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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Survive Store Crowds at Clearance Sales and Doorbusters

Clearance Sales and Doorbusters- Surviving the Crowds

Tonight Walmart had a Black Friday Doorbuster event at 6pm on Thanksgiving evening.  Even though I enjoy getting a great deal, I usually avoid such events.  The crowds are not only annoying, but things can get tense as people jostle for spots in the parking lot jostle in the store to get to the items on the shelf.  The lines are another source of tension- people are always trying to cut into the long lines for the checkout.

Crazy Doorbuster Sale Store Crowd at Walmart Black Friday Sale.  This line goes all the way around the store in both directions!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

A Sale Worth Fighting Crowds

There were a couple deals that were too good to pass up.  Stores sometimes use loss leaders to generate interest in a big sale event.

I could get an iPad mini for $299 and get a $100 Walmart gift card in the deal.  That brings the price of the iPad down to $199 since I can use the Walmart for everyday items or for other gifts.  My wife has been wanting an iPad for years and with this deal I can finally get one for her.  They also had a new Xbox video game that was recently released for $20 off.  Also a great deal.  There was also a guarantee in place that if they ran out of items, you could get a raincheck and get the item for the sale price in time for Christmas.  I decided to head for the big clearance sale event.

When I arrived at the Walmart parking lot, I could tell what kind of shopping experience I would be having.  The parking lot was completely full.  I had to park in the parking lot of a nearby store and walk about a block just to get to the Walmart.  With the delay in parking, I arrived at the store at 5:59pm.

Walmart Doorbuster Sale Ad- These deals were too good to pass up!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Store Crowd Survival

Inside the store, things got considerably worse.  People were sort of lined up all over the place, some pushing carts full of stuff.  It was not clear if people were trying to stand in line or if they were trying to shop.  I was glad not to have a cart, so I could at least move around fairly easily to see what was going on.  I headed to the electronics department to find the iPad mini.  After winding my way through the crowd for about 10 minutes and reaching the electronics department, I found that there were no iPad minis in sight.

I found out that there was a method to the madness.  I talked to a store employee who had a map.  The special deals were set up at specific locations in the store.  The iPad minis were in the automotive department.  The video game special was in the deli department.  This must have made sense to someone.

At the automotive department, you could wait in line for a wristband, and then wait in line to get an iPad mini.  However, they were out of wristbands by the time I got there- this meant that the supply of iPad minis would be exhausted.  I was able to pick up a card so that I could pay for the iPad mini and still get the special price and $100 gift card.  Well worth the effort.

Next, it was off to the deli to find the video game deal.  The line here wasn't too bad, and I picked up a game disc.  I had both of the items I wanted, all that was left was to checkout.

The checkout line turned out to be huge.  The people with carts loaded with stuff that seemed to be milling about were in a sort of checkout line that snaked all around the store and doubled back in places.  It took awhile for me to figure this out, even after asking people in line and store employees.  No one seemed sure what the lines were for or where the lines started.  It took more than an hour to make it out with my two items.

Clearance Sale Crowd Outside Kohls Store
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Was It Worth Fighting the Crowd at the Store?

Overall, it took about 2 hours to purchase the clearance items and I saved about $120.  This works out to about $60 per hour for the extra effort to get a good deal.  I would say that for me, it was worth the trouble.  It is stressful not knowing how long it would take.  While I was in the giant line for the checkout, there were times I thought I would be stuck in line until after midnight.  But I got out of the store by 8pm after two hours of shopping excitement.

How to Survive Store Crowds at Clearance Sales and Doorbusters

  • Figure out how much money you will save, and decide if it is worth fighting the crowds or not.  If you are saving $50 or more per hour, this would be worth it for most people.  You can skip the sale if it will not be worth your time.
  • Prepare for other shoppers to be pushy, rude and cut in front of you at times.  There is not much you can do about this, it is part of the clearance sale experience.  Try to focus on all of the people who are not pushing you or cutting in line.  Some of the people in the crowd were actually pleasant to talk with and helpful to figure out what was going on.
  • Stop and talk with a store employee as soon as you arrive to figure out how things work.  This would have saved me some time that I wasted fighting my way back to the electronics department when the items I wanted were set up in the automotive and deli departments.
  • Prioritize the items you want to buy at the sale.  If you start running out of patience, you can cut your shopping list short and go home early.
  • Have everyone in your shopping party carry a cell phone in case you get separated.  You can have one person wait in the long checkout line with the cart and others can retrieve items and bring them to the cart, all coordinated via cell phone and text messages.

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