The Black Friday frenzy has escalated in recent years as mobs of shoppers have turned aggressive and even violent in the search for savings. My family stopped shopping on Black Friday several years ago. It simply got too crowded and too dangerous.
But for those of you who still shop on Black Friday, here are some safety tips to help keep you safe while you’re finding those great deals. I realize that the level of danger will differ from town to town. And not all of these safety tips will apply to you. But it’s still good to be aware and ready, just in case. Anyone, anywhere can become a victim of theft and/or an attack.
And remember, I’m not suggesting that you become paranoid. And, no, I’m not being paranoid either. I’m simply giving you tips and suggestions to keep in mind to help you have a safe and enjoyable shopping experience.
Before You Leave the House:
Take a self defense class. Learn some awareness skills and a few self defense techniques. They can come in handy all year.
Leave children with a sitter. They’ll be safer there than in a crowded mall/store. If you do take children make sure they know your name and cell phone number. Have current pictures in your phone just in case. Give them a whistle and tell them to use it (ONLY) if they get separated from you. Tell them to go to a store clerk or security guard and ask for help if they get lost. Teach them what to do if a stranger approaches or grabs them. (Kick, scratch, bite, loudly yell something like “You’re not my mom/dad!” “I don’t know you!” and “You’re a stranger!”)
Have your cell phone fully charged and on. Put it in a secure pocket where you can feel it vibrate. You may not be able to hear it ring if the store is noisy.
Shop with other people. You’ll have more eyes for awareness, more hands for carrying packages (or defending each other) and you’ll be less interesting to thieves/thugs. Have everyone share their cell phone numbers. And, because cell phone service can be spotty in some stores, plan a specific time and place to gather if you get separated.
Wear clothing that gives you lots of secured pockets. Leave your purse/wallet at home and keep your I.D., credit cards, etc., in separate, secured pockets. Never carry anything in your back pocket, even if it can be secured. Some thieves carry box cutters and will cut your pocket to get at the contents. Avoid wearing heels. Flats are easier to run in.
If you carry a wallet, make it small with only the items you will need for your shopping trip.
If you carry a purse, keep it fastened and carry it close to your body.
If you drive an SUV, take blankets or coats to cover your purchases or invest in a cargo cover.
When You Arrive at the Store/Mall
Write down any aisle number, landmark, store entrance you are nearest to, and anything else that can help you remember where you parked. Wandering around the parking lot can make you a target for thugs/thieves. (As an alternative, utilize the mall’s valet service if one it available.)
Look around before you get out of your car and again after. Check for suspicious activity. This can help you become less of a target for thugs/thieves. They don’t like people who are aware of their surroundings. If you are parked in an enclosed parking garage, take note of where the exits are in case you need to escape.
Don’t ignore signs or barricades. They are there for your safety.
Once the doors open, proceed with caution. Maintain situational awareness. If you see ANY HINT of mob behavior beginning to occur, leave! Mobs have no conscience. You have to be responsible for your own safety. Don’t get drawn into a verbal or physical altercation.
Leave the area or get help from security.
When you enter each store, take time to locate the exits. Look for potential paths of escape and for barriers you can hide behind if escape is impossible. If violence breaks out, you need to be able to respond quickly. Get out if you can. Barricade/Hide yourself if you can’t.
If you came with other people, remember that conversation can cause you to become less aware. Keep surveying your surroundings for any sign of trouble. Stick together and be ready to defend each other or make a break for it if something bad starts to happen.
If you brought children, tell them to stay close to at ALL times. Don’t allow them to go to the restroom alone. And don’t allow them to go to the car by themselves or to wait in the car.
Enjoy Your Shopping Experience, But Remain Aware
Protect Your Valuables
Be wary of ANY stranger approaching you. If they’re able to get close, it’s easy to steal your valuables. Also, if they decide to shove or hit you before they grab your stuff, you won’t have enough time to react to the threat. Move away from them. Keep your distance as much as possible. If they follow you, make eye contact and tell them to stay away. Seek help from Security or store personnel. If it turns out you misread the situation, hey, you can always apologize. Better to be embarrassed than to be a victim of violence or theft.
Thieves look for distracted and overburdened shoppers. They often work in teams. One grabs your attention while the other grabs your valuables. Keep your valuables secured and be aware at all times. Thieves want to avoid confrontation. If you appear sure of yourself and aware of your surroundings, you will be a less attractive target.
If you stop at a food court, don’t hang your purse on the back of the chair. Put it in your lap. Even putting it on the table can be bad. All it takes is for you to get distracted and someone can grab it and run before you realize what’s happened.
If you get overloaded with packages, it’s easier for thieves to rip them from your grasp. It’s also difficult to defend yourself when your hands are full. Check to see if the store/mall offers a safe storage for packages. Or take them to your car.
If you take your purchases to your car, follow the tips under “Day is Done” below. Secure the packages in the trunk. If you don’t have a trunk, cover them with blankets, coats, cargo cover, etc. Then move your car to a different parking spot to help deter any thieves who may be watching and planning to steal your stuff after you go back inside. Write down where your new parking space is. Look around before getting back out of your car to make sure there is no suspicious activity.
Don’t take your cell phone out of your purse/pocket unless you have to. It’s easy for a thief to grab it and run.
Paying for Your Purchases
Don’t take cash out until you are ready to pay. Count your change at the register and secure it in a pocket before walking away.
If you pay with a Debit Card, cover the keypad when you enter your PIN.
Never leave your wallet/purse on the counter as you are cashing out. It’s way too easy for a thief to grab it and run.
If you need to use an ATM, make sure it is in a well-populated, well-lit area. Cover the keypad when you enter your PIN. Take your receipt with you.
Day is Done
Before leaving the store/mall, have your car keys in your hand. Look at your notes about where you parked your car. As you leave the store, look around for suspicious activity outside the store and near your car. Check to see if you’re being followed. If you feel unsafe, go back inside and ask security or a store employee to escort you to your car. Remain aware as you walk to your car.
Remain aware of your surroundings as you secure your packages in your car. Once you get inside your car, immediately lock the doors.
Watch for vehicles following you, especially if you purchased expensive items. If you think you are being followed, don’t go home. Go to the police station for help.
Once you get home, look around for strangers lurking around your driveway/home. If it’s safe, bring all of your purchases into the house.
Congratulations! You made it through Black Friday Shopping unscathed and safe. Now if only your credit card would quit smoking from over-use!
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