Can't be bothered to take part in the chaos of Black Friday sales? Find someone who will do it for you -- for a price.
BOSTON (MainStreet) -- You've been scouring leaked circulars, scrolling through "deal" Web sites and message boards and catching bit of gossip from your friends who work in retail.
You know exactly what you want to buy this Black Friday, but there's just one problem: You have no desire to get up in the middle of the night (especially not after a huge turkey dinner), camp out or battle the mob that will charge through the doors. Can't be bothered to take part in the chaos of Black Friday sales? There are people who will do it for you -- for a price.
Thanks to a combination of the unemployed looking to pick up extra holiday money and those who see a need waiting to be filled, this shopping season brings "personal shoppers" willing to do the dirty work for you.
Time may be running short, but a scan of local want ads and sites such as Craigslist turn up pitches from people who will do your Black Friday shopping for you -- for a price.
One such ad from Austin: "Don't pass up the awesome deals and opportunities to save hundreds of dollars just because you don't want to deal with the crowds and late hours. I will be Black Friday shopping at Wal-Mart(:WMT). If you would like for me to pick something up for you, I can do it for a small fee."
The ad cautions that there is no charge if they fail in the task: "Things go fast, but my helpers and I will do our best to ensure that we get good deals for you!" Home delivery is included in the transaction.
In Boston there's a woman looking to "make some extra money for Christmas" by offering the same service of Black Friday personal shopper braving the crowds at Kohl's(:KSS), Target(:TGT) and Wal-Mart.
Most of the ads leave the cost of the service as negotiable; those that do set a price tack on $50 to $100.
Emily Vonder Shmalz of Philadelphia is among those being hired as a personal shopper this Black Friday.
Having served in the Air Force, she credits her buying acumen -- and ability to "get in and get out" of Black Friday battlegrounds to her "logistics background" paired with "being a bit of a shopaholic."
"It is a bit of a rush, to be honest," she says.
Vonder Schmalz typically charges a flat fee for her customers, depending on the size and cost of the items sought. Usually, that charge is about 10%.
She says its particularly gratifying to help out elderly customers who cannot make it out to the late night/early morning sales events -- and should not, given the crowds and shoving.
Preparation, she says, is the key to a manageable Black Friday.
"It can be so easy. There's no reason to stand out in the cold or rain," she says. She scopes out stores and circulars ahead of the big day to streamline the process.
Vonder Schmalz let us in on one of her secrets: Even if she cannot find a comparable sale price before Black Friday, she will buy an item anyway and merely ask the store for a price adjustment after the crowds diminish in a day or two. Many stores will honor such a request, she says.
"There is never a reason why you should pay full price for anything," she adds.
Vonder Schmalz says she has seem her fair share of Black Friday chaos -- rushing crowds, arguments and fights. Some unscrupulous shoppers have followed her around a store, waiting for her guard to let down so they could snatch an item from her cart.
Don't expect such a classless move from her.
"I believe in karma," she says, adding that more than the money she makes from the service, she gets a thrill from her role in ensuring holiday cheer.
For those who fail to find a Craigslist shopper willing to risk life and limb for your Xbox Kinect or Lets Rock Elmo!, there are other sites that have found a niche in linking shoppers and buyers this holiday season.
The search for willing shoppers is right in the wheelhouse for TaskRabbit, whose community members request help with everyday chores and are paired with those willing to do them. Among the many tasks: shopping for dog food (the need that actually gave founder Leah Busque the idea), assembling Ikea furniture and delivering an In-N-Out burger.
According to spokesman Johnny Brackett, the site has seen numerous users outsourcingr Black Friday shopping.
He cites, as an example, a woman in Boston looking for a shopper knowledgeable about digital cameras to help her pick one out for her husband and go secure the item. The shopper will be reimbursed through the site (as all its transactions are) and the requested fee was estimated at $32 or less.
As of Tuesday, it looked as though she may have found a willing helper, provided they could make their schedules work.
Another site pairing buyers and sellers with goods and services, Zaarly, is "seeing a spike in shopping-related requests" -- more than 50 for Black Friday shoppers this past weekend alone.
In total, more than 175 people have offered their services to be personal shoppers, with Best Buy(:BBY) being the most popular store mentioned and flat-screen TVs the most sought item.
Its most unique Black Friday request thus far: Someone willing to pay for a reserved parking spot close to the entrance of a nearby mall.
-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.
>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Joe Mont.
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