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What’s the Actual Best, Non-Black Friday Day to Go Gift-Shopping?

The secret shopping nirvana of good deals and no crowds really does exist

The meaning of Black Friday has mutated impressively over the last few decades. In the public consciousness, it has evolved from “the day our Lord and savior was put to death for our sins,” to “not many people shopping today, are there?,” to “HOLY FUCK I’M GOING TO TRAMPLE EIGHT PEOPLE TO DEATH FOR 20 PERCENT OFF THIS PERSONAL FOOT SPA.”

Coverage of this day of shopping rampages dominates the media, but is it really a good time to actually get out there and look for deals? Surely there must be some way to land a bargain without camping outside of a big-box store for a week in advance? Is there — dare to dream — a day that offers peace, tasty deals and shelves that aren’t totally empty yet? 

We’ve got our tramplin’ shoes on, and we’re ready to bargain-hunt some answers.

Whoa, back up: People still shop in stores? Like, real, you-have-to-actually-go-outside stores?

Oh yeah. In fact, retail-industry surveys show that up to 85 percent of people still prefer brick-and-mortar stores to shopping online. The biggest reason, according to another retail-industry survey, is the chance to see, feel and try out items. There’s just no substitute for being there and for the tactile experience, even though it takes a lot more effort than shopping online, which you can do at any time of day, ideally in your underwear. There’s also the instant-gratification factor: The chance to have it now rather than waiting at least overnight for it. 

What about shopping super-early?

Like when the Christmas decorations go up in stores in October (or sooner)? You could do that, although you may not find good deals yet. According to The Retail Doctor, the reason stores put up Christmas decorations so damn early is pretty shrewd: They know that many people have a mental budget for Christmas shopping, and so the earlier they spend money, the less they’ll spend in other stores around Christmas time. As an example, say you have $500 to spend on all your Christmas shopping. No store wants to miss out on getting a chunk of your $500, so the goal is to be the first to get your cash (or risk missing out on any of it after you’ve already spent it all). Hence the occasional Christmas decorations in summertime. It’s a race against time between retailers for your finite dollars.

But there were holiday sales going on around the first of November.

Yeah, about those: According to Real Simple, those “doorbusters” or early Black Friday deals are just the stores’ regular weekly specials, dressed in holiday clothes. says to go ahead and buy something only if it’s marked down by 20 percent or more (and you want it anyway).

And forget about Black Friday, right?

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, yes — the day after Thanksgiving is once and forever the busiest shopping day of the year, according to Forbes. Strangely, though, experts say it’s also basically a ritual nowadays — many of those people clogging up the stores are window shopping or browsing, not necessarily buying.


Why would anyone deliberately put themselves in the middle of a potentially violent crowd of rabid deal-hunters if they don’t even want to buy anything?

I dunno what to tell you, man. People are freaks.

Fair enough. What’s the quietest time of day on Black Friday to go shopping, should I so choose?

Leave it to Google to figure this out by smartphone-stalking us all. Back in 2015, Time reported that Google tracked smartphone users’ foot traffic during the holiday season, and said that the quietest time of day on Black Friday is really, really early — like 4 a.m. For what “quietest” means in this context, here’s what that looks like:

Since you’re no doubt wondering, the busiest time on Black Friday is between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. 

Christ. What about shopping in person on Cyber Monday, when everyone else is online?

It might be a decent day for peaceful shopping, but all the deals are on your smartphone!

Ugh. How about right before Christmas? Isn’t that when the best deals are?

Correct. The weekend before Christmas is when stores begin to mark down all the shit they haven’t been able to sell thus far. It’s a great time to buy expensive, big-ticket items like electronics and jewelry — if it’s still in stock. It still won’t be a serene experience, though — after Black Friday, the weekend before Christmas and the day before Christmas are the second and third busiest shopping days of the year, full of people waiting till the last minute. Elbows out!

Okay, I give up: What is the easiest day for shopping?

Are you ready? It’s the middle of the week in the middle of the month of December. Two years ago, a company called InMarket used Bluetooth beacons to connect with 50 million shoppers’ smartphones, and collected data similar to Google. They determined in 2017 that December 13th was the quietest day for shopping — this year, that might be December 11th, or December 18th, which are both Wednesdays.

How come?

Because mid-month is too late for the early shoppers and too early for the procrastinators. It’s the calm after the storm, and the calm before the storm, the Goldilocks of shopping days. Plus, there’s a nice Venn diagram-type of overlap this time of the month of sales going on and stuff probably still being in stock. It also falls outside of the ever-expanding list of Black Friday- and Cyber Monday-style designated shopping days: Small-Business Saturday, Green Monday, Free Shipping Day, etc.

It’s the closest thing that exists to Christmas-shopping nirvana: Uncrowded stores, short lines for Santa photos, stuff you actually want to buy and just enough listens of “All I Want for Christmas” to last you till next year.