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Kalama Hines
Features Editor

The last Friday in November has long since been the one and only time of the year that you can buy a $500 piece of electronics for 50 bucks.

For nearly a century, the day after Thanksgiving has been the unofficial beginning of the Christmas shopping season — it has been named “Black Friday.”

“It’s crazy madness,” said Black Friday enthusiast Jennifer Hohmann, “it’s the best way to get the most bang for your buck, when shopping for gifts.”

Almost every business provides unimaginable deals for those willing to brave the cold of a winter night, along with the rude behavior that has become synonymous with the Christmas season.

“I don’t like (Black Friday) anymore,” said Patricia Runstadler, “due to the way people act and treat others.  I haven’t gone to one in years.”

However, Black Friday is still the host of, literally, hundreds of the best deals for the year — from clothes and video games, to jewelry and, of course, electronics.  The only way to reap the rewards of the huge discounts is to deal with the crowd, as well as the environment.  But, before you throw caution to the wind, grab your wallet and head out to the store, you need to devise a plan.

As a longtime member of the Black Friday shopper community, I have found ways to make an otherwise stressful night of late night shopping, successful.  And the best piece of advice I can give is, create a plan.   Having a plan can save you time and energy, but more importantly — a plan allows for maximized efficiency.

Start with a good meal

Easy enough?  Let’s not forget that the primary celebration on Nov. 29 is Thanksgiving.  Enjoy your family and friends, as well as the good eats that come along with the celebration.  You may even want to grab a little seconds of your dinner.  Just steer clear of the tryptophan, the amino acid in turkey that causes sleepiness; you don’t want to fall asleep in line at Wal-Mart.

My recommendation — A sandwich, take whatever protein you have, other than turkey, and put it in a roll with cranberry sauce and stuffing.  You’ll have the necessary protein, carbohydrates and sugars for a night of energy exertion.

Prepare for battle

You don’t need combat boots and fatigues, but given the climate of late November in the San Francisco Bay Area and the temperature inside of stores, you will need layers.

“Wear comfortable shoes,” said longtime Black Friday shopper Shelley Haines, “you will be standing for a while.”

The “door buster” shoppers will spend most of their nights standing in lines; lines to get into stores, waiting for the deals to be released and waiting for a cashier.  Be prepared to stand.

My recommendation: Wear a nice pair of athletic shoes.  For long periods of standing, it’s hard to go wrong with New Balance.

Map out your plan

“Plan your trip,” said Haines. “For instance, what stores open first, and what you really want most.”

The biggest thing to look at, when planning your night of shopping, is opening times for the stores you plan to attack.  This is the part of the festivities that have changed the most this year.  Toys R Us opens at 5 p.m. and closes at 9 p.m. on Thursday, but will reopen at 5 a.m.; so if this is one of your planned stops, it’s a good starting point.  Kmart and Old Navy will also be open all day.

The stores that are most notable for Black Friday sales — including Sears, Target, Best Buy and Wal-Mart — all open at 8 p.m.  With these locations, the question becomes which deal sparks your interest?  Do some research; find what you feel to be the best deals and when those particular deals take effect.

Plotting is an art.

My recommendation: start with Best Buy, The electronics monster opens at 6 p.m. and, while their deals are usually among the best, they carry quantities even more limited than others.  After making the quickest purchases possible at Best Buy, it’s time to move on.  Wal-Mart is home to some of the best, widest array, of deals; they have something for all shoppers, from automotive to video games.  From there, the options will open up, not only does Wal-Mart unveil new sales every hour, but other stores begin to open.

Companionship is key

If there is any possibility, all of you who plan to go out hunting for deals, take a partner.  It will help, not only for friendly conversation during a long and laborious night, but in the unfortunate case that you are ever in danger, you will want a friend at your side.

My recommendation: especially for rookies to the Black Friday scene, a companion is as important as your wallet.  People will scuffle and fight to save a buck.  There are, annually, stories of people getting trampled and in some cases beaten up over a $30 Blu Ray player.

After you get your plan together, get out there and find the deals that best match needs and fiscal situation.  And remember, that while it is a great night for Christmas shopping (even if the gifts you purchase are for yourself) it is Thanksgiving; be thankful with what you have, and while you are out there doing your shopping be respectful to your fellow humans and get home safe.

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