Five Surefire Ways Not to Go to Jail on Black Friday

As semi-holidays go, I don’t think there’s one that outranks Black Friday on the catty scale. Now some stores are even bringing us that joy a day early. Threats and taunts. Verbal spats. Jerry Springer worthy catfights. Every year, there’s at least one claw bearing clip on the news the next morning.


Between the greed driven competition for more stuff and the likelihood that some people you’re shopping with have been camping out for it since last Friday, the chance of encountering some general nastiness before you get to the counter is almost guaranteed. Who wants to go to jail for a good price on Pokemon cards? That’s why I’ve avoided it like the plague for years.

Until the last couple, that is. The good deals for my kids’ Christmas goodies finally drew this struggling writer out of the bomb shelter. Last year, it was a kitchen set for my daughter. Fifty bucks! Who can beat that? The sprinkling of police officers throughout the store told me the answer to that with one twitchy glance. As I passed by groups of virtually growling parents gathered around shrink wrapped mounds of merchandise, the hackles rose.

courtesy of

courtesy of

I stepped up to the grouping of kitchen sets with the other cued in shoppers, eyeballing each other and the clock for the hour the store manager would release the cookers for purchase. It was chaos when ten o’ clock came: Buggies slamming into each other, people pushing and snatching and f-bombs flying. I slunk into the pack and rescued a kitchen, only to have a woman try to jerk it from my cart. I don’t remember saying anything, but my eyes must have screamed that she might not see Santa that year if she didn’t put it back. Christmas was saved without a trip to the slammer that night, and I had just about simmered down by the time I got home. A holiday miracle!

But not all of us are so lucky. If you’re thinking of facing that jungle tonight for those shiny boxes and stocking stuffers, here are a few tips to make your hunt for cheap presents a less chancy experience.

1.)    Bring a battle buddy. Not even expertly trained and armed soldiers walk into a hostile situation alone. Take along a trusted friend or family member to have your back in case things get crazy, and I don’t mean “taking it outside” crazy. They can help keep your place in line if you have to go back to the car, help navigate the maze to get items you’re wanting and even push an extra buggy if you’re doing all your holiday shopping in one night. Just in case, though, avoid bringing a gang of girlfriends for the outing. Too much backup can be a bad influence when someone tries to yank a kitchen out of your cart.

2.)    Lay off the No Doze. Staying awake for an all-night buying spree is a good thing, but getting so hopped up on caffeine that you vibrate before you get on the road probably isn’t. I preach moderation; not abstinence. Overloading on coffee and energy drinks sounds like good preparation for overreacting when shoppers who are pissed they had to stand in line for 3 hours to get in a store get snarky.

3.)    Plan your attack in comfortable shoes. You know the drill. Study the sales flyers and map out your route if you have more than one stop. Most stores give you a map of where sales items are located when you walk in the door. Just don’t lose your cool if Plan B turns into shoving your way through a labyrinth of racks and end caps when the scouted path is nothing but traffic jam. Breathe. Count to fifty. Then remember that your family wants to see your smiling face at the breakfast table instead of in a mug shot.

4.)    Never forget Plan C. Practice saying all your favorite swear words in a classy tone of voice with a plastered on smile, and bring a little extra cash for bail money just in case. You never know when the cat inside may have had too much of playing mouse for the year. Think of it as Santa’s unspeakable present to make up for the coal and switches later.


5.)    When in doubt, abstain. If the temptation to waylay on some self-righteous kitchen snatcher may be too much this season, take the high road. Have some more turkey and plead tryptophan poisoning when you sleep through the midnight madness sales or say you’re boycotting all the commercialized materialism the media “forces” upon us.

Whatever. Just enjoy your holiday and be thankful for all those everyday blessings whether you’re shopping tonight or not.

Happy Black Friday (or Gray Thursday) !



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