Tips for Surviving Black Friday

Shop safely, America. But do shop.

The Christmas shopping season is almost upon us, ready to claw open our clamped, unwilling mouths and cram them so full with cheer that we collectively choke on our own merriment and saliva. Many retailers have maximized their potential hours of profit by opening their stores in the morning before closing the night before, including 80% coupons in the small plastic bag of giblets found in most frozen turkeys, chaining cashiers to their stations with lightweight chromium steel “efficiency tethers” and allowing would-be shoppers to sublet entire portions of parking lots for tent cities, RVs, and small condo shares.

Of course, you can and will do at least a portion of your holiday buying online, but the safe point-and-click of the Internet shopping cart carries with it none of the thrill of victory, or the savage pleasure that comes from hearing the pathetic, mewling shrieks of the defeated. Black Friday unites the twin American obsessions of waiting in line and staying inside, while elevating the act of purchasing bargain electronics to a savage yet sublime battle of wills. With that in mind, here are a few tips to ensure that this year you crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women. You know, secrets for shoppers.

10. Prepare for distractions and have an exit strategy. Let nothing deter you from achieving your goal. “Can you please move these trampled corpses out of the aisle? They’re blocking the Call of Duty display.”

9. Odds are that things will get violent, and that sooner rather than later. Bring a knife. They’re best for close-quarter combat situations, like jockeying for position in line at the Best Buy. A knife can also double as a box-cutter if you reach a display before the employees have had a chance to remove the products from their manufacturer’s casing, and of course, nothing’s going to push that mother of three away from your iPad 2 faster than a quick, lateral thrust to the kidneys.

8. Plan your route. Is it more practical to take your own vehicle, or commandeer somebody else’s once you take to the streets? If you take your own, you’ll have to do your own modifications, and active protection systems don’t grow on trees. What kind of self-propelled artillery will you need? Do you plan on plating your vehicle with composite armor or are you sticking with steel? Bearing in mind that every major transit artery will be blocked solid from now until January, does it make more sense to fund and develop helicopter support? These are things you should be thinking about now, not when you’re trying to navigate the fume-filled and gang-dominated blood mazes that once comprised your local downtown area. Of course, you may already live in Los Angeles.

7. Hydrate. Forget the Sunny D; these times call for Gatorade. Get it in you.

6. Shed your innocence. If you think you’re going to find a single parking space without screeching horrific obscenities at numerous elderly disabled veterans, then you don’t have the stomach for this. Why don’t you just stay home? You could order all your presents a week before the holidays and present everyone with a printed invoice (“So it was supposed to ship on the 22nd, but I guess something in the warehouse got tied up – anyhow, I hate to spoil the surprise, but here’s the receipt – you should be able to expect it by mid-January, the lady on the phone said”) or knit everyone an incredibly itchy scarf. Accept your limitations.

5. Hone your focus. What do eye contact, verbal speech, and the human ability to experience the feeling of mercy have in common? There is no place for them this day.

4. Remember that this is a marathon, not a 5k or even a half-marathon. Promotional sales have been extended over the last few years from Friday-only to cover the entire weekend. Some even begin on Thanksgiving Day, an absurd and tragic reminder of the arbitrary nature of brand pricing.

3. Multitask. Worried there may be a better deal online than what you’re being offered in the store? Oh, my friend, you had better believe that there is an app for that. Now you can shop online while you are shopping in person. Efficiency. Singularity. Unity. Soon, our gracious corporate overlords will find a way to make every day like Black Friday, and every technological device a potential Target. We’ll always be shopping. All things single, all things alike. It’ll be like the movie Groundhog Day, only real and wonderful and full of bottom-priced DVD box gift sets of Sex and the City with all nineteen movies and interactive Stanford Blatch-voiced Crocs.

2. Retain the element of surprise. Upon retiring for the evening, steal your family members’ cell phones (or alarm clocks, for the older set) and reset the time. Won’t they feel like suckers when they wander downstairs as late as 7 a.m. only to see you surrounded by your numerous purchases and covered in the blood of strangers.

1. Alternately, keep your head down, pick up a drink, and pray for January. Better make it two drinks, just to be safe. It’s going to be a long winter, but all winters eventually come to an end.

Image: afroboof

Mallory Ortberg

Mallory resides in San Francisco, California. You can catch her weekly Sex By Numbers column.