Is Black Friday Worth It?

The pros and cons of the popular shopping holiday.

As someone who spent many long years working retail from high school through college, Black Friday has never been a favorite day of mine. I’d much rather spend the day after Thanksgiving out hiking, far away from the angry crowds of deal-hungry shoppers busting down store doors in the wee hours of the morning. Seeing Black Friday from the other side changes a person.

However, for those who haven’t been personally traumatized by stampeding masses while working at Target in their youth, you may be wondering if you should brave the chaos for the deals. Are the price points really worth it? Is it worth the early wake up and wading through often angry mobs of shoppers?

There is no clear-cut answer, but here are a few things to consider before lacing up your combat boots for Black Friday battle:

The Downside of Doorbusters

Doorbuster sales are amazing, I’m not going to pretend otherwise. Stores will always place a few hot ticket items on deep discount to draw folks in. The most impressive deals are usually on electronics, marked down hundreds of dollars. The downside to these deals? Stores strategically stock only a few of these doorbuster items, so when they’re gone you’re out of luck (until the next day, when they’ll magically reappear at a higher price).

If you’re planning on swiping the best doorbusters, it often means camping out and literally fighting your way through the crowds and running through the store. I once saw a woman elbow someone in the face to get a doorbuster gaming system during my Target days. Those who are in it to win it on Black Friday do not mess around.

How Early is Too Early?

When I worked retail, Black Friday was usually a 5 a.m. ordeal. I thought it was the absolute worst and loathed the customer creating this demand (especially because I had to be clocked in by 4:30 a.m.). I never imagined a day when Black Friday would start at midnight, or the new normal of Thanksgiving evening. Many stores now open up to offer their Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving Day.

While it may be nice to start your Christmas shopping and walk off that pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner, many shoppers opt to draw a line in the sand when it comes to shopping (and thereby demanding that low-wage employees work) on the holiday itself. Some people will shop on Thanksgiving, some will hit the malls for the 4 a.m. openings, some will face the more “tame” crowds later in the day, and some will forgo the day entirely, looking instead for the month-long “Black Friday” deals that many stores now offer. It all depends on your priorities (and how long you want to sleep off that turkey).

What is Your Tolerance for Crowds?

I’m strongly in the camp of people who likes to get most of my holiday shopping done before Thanksgiving, simply because I am not a big fan of crowds. While the whole holiday season will be rife with crowds and long lines, no day will require quite as much patience as Black Friday. Even if you do get the deals you are out looking for, the wait time at the register will likely be long.

If you are planning on braving the crowds, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes and have a strategy for which stores you want to hit because each stop is going to take a long time. Also, remember to be kind to the cashiers who are dealing with an unconscionable amount of rude customers throughout the day.

Think Before You Buy

If you’re simply wanting to get some holiday shopping out of the way, Black Friday may not be the best day to do it. Many deals will continue throughout the holiday season, and certain toys drop even lower in price to clear out stock the week before Christmas. There’s a reason most retail employees don’t shop Black Friday deals – they know they’ll still be there tomorrow.

If there are some great one-day-only deals you can’t miss, go for it. Sometimes the savings are worth the stress, but it all depends on what you want – and need – to buy.

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