Vocal Point: Shopper survival on Black Friday requires strategy

THURSDAY, NOV. 17, 2011

November’s finish is approaching, reminding me of having survived last year’s Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

I wouldn’t call myself a super shopper, although, genetically-speaking, I have good shopping genes. My grandmother was the Queen of Consumers, a real shopper extraordinaire. Hardly a day would pass that she didn’t return to her usual haunts, anticipating a further reduction of a coveted sales item within her “good deal” boundaries. Compared to her, I’m only a once-a-year survival shopper.

Even so, I’ve developed a system for Black Fridays that allows me to accomplish a quality vs. quantity expedition, with a focus on efficiency of time and effort. It all starts on Thanksgiving Day after the turkey is roasting and the family has not yet arrived. I scour the mountain of ads, clipping and labeling the likely targets for family gifts.

Then, the battle plan begins. What route would maximize the early bird specials? Back-tracking is not allowed, so the farthest location begins my search. No middle of the night specials for me! Just get me home by lunch with my bags intact and I’ll be happy.

On that day, the morning dawns and the rumble of traffic can already be heard. My focus narrows as I go into super-shopper mode with list and clippings in hand. Unfortunately, my concentration is so intense that I back into the trash can as I lurch over the ice hump in our driveway. Oh dear, I’ve mangled the side-view mirror! Oh well, it will have to wait. Shopping calls!

My master plan is to confront each store as a mission. “Get in, and get out” in the shortest possible time. To assist in this strategy, I quickly find a clerk to direct me to the desired item. Sometimes not even a word is exchanged as I gain eye contact with an employee and point to the pictured item. This system has actually allowed me a total turnaround time of five minutes, constituting an A-plus, according to Quick Shoppers Anonymous. Other times, in spite of a speedy gift pickup, the “get out” portion is extended by long lines. Occasionally, I’ve discovered a short cut by checking out at the jewelry counter. That victory scores at least a B-plus.

The grim determination required for shopping efficiency, however, results in nonpassing grades for Christmas spirit. I found myself standing next to a fellow writer at the camera counter without realizing it until her familiar voice broke through my spell. Later, at a store known for slow lines, I heard my name being called, alerting me to recognize another friend several lines over. We met when finished, exchanging brief greetings, after which she invited me for coffee. A look at my watch showed me that my bargain window was narrowing, so I regretfully declined.

With my lunch time deadline approaching, I back out of the crowded parking lot. From opposing directions, two determined drivers are vying for my spot, aggressively revving up their engines to show their intentions. I back out quickly, peering into the rear-view mirror to witness the mayhem left behind.

“Ah,” I recall, “the snow is just beginning to thicken, and I’m almost home. I’ll have to face my husband with news of the mangled side-view mirror, and hopefully, the cost of repair will be less than the amount of savings I’ve gained.”

Another Black Friday is put to rest.

Spokane resident Dianna Brumfield can be reached by email at brumfield.dianna@ hotmail.com.

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