It's become almost as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and football: Black Friday, the morning-after (or in some cases evening-after) shopping spree. It's the biggest shopping day of the year, an event in its own right. Unfortunately, the massive crowds it draws can lead to parking lot accidents, exposure to thieves and those well-publicized stampedes and brawls.
It's not hard to avoid such mishaps, though. Following are a few common-sense tips from the National Crime Prevention Council, blackfriday.com and the Trusted Choice network of independent insurance agents to help ensure you have a fun and fruitful day.
Before You Go
- Fill up your gas tank. Make sure you’re not running low on gas in case it takes time to find parking or to get out of the parking lot. Or, in case you get delayed by winter weather conditions.
- Decide how you’ll pay. If possible, carry only credit cards, and make photocopies so that you’ll have the account number and customer service phone number if your wallet is lost or stolen. If it's practical, carry just one card.
- Determine how much you can spend. Going in with an idea of how much you can afford to spend will help you know when it’s time to stop buying.
- Call ahead. If you're looking for a high-demand item, call ahead to find out what time customers lined up last year. Otherwise, there's likely little need to be at the front of the line. Arriving an hour or so early should be fine.
- Charge mobile phones. Be sure everyone in your group has a charged phone in case you get separated. Or, pick a specific meeting spot within the store or at the mall to regroup. Be sure children know not to leave the store or go out into the parking lot on their own.
In the Parking Lot
- Take your time. Finding a parking spot on Black Friday can be harder than finding a great deal. So, why not calmly head to the back of the lot where it’s less crowded? You may be able to avoid those dreaded door dings, as well as parking lot accidents.
- Pick a secure spot. The key here is visibility. Avoid parking next to vans or large trucks or in secluded, unlit areas, especially at night.
- Remember where you parked. Make a mental or written note of where you parked your car to avoid wandering around looking for it later. You could even take a picture with your phone of what you see straight ahead as you walk away from your car.
- Approach your car with keys in hand. Have your keys ready when approaching your vehicle, and check the back seat and the area around and under the car before you get in.
- Use the trunk. If you're going to several stores, put packages in the trunk rather than in the back seat before driving from one lot to another.
In the Store
- Keep your personal belongings secure. Keep your purse close at hand or your wallet in an inside pocket. Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook.
- Watch your step. It's easy to trip and fall in a big crowd, especially if people are pushing. If you do fall or hurt yourself, don’t put off medical treatment. Most stores will have a first-aid kit and many will have security officers on hand to help out.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Steer clear of anyone exhibiting aggressive behavior, such as pushing to get in the door or confronting another shopper over a limited item. If you find yourself in one of these or a similar situation, take action to get you and your group to safety.
- Don't buy more than you can carry. Otherwise you may be an easy target for thieves in the parking lot. If you have too much, enlist a friend or a store employee to help carry your packages to the car.
Above all, remember that there will always be another sale. So, be courteous to employees and other shoppers on Black Friday – and always. After all, the whole point of a fun event is to have fun.
Did you know? Black Friday wasn’t always a shop-til-you-drop event. One of the earlier known usages of the term dates to the early 1960's when Philadelphia police used it to refer to the heavy traffic on the day after Thanksgiving caused by Christmas shoppers and by football fans arriving for the annual Army-Navy Game the next day.