A besieged OfficeMax.

Some of the lesser chains offer deals just as big as the retail all-stars, but draw a fraction of the audience. Office Depot, KB Toys, GameStop, and Radio Shack, for example, may have the same products as Best Buy or Walmart, at competitive prices.

10. Just skip Thanksgiving altogether

Don’t rely on a big, high-calorie meal to fuel your Black Friday shenanigans—it'll only slow you down. Eat light on Thursday, avoid booze, and carry only the essentials: wallet, phone, keys, water bottle, protein bars... cattle prod?

We realize this is a tough ask on the day after Thanksgiving—or, in some cases, the day of. But what’s more important: spending time with your family over a delicious meal, or grappling with strangers in the pre-dawn hours over a 42-inch television?

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