Welcome back, fellow Black Friday shoppers, to this fifth annual edition of tips and quips. But I'm afraid, heroes, that quips are once again in short supply, for our holiday is under siege. In fact, it's almost completely lost.
Last year, we saw major retailers open Thanksgiving Day and promote Black Friday deals hours before our most treasured of holidays even began.
This year, companies have been promoting Black Friday deals throughout November running up to the holiday. And the largest retailer of all, Wal-Mart, is offering its door-busting, person-trampling deals at 10 p.m. Thursday.
Excuse me? Whatever happened to getting a date right?
It's Black Friday.
But first, a confession. I caught the Black Friday shopping bug as a child on — wait for it — Thanksgiving. My family would dine on country ham, fried potatoes and the like, then head to the Big Lots in Cynthiana. It wasn't for the door-buster deals or anything; it was just a fun way to spend the afternoon. In fact, my sister and I still laugh over just how ludicrous it sounds to name a cleaning product Bab-O. Thank you, Big Lots.
We knew, though, the real deals were to be had on Friday. But then everyone started opening on Thanksgiving. Kmart has done it for a while. Then there's Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Sears and now Target. Even Buckle, a mall clothing chain that my less-than-fashion- savvy self didn't know existed until last week, is opening at midnight. Really?
The mystique, my friends, is gone. We heroes were once a revered bunch. Who else had the dedication to stand in line for hours for $100 off a television? Remember the gift bags that retailers once gave us for our dedication to the craft of spending?
Soon we'll be bringing camp stoves to the lines to grill our turkeys. But some of us, myself included, are so dedicated it probably won't deter us, just annoy us.
At least it's a conversation starter.
So for those venturing out, here are a couple of new lessons learned and a recap of yesteryear's tips.
Why is this door-buster hidden behind a wrestling DVD? Because so many companies release their Black Friday ads early, head to your store on Wednesday and hide the sure-to-be-gone items behind something else.
This works great for DVDs, which you can place behind less popular ones, say professional wrestling DVDs. Last year, I hid the second season of Modern Family behind a World Wrestling Entertainment biography of former champion Bret "Hit Man" Hart.
Carbo loading? Don't be a zero, hero: Every experienced hero knows the day is a marathon, not a 50-yard dash. So don't eat too much too early. There's nothing worse than feeling sluggish in a checkout line that never ends. I haven't seen it happen, but I wouldn't hesitate to skip in front of a hero napping in line.
Red means stop (driving on that blasted road): The smart(phone) users among us can visit Google Maps and enable the "traffic" layer to see how traffic is flowing around Lexington. Green is fast, yellow is reasonable, and red means annoyingly slow.
More smartphone tips: There are dozens of Black Friday apps. Among the features are sales comparisons and downloaded scans of retailers' ads so you don't have to keep up with your paper copies.
Coupons rule: Some stores require coupons for their Black Friday deals, so hoard yours and steal your family's. It might be the only way to buy an entire season's worth of golf balls in one morning.
Stay away from big-box electronics stores (yes, I've broken this rule for DVDs): The lines stay crazy long for hours because of people buying warranties and such. If you can, buy that big TV somewhere else.
Get to steppin': Just park the car anywhere and walk. You could spend as much time circling the lot as you do inside the store.
Never get a cart: It's too hard to maneuver through the mass of heroes, especially those dragging along the next generation of heroes in strollers.
Know what you want before you enter: This is no time for browsing. Find your item and head for the nearest out-of-the-way register; the back of the store is a good place to start.
Think outside the town: If you're shopping at a store that has a location in a city near Lexington, say at Richmond Centre, drive there. It'll be far less crowded, and you'll have a better chance of getting those highly sought-after items.
Clays Mill Road is your friend: Take the side streets to get to your shopping destinations. Nicholasville Road is a mess on any given day, much less one with so many heroes.
Scott Sloan is a business writing hero who has bought far more DVDs on Black Friday than he has ever had time to watch. He keeps writing this tagline to try to shame himself into watching that DVD of Entrapment ($3 on Black Friday 2005) that he's told you about the past four years. Reach him at (859) 231-1447 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1447, or firstname.lastname@example.org.