Surviving Black Friday

When you combine crazed bargain hunters, the busiest shopping day of the year, and $10 American Eagle jeans, you get death by trampling.

If you want to skip out on the Black Friday chaos this year, but your little brother or girlfriend will stop loving you if they don’t get the newest video game or perfume, here are some tips to survive a retail stampede.

Rule # 1 — Know your Terrain. Any army general will say that knowing your battlefield is important in winning a battle. A huge Best Buy on Black Friday is no different. You may want to go to the stores the week before Thanksgiving to check out what will be on sale and if they have the items you want. Know all the entrances and exits, just like an airplane — an airplane that doesn’t fly around, doesn’t serve complimentary peanuts and doesn’t have a fun slide outside the emergency exit. When the doors open that morning, you will already know the layout of the store and beat those hostile soccer moms to the Xbox 360s.

Rule #2 — Know your Enemies aka your fellow shoppers. If you think the mob started getting antsy in the store, you’re wrong. The Wal-Mart stampeders were already angry and impatient before the doors opened. Make sure you’re aware of the shoppers’ moods. What do they expect? What will they do? Does that woman look like a cart smasher? And is that little girl eyeing the latest Barbie doll or the Littlest Pet Shop set you want for your little cousin?

Sales that provoke a competitive nature, like early-bird specials and first-one-there-gets-the-best-bargain, can have serious consequences. This crowd will compete for space and the front row in the line. No one wants to be last and will do whatever it takes to be first.

If it looks like you’ll have to run offense over that other guy to get the last Betsy Wetsy doll in stock, think again. Maybe your little niece will settle for a Cabbage Patch Kids doll with some soda water spilled on it.

Rule #3 — Pick The Right Accomplice. Got friends who are tougher than Chuck Norris? Bring ‘em! The store aisles on Black Friday are not for the weak. You need an enforcer who will make sure you don’t end up with a black eye.

Rule #4 —Just Say “NO” — “HELL, NO.”  If some shopper-come-lately skips the line minutes before doors open at Wal-Mart or tries to grab that $3 coffee maker you stood hours in line for, give them a, “HELL, NO!” Roll your neck for effect. Don’t be a coward — those people shop on the day after Christmas.

Rule #5 — Don’t Wipe Out. OK, you had to get the Betsy Wetsy Doll. Now you’re in a crowd of bargain-hungry monsters who could turn against you at any moment. What do you do?

First, check for the classic danger sign — people touching you on all four sides. If they are, it’s time to go. Move sideways out of the crowd’s focus. Time your escape move for when the crowd sways and the pressure around you decreases. Keep your arms close to your body to keep from swaying and bumping into a woman clutching all the Parker Brothers’ games in her hands. And, finally, edge your way out of the crowd.

With a bit of preparation, lots of patience and perhaps a bit of sadomasochism, you can survive Black Friday and get everything on your shopping list. So go ahead and paint on those black strips underneath your eyes, throw on your shoulder pads and brace yourself for a day of competitive shopping. And next year, try Amazon.com.

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