19 "Inside" Shopping Secrets for Black Friday

By: Janice Lieberman

You may wonder what really goes on behind the scenes of the stores before Black Friday. I did. So I asked Freeman Hall author of "Retail Hell - How I Sold My Soul to the Store, Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate" (Adams Media; $22.95) for the inside secrets on how to get the best bargains for the holiday. Hall is a former handbag manager for Nordstroms and is willing to spill!

Here are 20 Inside Shopping Secrets:

1. Case the Place - Check out the store the day before Thanksgiving so you can make a beeline to the items you've coveted. Talk to sales associates to get the low down on what will go down!

2. Know What You Want Ahead of Time - Not everything is on sale on Black Friday. The best deals are advertised because the stores buy them in bulk.

3. Be Sale Smart - Bring sale ads with you for clarification and extra in-store coupons which also make great leverage for price-matching. Hit the back clearance racks and look for additional discounts, take advantage of early bird savings and look for specially priced door-buster items.

4. Shopping After Brunch? -Yeah right, Think again! - Don't mock the people that get up in the middle of the night - they'll be there to get the ten dollar computer and you won't.

5. Shop Gladiator Style - You are going into sale war. You are a shopper on a mission - think of this day as the Olympics of shopping. Leave uninterested spouses and children at home and bring teenagers who can run fast. (Gladiator shoes not recommended.)

6. Do the Black Friday Google - Don't have the time to go through the papers? Can't remember who has what from the ads you saw on TV? Do the Black Friday Google. There are hundreds of websites with Black Friday sale information, like www.black-friday.net where you can peruse the latest sale ads and updates at all the stores. You can also go to your favorite store's website for the sale skinny like www.target.com/blackfriday

7. Make Friends with an Associate - It's the best way to get the inside scoop on everything. A day or two before Black Friday, check in with them. Often times, they have been briefed on the exact location of all the hottest items their store will be selling, and how many they have. They usually know the quickest way to get from one to department to another. Tell them what you're after. Listen to their advice. Plan your strategy.

8. Have a Black Friday All-Nighter Party - Afraid you won't wake up at 3 am to get in line? Then don't go to bed! Stay up and have a Black Friday All-nighter Party with friends! Make Black Friday-tinis with vodka, blackberry brandy, black raspberry liqueur and lemon twist! And you may not have to wait too long, as some outlet stores actually open at midnight on Turkey Day. Shop all night - sleep all day!

9. Be Wired, Not Tired - If decide to drag yourself out of bed at 3 am, make sure you energize with massive amounts of caffeine. You know your limit. Maximize your jittery potential without needing Mylanta. Have snacks with you or hit the drive-thru before you get in line. It's going to be a long morning and you don't want to spend it in the bathroom with coffee stomach.

10. Put it in Park Fast - Don't waste time circling the lot eight times in hopes of getting a coveted location. It will only take away from time you could be using to get those great deals. As a plus, taking a distant parking space can help you walk off the half a turkey you ate yesterday.

11. Be Calm in the Black Friday Herd - Enter just-opened stores cautiously for your safety and for others, not like a stampede of angry elephants. The term "door busters" isn't meant to be literal. Let's have a stampede-free Black Friday. A $25 dollar stereo isn't worth an $800 dollar ER visit.

12. Stampede Tip - If you find yourself in an unruly crowd, try to make your way to its edge, where the flow is lighter. Stand straight with feet firmly positioned. Stay calm and conserve oxygen and energy by not yelling or screaming. Brace your arms out in front of you, creating an air pocket for protection. If you see someone down, try and help them up. Or try blocking other people from walking over them. Cart Blocking - Creatively use your cart to block approaching crowds. If there are carts in your way, ditch yours and start hurdling.

13. Build Team Black Friday - Find out what stores your friends are going to and build a Team Black Friday. See who needs what. Split up with lists and hit different stores. It can save time and win you your sale prize.

14. Line Networking - Make friends with people in line. Compare notes. You might discover some information you didn't know about. Maybe you can help each other out. You never know when you might need friendly backup.

15. Leave Dead Weight Behind - Leave uninterested spouses and others at home and bring teenagers who can run fast and be bribed.

16. Ask the Right Person Your Question - Stores will be in "all hands on deck" mode. In some cases, a cashier might be sent to watch over an item in electronics. Keep in mind that just because the person works there, doesn't mean they're going to know the exact location of every item in the store. Losing your cool because you've been told "I'm not sure" or "I don't know" isn't going to help the situation. It's going to get you pointed in the wrong direction.

17. Stay Black Friday Focused - Shop the advertised necessities. Things that aren't on sale or the hot items of the year will still be there tomorrow. So hold off on buying the groceries and underwear until later. Every moment you spend picking out socks for Aunt Gertrude is a moment you could be missing out on a $5 microwave.

18. Leave Your Black Friday Diva at the Door - Kindness and a smile go along way. Sales associates will be more willing to help you if you treat them nicely. They might give you a coupon you don't have or inside info on shipments. Being rude, snappy and taking a sales associate's head off because the store ran out of an item fifteen minutes earlier isn't going to make it magically reappear, and the only thing you'll get is thrown out of the store.

19. Don't Use Sob Stories and Lying on Sales Associates - Putting on an Oscar performance of how poor little Katie will be so disappointed because she can't have that new Barbie for Christmas isn't going to get you one. Sales associates have heard it all before and they have no magical wand to make your sold out item suddenly appear. At most, all you'll get is "I'm sorry, Katie will have to wait till next year."

20 Gifts for Under $50

5 Steps to Your Next Flea Market Bargain

9 Ways to Get Your Vacation for Less

How to Get a Great Deal on Anything