Hints for Black Friday shopping

Welcome back, fellow Black Friday shoppers, to this third annual edition of tips and quips.

Let's take a moment to welcome some new shoppers, or "heroes" as we call ourselves. After all, it's our spending that's reviving this economy.

Sure, you rookies might be frightened of shopping alongside so many pros on Friday, but you can prevail.

Here are a few more lessons learned:

Carbo loading? Don't be a zero, hero: Nutrition on Black Friday is tricky. After all, 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've never seen it, but I wouldn't hesitate to skip in front of a fellow hero napping in line.

It's best just to snack throughout the day. It used to be easy because stores would lay out snacks. That's become a rarity these days.

Last year, though, my Toucan Sam-like nose took me to Half Price Books at Hamburg because of the smell of coffee wafting out front. The only food I found was a box of crumbs that appeared to have once been parts of doughnuts. Bravo, ravenous heroes.

Red means stop (driving on that blasted road): For those of you with smartphones, use Google Maps and enable the "traffic" layer to show you how traffic is flowing around Lexington. Green is fast, yellow is reasonable and red means annoyingly slow.

Traffic's never a problem for those of us in the early hours, but it certainly can be a plague for those heroes who require a bit more sleep.

(By the way, those of you with dumbphones should upgrade — smartphones are expensive enough to really inject some life into our economy.)

These are not the Droids you're looking for: Can you imagine anything as embarrassing as checking out and realizing you just bought your child or 30-year-old childlike husband the wrong set of Star Wars droids. Probably. But humor me.

Well, what if it turns out only R4-P17 and not R2-D2 is on sale? You would have known that if you had checked pictures in the ads courtesy of the Black Friday app on your Droid phone or Apple's iPhone.

There are several applications available for free that allow you to download scans of retailers' ads, in case you forget your newspaper copies.

The apps also offer shopping lists, so you don't forget anything.

Sometimes it's next to the Baked Lay's: Last year, heroes, I told you the tale of how I almost came away empty-handed at Sears on a hunt for a screwdriver set for my sister. But as I scoured the back of the store, I happened to start looking at a table around which fellow heroes were snaked waiting for the cash register. There sat my Craftsman catch amid other tools.

Well, last year at the Best Buy at Hamburg, this lesson took on even greater meaning. As I sat in line — you'll notice later in this column that I broke my own rule — I saw that someone had discarded an on-sale GPS unit in the middle of the potato chips near the registers. (Going back to my first tip, I saw it when I was looking to buy a snack, heroes.)

It's just further proof that you never know where you'll find your discounted desire.

Oldies but goodies

And here's a quick recap of the tips offered the past two years:

Coupons rule: More and more stores are requiring 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. That's an effective way, too, of annoying the same cashier, who will call you out for repeatedly not donating $1 to charity.

Stay away from big-box electronics stores (yes, I broke this rule for a DVD last year): 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 who are 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 obscure 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.

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.

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