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“Is that guy wearing a swine flu mask?”

November 27, 2009

This is a question I never thought I’d ask myself at 2 a.m., much less surrounded by hordes of middle-aged women in Dawsonville, Ga, ready to brawl over the remaining $10 fleece sweaters at the GAP. It was a situation of odd circumstance that can only be explained by the once-a-year shopper’s phenomenon: Black Friday.

Before last night, I’d only done Black Friday once a few years ago and it was pretty horrible. Target was selling the “Friends” series set for some ridiculously low price and I was determined to get my hands on it. I arrived with a few friends at 4 a.m. to find a long line waiting outside the store. I felt so intimidated by this crowd, simmering with energy and excitement, wallets ready for battle. I wasn’t cut out for the intensity, as the second the doors opened, people grabbed those sets like they were free wads of cash. Cold and cranky, I waited in line with my friends for two hours with some $10 shirt in hand I never wore again.

This year, I decided to give it another shot. I really do need some good wintry pieces. Plus I ‘d just finished a bottle of Cabernet with my Mom and shopping under the influence sounded great.

My friend Bryan and I arrived at North Georgia Premium Outlets around 11 p.m. to find a completely packed parking lot. It was as if a new Pope had been announced in Dawsonville, only this time, he was blessing his followers and giving them fifty percent off. Stores had lines of people waiting wrapped around the mall. Coach was the longest, with a whopping 3-hour average wait. GAP, J. Crew, Juicy Couture, Banana Republic, and Puma also had atrocious lines, while others, like Tommy Hilfiger (everything in-store 50 percent off) just let the beasts run wild, which was absolute madness.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think anyone actually enjoys Black Friday. No matter your patience level, it’s just not pleasant to fight through crowds and wait in long lines. But, like Disney World, the final roller coaster ride can be totally worth it after all that waiting. At the end of the night, I came up with two big winners: a fleece peacoat from the GAP originally priced at $60, 60 percent off. Nine West, black knee-high, flat boots originally priced at $99 for $49. I got  a few more things that were just ridiculously cheap and I couldn’t resist. I got home at 3:30 a.m., exhausted but satisfied.

Here’s the argument that I half agree with and half disagree with: you can just buy all that shit online!

You can. But oftentimes the stores will offer strictly in-store deals that aren’t offered on their Web site, and personally, I like to try on my shoes before I buy them. Many stores, like Kohl’s, offer cash rewards for every $50 spent in-store, which can be a big incentive if you’re dropping a few hundred dollars. Many would say that those savings are minimal compared to the hell of the lines and the crowds, which I also agree with. It just depends on how much you’re willing to deal with.

Bryan and I were discussing what we would do differently next time to make the chaos a little more bearable. Here are some tips we came up with:

  • Literally draft out a game plan. Find a full list of stores online and choose your top five. You won’t have time to hit them all. Prioritize them by favorites, and go to your favorites when you first arrive.
  • Know exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re going “just to look around,” you’ll get overwhelmed and leave. Pick at least a subcategory, like “jackets,” or “boots,” so you have some direction when you walk blindly into the crowds.
  • Get there at least an hour or two early before they open. At least.
  • Research the sales to the T so you don’t waste any time trying to figure out how much things will cost. Most stores include all sale details on their Web sites days in advance of Black Friday. Find out which stores will have lines and which don’t.
  • Always double-check on your price totals. Sure, the employee will hate you for a few minutes, but with all the craziness going on, it’s extremely easy to make a price mistake and end up overcharged. (Case in point: an orig. $14 GAP hat that was supposed to be $6.)

Pictures of the new boots, coat, and clothes to come! Happy shopping everyone!

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