Beating Black Friday

By Rory McCarty

They line the storefronts at 3 a.m., shivering in the darkness. Drunk on tryptophan from the feast from just a few hours prior, Black Friday shoppers huddle by the windows in hopes of buying a plasma screen TV at a $50 discount.

On the other side, in the warmth of the Best Buy, employees stare in horror and dread the chaos that is about to befall them. Friends will abandon each other. Someone will get punched. The Black Friday enthusiasts know this, but they have been hardened by the cold. Nothing will stand between them and their sweet, sweet savings.

Black Friday shopping is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve never experienced Black Friday, now is not the time to start. The veterans will tear you apart. People have been shot doing this. People have been trampled to death. But if you insist on braving the madness to get your hands on a cheap GPS, you should come well prepared.

This guide is designed to prepare you for every possible predicament, and keep you alive while standing in one place in freezing temperatures for hours on end.

Listed here are a few of the essentials for Black Friday survival.

Secure Dwelling

Where expensive electronics are concerned, shoppers may have set up tents days in advance that snake around the building, creating a small village in the parking lot. The die-hards make Black Friday into a twisted tailgating event, grilling steaks on the sidewalk and watching portable TVs in their sleeping bags. A tent will give you a great place to retreat to if the weather turns nasty. Remember, nobody who got a new laptop for $150 let a wind-chill advisory or a foot of snow deter them.

Walkie-Talkie Device

You may go out with a group of friends and split up to cover more ground. It may be a good idea to coordinate on a set of Walkie-Talkies, like a budget savvy Jack Bauer. “Wango Tango, what is your position?” “Currently on perimeter of JC Penney. Received word of roller blades on clearance at Toys R Us!” “Roger that! Moving in to secure assorted cheese set! Over!”

Heating Apparatus

Even with enough clothing on that you look like the coat pile from your Christmas party, you’re going to want an external heat source you can take with you. Some kind of outdoor patio heater will provide you with a place to warm your hands while meditating on the coming storm.

Your fellow doorbusters are probably going to ask to share your heater. Resist the urge to turn this into a campfire sing-along. These people are not your friends. The same person who was laughing with you and telling amusing anecdotes out on the curb will be body checking you into the checkout counter as they make a beeline for an Xbox Kinect.

Keep everyone from getting too close to your heater. There is no fellowship on Black Friday. There is only awkward, nervous laughter as the shoppers take a mental inventory of their compatriots: “That guy, I could trample if I had to.”

Visually-intimidating Outerwear

The most important thing to note is that Black Friday is invariably the coldest day yet of the year. Come-ill prepared, and police will be chiseling your frozen body off the sidewalk the following afternoon.

Layer your clothing. Start light and get gradually heavier as you go: First, suit up in the all-important long underwear, then add a long sleeve shirt, ugly Christmas sweater, hoodie, winter coat, earmuffs, scarf, wool hat, blue jeans, sweat pants and snow pants. Put on so many layers that your puffy arms are stuck pointing outward from your body like an obese scarecrow. Put on so many layers you are uncomfortable. Then throw a snuggie on over that.

Thermos Bandolier

You’re going to get hungry out there waiting for the green light, so come with no fewer than five thermoses. You can fill them with chicken soup, coffee, hot chocolate, energy drinks, liquid Vivarin and anything you can think of to keep your energy and body heat up. If you’re falling asleep by the time the destined hour begins, all your efforts will have been for nothing.

Be sure to leave one of the thermoses empty. You can’t exactly step out of line to use the bathroom. Anyone who says they’ll hold your place in line is a liar. But of course, all that bourbon and coffee has to go somewhere. The empty bottle is there to hold your contents. Just make certain that all thermoses are labeled clearly.

Commanding Stature

If you can help it, be 6-foot, 4-inches tall by Black Friday. Smart retailers will hand out wristbands for big-ticket items to stop people from racing to grab them once the floodgate is open. Other stores act as bizarro cattle ranchers, funneling customers through the entrance and into aisles. Don’t be surprised if you’re hit with a cattle prod at some point in the night.

There is a very real danger of being crushed underfoot here, so if you can’t be built like a linebacker, try to make yourself look bigger, like a blowfish. Alternately, bring along your friend who works as a bouncer to plow a path to savings Nirvana.