Blood, sweat and tears. This combination elicits the things that sports are made of, a great group for a '70s mixed tape and the images that I conjure up when thinking of babies being born. It's not what your holiday shopping should render, for you, your gift recipient or the other shoppers and/or employees that you come across when fulfilling your gift purchasing needs this holiday season. Black Friday is here, my friend, and it's a scary time for everyone.
I can honestly say I've never had the privilege of being a Black Friday shopper, but it's not really a privilege so much as a potential death wish. That's why there should be a guideline to approaching your holiday shopping. These lessons are to help you remain sane, safe and faux pas-free as you embark on the annual pilgrimage of gift giving.
Since I've already dropped the bomb, let's get the Black Friday information underway. If you're not in the know, you haven't been keeping up, especially lately. News venues everywhere can't help covering the lists of absurd market downs of Black Friday items that have been leaked. Not to mention the recession-phobia that has analysts urging us to buy, buy, buy this holiday. Little off track, but this combination could result in an ultra deadly showdown this year.
Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving when the holiday shopping season kicks off. Retailers everywhere slash prices on both big items (flat screen or computer, anyone?) to clothes, toys, stocking stuffers and anything else that might be neatly wrapped under a Christmas tree.
The day's colorful adjective describes when retailers are finally "in the black." After a whole year of being in the red (under target in sales, that is), this day signifies the return of profit, meaning figures in the black. For anyone who's ever worked a Black Friday, the black part of the day might also translate into the doom and gloom associated with the day's events. From the crazy early hours (why do sales have to begin at 6 or 7am? Can't stores nationwide just agree that nine o'clock is a better hour to buy designer jeans for $7 or the latest technology gizmos for cheap?) to the push and shove from the clientele, it's a rough way to spend a morning after the lethargic Thanksgiving.
And I speak from experience, because, as I mentioned, I have never been a person in line on a Black Friday, but I have been in charge of herding the crowds. Certainly if you've never witnessed it first hand as a bewildered employee or as the shopper with the crazy look in your eye, you've seen fluffy news pieces around the holiday time: people trampled, crushed underfoot or the violence between two people battling for the last of an important item.
All this emotion for 17 percent off a sweater. Now, understandably, I can see how your blood would be pumping if you were saving hundreds of dollars on big items, but the following Black Friday suggestions go out to the average Joes and Sallys just trying to save a few bucks on a set of winter accessories for their niece or a winter coat for their boy.
Start by doing your research. I'm sure billions of acres of trees are mutitilated each year so that the Thanksgiving newspapers are a foot thick in advertisements, so don't let that carnage go in vain. Create a strategy like you were planning an attack in war by determining what you need and the best place to find it. Now is not the time to be greedy; you won't hit every place. You might not get your hands on everything you need. Basically, choose one store, or a group of stores in a small radius, and call the rest quits.
Being stuck in the congestion of traffic as you bounce from one part of Tulsa to the next will only make you more violent once you arrive at your location. The less you move around, the better off everyone will be. If your friends and family have requested gifts from every nook and cranny of the county, divide and conquer. Mom, you go to one store, dad, you to another. This is also a great idea because it cuts back on the amount of people in your party. Two is good; more hands to hold things, or someone to stand in line while you run around like a contestant on that crazy old game show Supermarket Sweep. If you're traveling around with an entourage, you're officially those people, the people no one in the store can stand.
On Black Friday, know that what you want is what everyone wants, so you may want to get to your shopping destination quite early. Last year I saw people camping out at Best Buy on Thanksgiving afternoon. You decide if sleeping in a tent on your holiday is the best option, but I'm just going to suggest that you try and beat the crowd by an hour or so. Once inside, realize that it's not a time to casually browse; look for the items you need and get them.
Stores nationwide prepare for this day, stocking every inch of their shelves with every single size and color they have. They're also bringing in every available body to work, so if what you're looking for isn't there, you can ask a nearby employee. They may have to look in the back and climb ladders to locate your item, so wait patiently and stay put. Moving makes it hard for them to locate you and you may lose out if they have your item. That being said, if they are out of the item(s) you need, cut your losses and move on. You can't kill the messenger and you most certainly shouldn't verbally abuse the messenger.
Once you have your gifts, head to the lines with patience. The Black Friday line is the test. If you can't manage to wait in lines for long periods of time without going into a blinding rage, it might not be worth the percentage in Black Friday savings to expose your sore attitude. When you arrive at the checkout line, be kind, be considerate and be sure to get a gift receipt.
Gift receipts. Another holiday lesson. Let's face it. Many people feel that they are awesome at giving gifts. I know, because I am one of them. Seriously, my passion for shopping makes me truly awesome, but sometimes you fall flat. They don't like the color; it's not their size. The day after Christmas, your family and friends will line up at the retailer, with "It was a gift" on the tip of their tongues. They will be shell shocked to find they are stuck with the stuff. And it won't be their fault and it won't be the stores' (who generally all have stern policies on returns and/or exchanges without receipts). It will be your fault for not getting the gift receipt.
Most, if not all, stores offer gift receipts, so if you aren't asked at the checkout line, request one. This will allow your friend or relative the chance to return for credit or to exchange her item. Without that golden slip of paper, she are stuck with something she won't use and it will probably rear its ugly head next holiday season. Impossible returns become regifting.
Better To Give, Again
Regifting is controversial. Some people swear by it, others say it's tacky. Regifting is taking a gift you received and giving it to someone else as a present. Those representing the pro-regifting side say that it is perfectly acceptable to give someone an item originally intended as someone else's gift. The opposing side believes this to be unethical. The choice is yours, but if you opt to give someone something you have received, it's best to follow a few steps so that you're not discovered.
The most important rule to follow is to make sure the item is unused. Clothing should have tags; items should be in their original, unopened boxes. It should look like it came right off the store's shelf instead of right from your hall closet. You also need to ensure there's no trace of you on it. Be absolutely certain there's no hint of it being a regift. As an example, my grandmother writes personalized messages on the inside of books she gives to me. I could never regift these items, but wouldn't it be awkward if I did?
The only other strong rule for taking the regifting route is to move the items far away from their original circle. Items received from family have to be regifted to your friends and vice versa. Without taking this precaution, you risk revealing your secret. If your aunt gave you a sweater, she won't be thrilled to see it on another distant relative. This is all part of the dirty job that is regifting and that's not even including dodging questions of where you bought the item or what to do if you're caught. It's not always the best route, but it's an option when shopping gets painful.
And let's be honest, we all love to give gifts, but at this time of year, spending one additional second in a crowded store makes you insane. That's why there are tips. To prevent the spillage of holiday blood, sweat and tears.
Editor's Note: We forgot to thank Isabella's, 1311 E. 35th St., for donating the clothes modeled in the Just Your Style photos in the Nov. 8-14 issue. We apologize for the mistake. Thanks again!
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