Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I’m Dreaming of a Safe Black Friday

     Start your engines! The holiday shopping season officially begins on Black Friday. As an Olympic shopper, Black Friday is better than New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July combined. I start this fine day at 3 am, with 10 of my closest friends and relatives. We eat a hearty breakfast, caravan to the biggest Black Friday sale, and end the day when we hit a minimum of 12 stores (or when someone whines about their feet).

     Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year—with some 60 million shoppers hitting the pavement. I feel a kinship with all these deal-seekers – we all want to deliver a great present at even better price!

     But not everyone in the crowd is a nice guy. Some folks go out on Black Friday just to prey on the happy and unsuspecting—in other words, people like me. So to be better prepared for Black Friday, I asked our man of safety, Butch Rhoderick, to offer up some eye-opening tips. Butch is a former Maryland State Trooper and the director of security for Meritus Medical Center.

To keep your holidays merry, here are his recommendations:
  • Use common sense. Keep your mind focused on your surroundings, not just that 72'' HDTV that’s 60% off. 
  • Take a friend along with you for late-night (or early morning) shopping trips. 
  • Park in a well-lit area of the parking lot. 
  • Lock your car and hide any cell phones or electronic gear. 
  • If dashing from store-to-store, stash packages in your trunk. If you don’t have a trunk, keep packages covered on the floor of the back seat. 
  • Unlock your car door only when you’re at arm’s length away. Opening your car with your remote while standing 25 feet away invites thieves to make off with your goods before you can reach the car. 
  • Use curbside pick-up when shopping at night. Don’t be afraid to ask a clerk to watch your cart while you pull up to the front of the store. 
  • Cover your hand when entering your debit card pin number. Better yet, keep your debit card at home and use a credit card. A fraudulently used debit card is like a blank check, and your bank account could be wiped out before you know it. 
  • Keep your purse zipped or buttoned at all times. It’s easier than you think for thieves to lift your wallet or use electronic scanners to read credit card information. 
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash. If you do carry money, carry it in your front pockets. 

     Butch reminded me that Black Friday is every thief’s shopping day too. Bad guys look for “targeted opportunities” like some of the things I just described. Enjoy the nog everyone, but don’t forget to use your noggin.

By Anne Gill

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