Local Sharon Cornair has a strategy for handling Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and one of the biggest shopping days of the year: Pay someone a hundred bucks to brave the crowds for you.
But that goes against the spirit of the day, which is all about finding the best deals. So those of you planning to hit the stores Friday need a different kind of strategy, one that will enable you to increase your odds of landing exactly what you want with as little hassle as possible.
If you've shopped on Black Friday -- so named because it's traditionally the day retailers move from the "red" into the "black" -- you know what to expect. Like Kaela Duran, 22. Her first shopping expedition on the day after Thanksgiving was two years ago. Her motives were purely selfish: She and a friend went to stock up on $10 CDs. Now, Duran goes to take advantage of the savings for Christmas gifts.
"If you're determined to get what you want, you better make an effort to go as early as possible," says Duran, who was in line at 5 a.m. last year. "We'll even go in our pajamas."
The atmosphere is frenetic on Black Friday; forget pushing a cart.
"You take a couple of people with you and grab what you can. People just run crazy," Duran says.
Her strategy: Pick up today's newspaper and scour the ads, making a list of what she wants to buy and where she'll find the best deal. Get up earlre y Friday, based on store hours. Grab a friend, then head out. Park as far away from the store as possible so she's close to the exit when it comes time to leave.
"You have to go with at least one person, someone to wait with you and keep you company," Duran says.
In the past, she has taken several people so they could take turns standing in line. One person waits while the others relax in the car.
Sosa Barrett, 27, takes her mother and several cousins with her when she shops on Black Friday. It's a family tradition. They take a detailed approach to their outing, Barrett says, starting with checking the Thanksgiving Day newspaper ads in Utah (where her family lives) and deciding where to shop.
Electronics and kids' toys are at the top of her list; she buys for several nieces and nephews ages 1 to 10.
The more people you can take with you, the easier things are, she says. Her family may divide the list and assign individuals to secure certain items or they may take the team approach to ensure they get that one great sale, such as last year's television.
RC Willey offered a 47-inch digital television for $700, she recalls. To make sure they got one, Barrett and her family stationed two people at one door and two at another. When the store opened, they ran flat-out to the television. A salesman had promised to hold one for them but they had to get there immediately on opening.
It helps to know the layout of the stores you plan to visit, because it makes it easier to navigate the crowds, she adds. Check store Web sites for indoor maps.
Most of Barrett's strategies have been developed through trial and error, she says, such as the year the family learned to assign one person to watch the cart. A stranger removed a television and a piece of luggage from their cart, saying, "You haven't bought it yet."
"People will do that," she says.
The extra bodies help when it comes to standing in line, too. When the doors open, Barrett and her cousins go for the merchandise while one of the older family members stands in the checkout line.
The crowds will be huge so it's important to go into them with a good attitude, says Nancy Rosu, a devoted Black Friday shopper.
A personal shopper by trade, Rosu will be shopping for herself on Friday. She knows from experience to dress appropriately in comfortable shoes and clothes and carry as little as possible.
"Remember why you're there in the first place, to share a gift with someone," Rosu says. "Have a positive attitude and be happy."
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 380-4564.