November 22, 2012

Off Beat: It's a jungle out there on Black Friday, so be ready

Tips on how to survive shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.

Let's not mince words about this.

Gift shopping on the day after Thanksgiving can be brutal, and the main goal has to be survival.

The crowds, the lines, the nonstop noise -- all are enough to turn an usually calm and sensible person into the Grinch. And if you're shopping on Black Friday because you HAVE to -- as in, someone is dragging you against your will -- the survival instinct is even stronger.

To help you get through relatively unscathed, here are some tips from me to you on how to survive a Black Friday outing.

SUPPLY YOURSELF

You can't go into battle unarmed. Pack a bag with these essential shopping survival items:

A smart phone or other electronic gadget, fully charged and ready to call for help or browse an online catalog. Because on Black Friday, it might be faster to look for info online than it is to find a store clerk who can give you the time of day.

Snacks. If you can, pack things that show other shoppers you put more thought into this exposition than they did. Maybe a nice little apportioned Rubbermaid container of food, with one space for cheese, one for crackers, etc. If you can convince fellow shoppers you are really serious about this stuff, they might be less likely to mess with you or cut in line.

Something to read. I suggest the Portland Press Herald. Again, others will know you are taking this seriously and that you are very, very smart.

Plenty of water or sports drinks. Shopping all day is harder work than most of us are used to, so you will need to re-hydrate regularly.

MAP OUT A PLAN

If you think about it, it's not that there's one thing about Black Friday shopping by itself that will drive you nuts. It's the combination of factors that will strain your brain. The little things will add up to do you in.

You probably can't do anything about the crowds, but you can avoid one headache -- losing your car.

We live in Maine, where we're used to parking at the curb and taking a couple of steps into a shop. But on Black Friday, the parking lot at the mall turns into some giant used car lot on steroids. Cars as far as the eye can see, cars parked against trees, on grass, blocking entries.

So what you need to do -- and don't laugh, now -- is find a parking space and map it. Look for landmarks nearby that won't leave while you are shopping -- a post with G3 on it, a shopping cart corral -- and take notes as you walk to the mall. Make note of what you go past, and -- this is important -- what entrance you use to enter the mall. If you go into an anchor store that has more than one entrance, like Sears or JCPenney, make sure you note that entrance. Because if you enter by the men's department but leave by the petit juniors section, you might never see your car again.

KEEP BUSY

Making a map to find your car is not only practical, it keeps the mind occupied, which is important. Think about the classic World War II film "The Bridge on the River Kwai," and how Alec Guinness knew that the key to keeping his British soldiers from breaking down under the pressure of a Japanese POW camp was to keep their minds and bodies occupied.

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