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How to get ahead of the pack during Black Friday

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Posted: Friday, November 18, 2011 8:02 am

From front-of-the-line campouts to the checkout line, here are tips to having a successful Black Friday shopping experience in Lodi.

Have an attack plan

Lodian Kristen Wilson is going on her 11th year of Black Friday shopping. She’s shopped in Lodi, Stockton and Elk Grove. 

“It’s something I look forward to every year — it’s my theory that a very smart lady came up with this idea in an effort to burn off all the calories ingested the previous day,” Wilson said.

Wilson has knowledge from a decade of waking up before the sun to score the best deals on Nov. 25.

But what’s her No. 1 rule?

“Make a plan.”

Though the majority of Black Friday ads are sent out on Thanksgiving, she says many are already available. She recommends checking what’s available at each store, and decide what you will buy each person on your shopping list. You’ll want to map out the order in which stores you’ll hit, and figure out doorbusters for the best deals. 

“Not having an idea of where you’re going and when can lead to missed opportunity and frustration,” she said.

Remember patience

“My biggest tip would be to have patience,” said Daniel Cresh, manager of Lodi’s Big 5. Big 5 will open at  5 a.m. and typically has sales on its equipment and shoes, such as Ugg-style boots. Cresh prides himself on getting his shopping done early, but after working on Black Friday in years past, he simply warns people to be patient on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Keeping a good attitude is high on Wilson’s list, too. 

“Recognize that the employees of the stores are stressed and that not everyone (employee and shopper) is going to be in a good mood,” she said. “The year there was the trampling and the shooting, I was appalled. It is not that serious, people! A good deal on a Blu-Ray player is not worth someone’s life.”

Think Facebook

Some retailers offer Black Friday secrets and hints through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Friend them, follow them and even think about signing up for online newsletters. 

Dress the part ...

If you’re going to stand in line for hours, don’t forget you’ll need to stay warm. Layer on sweaters and coats, and keep your gloves handy. It doesn’t hurt to make friends with people in line who can hold your spot during a coffee run.

Stay home; shop online

David Alyea, manager of Lowe’s in Lodi, doesn’t expect to see a Black Friday rush as spirited as Walmart will see, but they’ll be opening early for deals on items like selected appliances and tools.

Instead of standing in line at 4 a.m., he reminds customers that online shopping might be a good idea for them.

“As soon as midnight hits, they can (order),” he said. 

Most of the Black Friday in-store deals are the same online, but being the first to click that “buy” button is still important. 

Wilson agrees online shopping is good for the type of person who should stay in bed on Black Friday. 

“If crowds aren’t you’re thing, you aren’t a morning person, you can’t bring a positive attitude or reign in your urge to throw elbows, there’s always Cyber Monday,” Wilson advises. 

Shop with a buddy or not?

Ideally, it would probably be nice to have a buddy to brave Black Friday with. But have an understanding that you won’t hold each other back. This  is where the plan comes in handy. 

“If you have a group, someone can hold a spot in line or run back to grab a different size,” Wilson said. “But if you shop alone, you get to go where you want, when you want and take a break when you want.”

If you go with a group, have a way to communicate. Wilson says cell phone reception can be hindered in some stores, so it’s nice to have battery operated handheld radios.

“If all else fails, ask them to call for your party over the PA system,” she said.

Beware of policies 

If there’s any chance you’ll be returning or exchanging, ask questions. Some stores have special policies against Black Friday purchase returns. You’ll just want to be careful.

Get the app

Big retailers like Target and Walmart  have their own cell phone applications for people to download to their smartphones or tablets.

Charge, please

Understand the perks of the plastic in your wallet. Some credit card companies offer extra warranties on products when you use gold or platinum cards. Also, if the store doesn’t allow you to return, your credit card might make that option available to you. Also look into using cards that give you points for purchases.

Know the hours

Were you once that person at the front of the line at Walmart at 4 a.m. on Black Friday? Have plans to do that again? Don’t be disappointed.

Lodi’s Walmart will start its sale at 10 p.m. Thursday, and tickets for “hot items” — big-ticket items that usually have a limited supply — will be handed out at midnight. The line for those hot items will form inside of the store before midnight on Thanksgiving, said assistant manager Princess, who declined to give her last name.

Contact Lodi Living editor Lauren Nelson at laurenn@lodinews.com.

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