Shopping Crowd Survival

Amanda Weston

     The day after Thanksgiving and the weekend before Christmas are generally regarded as the busiest shopping days of the year. Crowds of eager bargain-hunters can easily turn into a shopping mob. The average shopper can soon become a victim, swept away in the holiday rush. By following a few simple tips, you can escape with a few less bruises and the perfect gift.

1. There is power in numbers

     It’s much easier to fight the crowd when you’re not alone. By shopping in a group, not only will you have more fun, but you will have back up as well. Your personal army can assist you in elbowing your way to the sale rack and, for the harder to find purchases, you can divide and conquer. They can also give their opinions on gifts you’re unsure about (does your brother really need that snowman sweater?), making you feel more confident about your purchases.

2. Keep your eyes on the prize

     During the holiday rush, standing in the middle of the aisle contemplating a purchase is inadvisable. Eager or impatient shoppers will soon become annoyed and barrel their way past, putting you at risk for stomped toes, elbows to the arm and shoves. Having a sense of urgency also increases your chance of getting the items you want. By walking with a purpose and knowing what you’re after, you’ll reach your items in much less time and have a better chance of getting them before they sell out. If a standoff emerges with another shopper, show that you mean business. Power-walk to your target and after grabbing it, go to the register immediately.

3. Protect your items

    Once securing your gifts make your way to the checkout counter as quickly as possible. To prevent dropping and possibly breaking your items (or having them snatched), tucking them into a football-like position is a good idea. This also shows the other shoppers that your item has been claimed and is now off-limits.

4. Anticipate the other shoppers

     Most shoppers arrive in the early afternoon, so it’s a good idea to get to the mall early. This way the stores are still clean, the employees are still relaxed and willing to help and you won’t feel crowded. If you’re not up for the early bird specials, wait out the crowd, but keep in mind, less items will be available. Also, it’s probably safe to say that around lunch time most people will be heading to the food court to refuel for the day. Instead of switching from fighting for gifts to fighting for food, eat early or after the lunch crowd has calmed down, so you can take advantage of the less crowded stores.

5. Keep track of your spending

     Now that you’ve reached the register and are ready to exit the store, all that’s left to do is pay. However, throughout the day your budget shrinks, and not keeping up with your spending can lead to a declined credit card or empty wallet, only to be noticed while attempting to pay. Not only will your efforts have been wasted, but the rapidly increasing line behind you and the stressed cashier will become annoyed. To avoid this, keep your receipts and either a mental or written list of how much you’ve spent and how much is left.

6. Don’t procrastinate

     This best way to avoid shopping crowds is to beat them. Layaway can be a beautiful thing, and beginning your shopping early means your gifts are less likely to be sold out. If you’d rather not pay over time, find a unique hiding spot for your gifts – not the hall closet. Also, online shopping can save much of the stress that accompanies the mall. Just allow enough time for shipping to avoid giving out I.O.U.s. Also, don’t shop for shoes or clothes online in order to avoid sizing issues. Many online stores will also gift-wrap your present, saving time.

     Shopping can be half the fun of the holiday season, and there are many great deals to be found. But seeing your loved one’s reaction to the perfect gift makes every crushed toe, every bruised elbow and every fight over that last pair shoes, worth it. And who knows? Maybe you can pick up a little something for yourself along the way.