“When Black Friday comes
I’ll collect everything I’m owed
And before my friends find out
I’ll be on the road
When Black Friday falls you know it’s got to be
Don’t let it fall on me” — Steely Dan, “Black Friday” from ‘Katy Lied’
Black Friday, that hallowed shopping day after Thanksgiving that heralds the Christmas/Holiday shopping season, has become increasingly risky in the past few years.
Don’t be fooled by studies that holiday shopping numbers will be down due to the economy. Of course they will — all the more reason for bargain hunters to be out in force on Black Friday. A National Retail Federation-commissioned study, in fact, says that “up to 134 million people will shop this Friday, Saturday or Sunday, higher than the 128 million people who planned to do so last year.”
You may wish to avoid it simply for safety reasons. Of course, there’s the massive traffic, on the roads and in the parking lots, where drivers seem particularly idiotic.
Then there’s the worker getting squished under masses of humanity at Wal-Mart. The store, in fact, has changed its Black Friday game plan to avoid replaying this incident: the retail giant will see the majority of stores open on Thanksgiving at 6 a.m., without close through Friday evening. More hours open = more distributed crowds is the idea.
If we may paraphrase from the Steely Dan song, don’t let Black Friday fall on YOU. Here are a few suggestions for a better way to spend your day.
1. Get out . . . exercise!
Let’s see, the typical Thanksgiving meals comprises more than 3,000 calories, according to the American Council on Exercise. Plus snacking, that organization theorizes that you may have a 4,500 calorie day.
We think they are underestimating. And you know what? Who cares. It’s once a year. Go for it.
However, Friday is a brand new day, and it’s time to start getting that body back to its good habits. Or at least raise the heart rate.
No need for something drastic; a brisk walk in the fall air should do the trick. Or, in the spirit of family and togetherness (and our just-departed friend Abe Pollin), play some pickup basketball.
It’s all about momentum — just as sitting around and stuffing yourself makes it easier to sit around and stuff yourself, getting out and moving will help you to stay active. And activity reduces stress . . . and with Christmas coming up, you know there’s going to be plenty of stress going around.
2. Shop . . . at local boutiques and retailers
Speaking of stress . . .
Okay, we understand, you need to get a jump on the holiday shopping so you can enjoy it a little more. But avoid the crowds by hitting up the places that aren’t likely going the “fire-sale” route.
Your local shops — not just craft stores, but many of your independent retailing entrepreneurs — can’t offer the types of bargains the Wal-Marts and Best Buys can, but these guys offer appreciation, personal touch, fewer crowds, shorter lines, and you are more directly supporting your local business ecosystem.
3. Hit up the usually-crowded, non-shopping attraction
Hate long lines at the zoo? Mad at the men who won’t move away from the Matisse? Want a better look at those crazy dinosaur bones? Desire the best hang-out spot at the beach or park? Black Friday’s the day for it.
Call ahead or check the Internet to make sure your closest zoo or cool museum is open. For public parks, it should be business as usual. Hit up those fun places around town that are usually stuffed with the very masses you are trying to avoid at the big box stores.
Picnics at the park or beach are an especially great idea, since you’re bound to have plenty of leftovers.
4. Strategize for Cyber Monday
The Monday after Thanksgiving has been bequeathed the name “Cyber Monday,” and has become the Internet version of Black Friday. Deals abound! A casual Google search on the term “Cyber Monday” should yield tons of bargains.
We submit that it’s far easier to deal with slow Internet traffic than human traffic. Accordingly, have a game plan for online shopping on Monday and you’ll never regret skipping Black Friday.
Set the alarm to wake up at midnight and get a jump on the gun, maybe? Pre-bookmark your favorite shopping sites for easy access once you get going? Maybe set up Google Alerts with key words based on the products you most want to buy? Temper the strategy to what fits your sensibilities, but a little planning ahead can completely mitigate the need to deal with Friday’s pending hullaballoo.