Why Are People Camping At Best Buy

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 6 minute read

Many Americans spend their Thanksgiving night camped out in front of retailers to ensure they receive the greatest prices on Black Friday. To some, it is the official start of the holiday shopping season. They’re not preparing a feast for the holiday, but rather eating sandwiches while listening to the game and standing in line. Compare it like tailgating, but for shopping.

Many people look forward to the Black Friday camping experience, and for good reason: it may save you a lot of money. In the hours before a major retailer like Walmart, Best Buy, or Target opens to the public, customers typically wait in lines that stretch far beyond the store’s front. Those that wait in line overnight to obtain the best prices are the ones who camped out.

Maybe even the first person in line will benefit from it. According to USA Today, certain stores, such as Cabela’s, give away freebies to customers while they wait in line on Black Friday. The first 600 customers in line at Cabela’s have always received a free present, which has ranged from gift cards to more expensive retail products like weapons in the past.

The best discounts of the year may be found on the internet or on Cyber Monday. Many campers on Black Friday, however, say they do so because it’s a good time and a good way to save money on Christmas gifts and to be with friends and family. However, you may need to take additional safety measures this year.

COVID-19 & Black Friday Camping

The COVID-19 outbreak has altered the normal pattern of Black Friday.
Many individuals will not bother standing in line for doorbusters this year because doing so is now considered a high-risk activity by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the days leading up to, including, and immediately after Thanksgiving.

Michael Brown, a partner at global strategy and management consultancy Kearny, recently told The Washington Post that Black Friday as we know it is impossible in the present environment. It’s also unclear how stores will ensure the safety of their customers and comply with social distancing regulations about Black Friday campers.

Because of these difficulties, several stores started their Black Friday deals shortly after Halloween. In order to provide its consumers with even more opportunity to get incredible discounts, Walmart is holding not one, not two, but three Black Friday sales events in the month of November. Similarly, Target is offering discounts all throughout the month. Most stores now provide contactless curbside store pickup as a means of reducing foot traffic.

To find out in advance if a particular store would permit camping on Black Friday this year, you should phone the retailer a few days before the big shopping day. If so, you should inquire as to what rules they have about camping and Black Friday shopping. As an added precaution, it’s smart to adhere to these CDC recommendations:

  • When camping or standing in line, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from anybody outside your immediate family.
  • Wear a handmade or store-bought face mask, as many businesses need them for shopping, and pack extras in case you lose or smudge yours.
  • Carry a hand sanitizer bottle.
  • If you or a member of your family exhibits signs of COVID-19, stay at home and avoid contact with others.
  • Bring along disinfectant wipes to clean frequently touched surfaces.

You may have just as much fun as in previous years if you stay within the CDC’s limits and are in an area with minimal community spread (a positive rate of less than 5 percent).

Black Friday Camping Tales

Over 189.6 million people shopped during the Black Friday weekend in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation. While true Black Friday campers make out just a small percentage of these shoppers, there are still many fans.

Mike Franke, a Wisconsin resident, and his family have been camping out in front of Best Buy for over ten years, and in 2016, the store conducted an interview with Franke. Franke and his family have perfected the art of Black Friday camping. They’ve packed two huge tents, a generator, air mattresses and sleeping bags suitable for temperatures below zero, a 40-inch flat-screen television, and even a satellite dish so they can watch the big game.

Franke has also forged lasting bonds with his fellow Black Friday campers, all of whom visit Best Buy annually in search of unparalleled discounts. He claims that is always a great time.
Derek De Armond, a man who has spent years living in a tent outside a Best Buy in Fort Myers, Florida, was profiled by The New York Times in 2014. De Armond, like Franke, knows from experience what does and does not work.

He and two pals stake out a camping place two weeks before Black Friday and take turns staying there. At this point, they’ve gone all out with a Christmas tree, tiki bar, hammock, and flat-screen television.

Think about RV Camping

Consider camping out in your recreational vehicle (or one you rent via Outdoorsy) to take advantage of Black Friday sales. As opposed to sleeping on the cold, hard pavement, you will be much more at ease here, especially if the weather turns for the worse.

Camping in an RV has a lot going for it, but there are a few things to remember before you hit the road.

Choose a Store

Plan your parking spot ahead of time. Black Friday traffic and an RV are not a good mix. Ease your shopping experience by setting up camp near a large number of retailers, such an indoor mall or outlet center.

Ask Permission

Camping overnight in front of a business or mall is often not allowed, although during Black Friday, this rule is sometimes broken. However, before setting up camp in the parking lot, you need to get approval to do so. Don’t miss out on Black Friday deals by not speaking to the store management about it.

If you decide to visit, please act like a respectful guest. Do not litter, and please leave the parking lot in better condition than you found it.

Consider Your Power Requirements

Do you use a generator or solar panels to power your home’s appliances? Can you keep warm enough in your camper without using an electric furnace or space heater if the weather turns chilly for a lengthy period of time?

Purchase Provisions

Finally, make sure that your RV is well stocked with food and water before setting out. Try to find things that don’t require much preparation or time in the kitchen. You may have hot lasagna or beef stroganoff in minutes with Mountain House’s freeze-dried meals; all you need is boiling water to rehydrate them.

Bottom Line

Not everyone enjoys getting up early to camp outside stores to get the best discounts on Black Friday. If you’re not prepared, it may be freezing and uncomfortable. However, with the proper equipment, it can be a lot of fun. You might unwittingly establish a brand-new custom for Thanksgiving.

Remember that many retailers may ban Black Friday camping in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic. Before setting up camp, be sure it’s allowed and what precautions you need to take by calling ahead.

The cost per hour of camping might help you decide whether or not to go through with it. Consider the case of a $300 discount on a flat-screen TV, but the caveat that you must camp out for 24 hours to ensure your purchase. That works out to about $12.50 per hour. What hourly wage would you accept in order to qualify for the discount? In such a case, maybe you should just remain in and do your shopping online.

However, monetary value is not the only factor. Many individuals value the time spent camping out on Black Friday more than the savings they might receive, especially if they can bring along friends and family and make it into a mini vacation.

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