Style / Trends

A Guide to Surviving Black Friday from a Sample Sale Vet



Few things are better than the thrill of current season Manolo Blahnik BB pumps for $100 at the Warwick on a freezing morning in March. Sample sales are one of the perks of living in this concrete jungle and I take advantage every time I can during the sale season. Digging through piles of shoes, racks of samples and shelves of bags are NBD for a veteran sample sale shopper like myself, but I have learned from the best. My source shall remain nameless, but the knowledge I have gained over the past four years is kind of priceless and can be helpful when shopping during the nationwide sale shopping day we call Black Friday. The name is so grim and scary, and that’s probably because people can get vicious when it comes to a good deal. Trust me, I have witnessed many meltdowns over who was in line first or who grabbed the pair of shoes first. Shopping should remain upbeat and fun at all times — it’s shopping! You’re supposed to be buying things you are stoked about owning or excited to gift. Let’s remain calm and keep the commerce spirit upbeat this year. Here are some tips on how to navigate the war zone that will be Black Friday.

Plan and Research Beforehand

By now, you’ve received your Sunday newspaper filled with colorful pamphlets from every store imaginable (did you know tires are a Black Friday steal, too?). There is also a great site called that has most of the big-name retailers’ flyers, ads and deals all in one place for easy viewing. Choose the stores and deals you’re after and edit that list down to the big-ticket items you can’t live without. (And don’t miss our big fashion and beauty Black Friday/Cyber Monday roundup!)

It is important to note that there will be lines everywhere— meaning there is no grab-and-go shelf shopping — so it’s crucial to limit your selections to the items you think are worth the excursion. Do your research on the items you’re coveting, too. Read Consumer Reports and reviews to see if that hundred dollars you’re saving on an average rate flat screen is worth it. Strategy is everything here, people. This is not Monopoly money we’re spending. Also, limit your stores of choice, so that you’re not driving around with a shopper’s high and wasting time finding parking at each location (because trust me, it will be nearly impossible to find a spot in the lot). If you choose to hit up more than two stores, be sure to know the lay of the land in order to avoid any navigation mishaps — time is money here. 

Bring a Tag Team Partner

It’s a good idea to bring a good friend who has seen you at your worst to help you on this shopping journey. They will be your moral support and a shoulder to lean (or cry) on in addition to talking you out of frivolous purchases. Having a shopping buddy will also be helpful when waiting in line to grab the items on your list. Divide and conquer — and then buy your friend a drink.

Dress Comfortably

This is kind of a no-brainer. Stores these days are opening right after Thanksgiving dinner or in the wee hours of the morning. Skip the makeup and jeans and go for a comfy pair of sneakers that will make standing in lines a little more bearable. We’re also huge supporters of pairing a sporty legging with an oversized sweater for this occasion.

Arrive Early

The early bird gets the worm — and the heavily discounted camera. This is also a great excuse to dip out of Thanksgiving dinner early to avoid the aftermath of all that wine the family consumed with that bird. When you arrive to your store early, the parking situation will be bearable and the lines will be on the short side. The store will probably have product in stock to fulfill your purchase early on. At one point, it will inevitably run out of physical products and start handing out rain checks. 

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Give yourself a budget, so that you don’t go a little cray cray in the haze of the red discount signage and scoop up any unplanned items like an electronic Jeep Cherokee for your nephew who can’t event walk yet. Remain focused on your shopping list at all times and don’t let a pile of buy one, get one free DVDs stop you on your way to that dream item. Shopper’s remorse is kind of the worst, too, so just stay focused.

It’s OK to Leave Empty-Handed

Don’t make the common rookie mistake of being blinded by a price tag. Yes, that toaster is $4.99, but you already own one and odds are all your friends do, too.  Plus, a toaster as a gift, no matter how good of a deal you got, is not the best idea. Also, think of the line you’ll have to wait in to score that latte-priced toaster. Get the idea? 

Just because things didn’t work out this time — line was too long, the item you wanted sold out or you didn’t even make it in the door cause parking was that bad — learn from your mistakes and plan better next time (if you’re up for it). Plus, there’s no need to be discouraged because there is always Cyber Monday and the good news is that you can do all that shopping from the comfort of your home.