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Black Friday & Cyber Monday Shopping Tips

It’s becoming ever harder to get good deals on Black Friday, the huge shopping day after the Thanksgiving holiday feast, and Cyber Monday. As more people seek bargains and more companies spin less-than-real deals, the genuine super steal becomes increasingly elusive.

Photo by by timparkinson

We invited some very savvy shoppers to share where and how they score the best bargains with Rand McNally’s readers. These are the best of the best strategies:

  1. SHOP TAX FREE SHOPPING STATES
    According to Accenture’s Holiday Shopping Survey, four out of five consumers (79%) said that they were likely or very likely to shop more on tax-free shopping days during the holidays if it was offered by their city or state. Shopping tax free means 4-10% savings on everything automatically, without lines or special shopping times–making a trip across state lines well worth the gas for big ticket items.

    2010 Tax Free states

    If you can’t get to a tax-free destination, try to buy online from a retailer without a store in your state and of course the fallback is Amazon who is tax free for all except the residents of Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, or Washington. Apparently someone in the government doesn’t like people who live in states beginning with K or N.

    Hotel Fifty in Portland Oregon has a special shoppers package. For only $155 (starting rate), guests get a night in the hotel, free parking and $50 to spend at the Pioneer Place mall filled with upscale tax free shopping at chains like Tiffany’s, Apple, Kate Spade and more.

  2. GO TO AREAS WITH LESS TRAFFICKED STORES
    A key to scoring deals is shopping in areas with lower population density or less per capita income. There’s no way you’re going to grab that 110″ TV for ten bucks in New York City, but a 90 minute drive to Buck’s County’s Penn’s Purchase outlet mall netted us several pairs of Children’s Place pajamas for $1.99 each, a Coach handbag for $65 and several Danskin leotards for $0.99 each.

    Here are some best bets:

    • Debra Daigle, a New Hampshire resident, loves the Mall of New Hampshire. Her parents, Massachusetts residents, still travel North to New Hampshire to take advantage of better bargains at malls like Settler’s Green and the Tilton Tanger Outlet Mall.
    • Side Note: Guests staying at the Candlelight Inn in Brandford New Hampshire can participate in Midnight Madness the local Tilton Tanger Outlet and then come back to relax with hot buttered cider, holiday sweets and all the necessary supplies to wrap gifts leisurely in a relaxed setting.
    • Support Local businesses by finding out which areas are banding together to serve shoppers. Alexandria Virginia’s Old Town Boutique district with unique stores such as the consignment shop Mint Condition and Fibre Space (home design/decor) is an example of one putting together special deals to lure value and quality conscious consumers who want to keep money in the community.
    • Teri Gault, CEO and founder of The Grocery Game suggest you go off the beaten path: “Check drug stores and supermarkets. They also offer black Friday deals and are not nearly as crowded. In fact, it’s almost like a normal day sometimes. Drugstores, especially have great gift items for the holidays on Black Friday sales, typically, toys, perfume sets, watches, and more.”
  3. MIDNIGHT MADNESS & MORE
    Turn shopping into more than a comsume-athon. These places combine the shopping trip with an event out of the ordinary.

    • Fairfax County in Virginia is just over the border to DC but has some of the best hotel rates for people who want to make Black Friday a shopcation. Weekend room nights are usually around $89 for 3 to 4 star hotels. Popular events include Midnight Madness at Tysons Corner Center (a party that includes a dive into a pile of wrapped holiday gifts to find envelopes worth up to $1,000 in American Express Gift Cards) or ice skating and a horse-drawn carriage ride at the Reston Town Center.
    • At Legends Kansas City Outlets, the party starts 2 hours early. Visit the stores starting at 10p.m. to get discounts up to 40% off. To keep things lively, Deejay Steve Serrano will be spinning tracks, energy drinks will be available, and restaurants and food specialty stores are giving away free samples and specials throughout the night.
    • Families may have more fun if everyone can go shopping in their pajamas. At Prime Outlets across the country guests shopping in their jammies receive benefits including additional discounts, contests for gift certificates, and/or gift bags filled with free PJs, slippers and coupons. At the annual Fernandina Beach “Black Friday” Pajama Party Sale & Contest guests can start shopping Fernandina Beach, Florida at 8 a.m. and then enter “Best Dressed Individual Shopper in Pajamas” and “Best Dressed Shopping Group in Pajamas” contests.
  4. SOLD! BUY AT AUCTION
    Several auction houses, including Let’s Talk Auction in Mio Michigan, run special Black Friday auctions with NO Reserve prices and extra special deals. PropertyRoom.com offers incredible deals by selling merchandise seized by police or not claimed in lost and founds. Pick up items at one of their will call locations in New York, Los Angeles or Orlando to avoid shipping charges.
  5. TACTICS THAT WORK EVERYWHERE
    Jacque Tiegs, a freelance field producer and expert in Black Friday Wal-Mart shopping, had some of the best Black Friday strategies we’ve heard:

    • Become a tag team with people standing in line with you. Many stores will bring out specials throughout the night or morning. Ask people to hold your place in the line for the big ticket item while you run and grab enough of the other specials around the store for both yourself and your line-mates.
    • Another hot tip: Have a friend stationed at the register, allowing people to go ahead of her while you wait near the back room for desired items to be brought out. As soon as you get the item, call your friends cell and tell her to take her place. This will save you long waits at the register.
    • Buy merchandise you want and suspect is going on sale in advance, when there are no lines or stress. Go back to the store armed with the receipt and ask for a price adjustment for the item during the time the publicized price is valid. Most stores will accommodate without requiring you to bring the merchandise in–however check store policy in advance to make sure you don’t get stuck with non-refundable or non-adjustable items.
  6. AND A FINAL FEW . . .
    • Twitter and Facebook are a must! If you have favorite stores or places you are hoping to score a deal, follow them on Twitter and Facebook and watch them closely. Many hotels, stores and brands will be putting up deals only for people who click or give a code through Twitter or Facebook.
    • Comparison shop in advance. Look up the prices of the items you really want in advance before the pressure is on–especially if you buy at stores with a no returns policy.
    • Gather coupons in advance. Many manufacturers offer coupons or discount codes that will add 10-30% more off your purchases. Search for these on sites like Retail Me Not. Smartphone owners should install apps like FourSquare, ScoutMob and Yowza that provide exclusive discounts to app users.
    • Bring ads with you. Several stores will honor competitor pricing.This will vary greatly depending on the store and the type of item (some items have to be regular priced). Still, it is worth a try.
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