A former employee shares her best tips and strategies for the biggest shopping holiday of the year.

By Liz Steelman
Updated November 22, 2016
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Best Buy Exterior
Credit: Best Buy

This might sound surprising, but I loved working Black Friday morning at Best Buy during high school in Illinois. I can assure you, it was nothing like the retail horror stories you've seen on the news. There was no trampling or yelling. It is hectic, crowded, and a little overwhelming (which prepared me for my daily NYC commute later in life), but I never once felt scared. Overall, it was exciting: especially when the day started at 4 a.m. with a shot of Red Bull and a riling chant from our floor manager to get our adrenaline pumping. It’s an experience I think everyone should have. And not only did I learn a bit of grit and humility during my 10-hour day, I also picked up some savvy shopping lessons I still use today. And now I’m sharing them with you. Here, the four most important Black Friday shopping strategies I learned while working on the floor at a big box electronics store on the most notorious retail holiday.

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Best Buy Exterior
Credit: Best Buy

1 Shop Between 3 and 5 p.m.

Yes, you’ll miss the doorbusters, but you’ll also dodge the heaviest crowds. If you’re looking for something in the middle pages of a store’s circular (think: a $3 Blue Ray or really cheap kitchen appliances), there’s a good chance it'll still be around late afternoon. You might have to search around, as the store will be disorganized from the morning rush, but the staff should also be more available to help. (In my experience, stores often break their staffs into two shifts—morning (4 a.m. – 2 p.m.) and afternoon (2 p.m. – closing), which means you're more likely to be greeted by a fresh faced team.

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2 Know What You Want (and Need)

This is crucial advice if do you plan to be there right when a store opens for those doorbusters. That means you not only need to know the exact camera deal you're going after, but which accessories you're planning to purchase, too. During the morning rush, staffers will likely only have time to answer basic questions, such as "where is _______?" (And that answer is likely coming in the form of a finger point, if my experience says anything.) If you’re on the hunt for a new computer or camera and want a second opinion, consider coming back on a less busy day or later on in the evening. And chances are, all the special deal products are out in the floor—I've found there usually aren't any in the back.

3 Buy Mid-Range

Don’t try to get something already cheap, even cheaper. While the $30 HDTV seems like a great deal, it’s still the lowest tier model. So, if you’re thinking about upgrading that old TV in the den, Black Friday is the time. You might be able to get a mid-range or premium model for what you’d normally pay for a basic model. Since you have to fork out a little more than what people might hope to to on Black Friday, it’s also more likely to stay in the store a little longer that day.

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4 Try a Stand-Alone Store

People camping out on Thanksgiving night to land a special Friday morning deal may want to see what other stores have to offer, too. If you want to try to score a doorbuster with a little less effort, go to a location without other stores. A standalone store will often have less foot traffic than stores in more populated areas, meaning you’re competing against fewer people for those special, big-ticket items.