Sales, scuffles, safety: Black Friday survival secrets

By Alison Berstein, Emily Chicklis, and Kanika Miller

Staff Writers

There’s much holiday excitement this time of year: partaking in Thanksgiving meals, enjoying a well-deserved break from school, and of course anticipating Black Friday shopping. But like with most things, it’s important to be safe and have a plan.

Black Friday shoppers rush into the H&M at the Galleria Mall in Cambridge on November 29, 2013. Source: Stuart Cahill

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when many Americans begin their holiday shopping and take advantage of the massive deals that stores offer. Introduced in 1932, it is called Black Friday because stores make such good business on this day that they are “in the black”, or turning profit (as opposed to being “in the red.”)

Widely considered the beginning of the Christmas season, Black Friday has been observed earlier and earlier in recent years. Many stores open on Thursday night, some even earlier on that day, in anticipation of a myriad of shoppers and an increased profit.

If you participate in this shopping frenzy, practice sage behaviors on your way to, at, and coming home from the stores. Here are some tips for how to survive Black Friday.

1. Have a buddy.

The buddy system is always a wise course of action when going to unknown or even familiar locations. Bring a friend to help you navigate around busy aisles, spot any extra special deals, and decide if that blouse really does look good on you. If you do split up, appoint a meeting time and location.

Plus, shopping is more fun with friends. An extra set of eyes and hands never hurt anyone. You’re going to need someone to help carry those bags if you go a little overboard, after all.

2. Be cautious.

Don’t go into overcrowded aisles. It can wait. We’ve all heard news stories of injuries arising from the potentially mob-like behavior of the holiday season. Have 911 on speed dial. The goal is to get everyone in and out safely – and hopefully with the items they wanted.

3. Prioritize.

In that vein, pick your battles. Sure, we all want what we want, but if it’s a choice between snagging that clearance TV set and staying out of a fight, please opt for the latter. Never provoke anyone. It’s not worth it. If an altercation does break out, alert the authorities and secure evidence on your phone -– without engaging in the activities.

4. Map out the items in advance. 

Devise a preliminary action plan. Know which items you want and where they are. Many shopping places provide a layout of the store online.

5. Consider shopping online.

Is the store sold out of what you wanted? Is the store simply too crowded to safely peruse? Amazon and other digital marketplaces offer deals for Black Friday – and just about any other holiday.

We want you to enjoy your shopping experience. This is a time of thanks, so we invite you to keep values of gratitude in mind while you take to the stores. Be aware of your surroundings and smart about your actions, and everyone will get the best end of the deal this Black Friday.