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Should You Camp Out for Black Friday Deals?

Nov. 28, 2013
Black Friday, Shopping
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As competition amongst retailers intensifies, the lure of camping out to snag holiday shopping deals seems to grow every year. Bigger Black Friday deals and even the prospect of guaranteed availability lead some shoppers to brave the cold and deal with safety hazards to clear their gift list at bargain prices.

Admit it: every now and then, you wonder if they’re on to something. You think, maybe they’re not just materialistic and overly competitive, but rather economically knowledgeable.

Is this the case or is it better to watch the Black Friday madness on TV? Here are some items to consider.

There are Some Perks

Being near the front of the line for the mad dash certainly gives you the best chance to get the items on your list at a steep discount. On top of that, consider some of the following early bird deals out there this Black Friday:

  • Wal-Mart has guaranteed availability for certain items during the first hour on Thanksgiving evening
  • If you’re among the first 500 customers at an Old-Navy store on Thanksgiving evening, you’ll be eligible for a $1 million prize

If you’re convinced the odds are in your favor this year, you’ll still want to consider the many downsides of camping out for Black Friday.

The Competition

In many cases, you’ll be pitted against seasoned Black Friday campers if you want to be near the front of the line. This year, for example, Akron Beacon Journal Online reported that the first camper at one Ohio Best Buy showed up 10 days before the big day. This isn’t his first time camping out for deals, as you might expect.

As multiple people (in Best Buy’s case, up to 10) can occupy one tent, note you may have quite a few people in front of you, even if you arrive days ahead of time.

The Cost

In most of the United States, it gets cold (if not downright freezing) in late November, at least at night. As such, you’ll need plenty of warm clothes and blankets, and a space heater would be highly useful. Don’t forget about food, too!

Other items you might need include:

  • Entertainment (books, games, etc.)
  • Generator
  • Hygiene products
  • Microwave or portable grill
  • Portable toilet

Obviously, you’ll also need a tent to sleep in. Thus, if you don’t have this or any of the other mentioned supplies, you’ll have to buy them, which will eat into any savings you obtain by camping out.

Permission isn’t Guaranteed

While many stores allow customers to camp out, there’s no law requiring them to do so. Do your research ahead of time, so all of your time preparing and roughing it isn’t done in vain!

The Environment

You’ll be in front of a store for multiple days. Consider that your surrounding environment will include:

  • Lots of pedestrians
  • Bright lights at night
  • Plenty of vehicles passing by and starting up
  • Honking horns
  • Doors opening and closing all day and night
  • Numerous other campers

If you’re the quiet type, or if you highly value uninterrupted sleep, think long and hard about your decision.

Safety Issues

While most Black Friday safety incidents occur during the rush to the shelves, you’ll be camping on a sidewalk outside a retail store for several days alongside strangers. You’ll obviously have some form of payment with you and will be far less protected than you would at home. That’s not the safest situation to be in.

No Turkey for You!

While Mom and Dad are carving turkey and the rest of your family watches football, you’ll be reading store ads in a tent on cold cement.

How Much Will You Save, Anyway?

Unless you have a gigantic holiday gift list, chances are the amount you save will be more than offset by the costs of camping and taking days off from work, as well as the hassles of driving home to shower and finding someone to monitor your tent.

There are Alternatives

Some stores have Black Friday sales before and after the actual day. Be sure to keep Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday in mind. After all, it’s a lot easier to be first in “line” on the Internet than in person.

Final Word

As you may have guessed, camping out for Black Friday isn’t worth it for most. Even if you want the Black Friday experience, you can get it by just showing up a few hours early on the big day. The costs of going all in by camping out simply don’t justify being uncomfortable and possibly unsafe for days, especially considering the availability of viable alternatives such as Cyber Monday.


Snowy Gifts image courtesy of Shutterstock.