Tactical shopper performs surgical strikes

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - 20:00

To balance last week’s column on Black Friday “shopper-hunters,” we continue this week with a primer on how to strategize and implement tactical Christmas shopping operations. To provide the best very expertise on tactical shopping, I felt it necessary to enlist the aid of my son, David Baker, who I believe has elevated his shopping technique into something of an art form.

“Personally, I like to shop as if I’m performing a black-ops surgical strike, like Seal Team 6,” he says. “I fix the location of my target store, evaluate access and egress and carefully consider the time of day. Week days between 10 and 11 a.m. and between 2 and 3 p.m. are optimal times to avoid crowds.

“I like to travel light,” he continues. ”For speed and maneuverability I often use a small basket instead of a large cart. I avoid the aisles because they are generally congested. I remain in the perimeter of the store until I have a visual on my target. After waiting for people to clear, I proceed directly to the target and take physical possession. I then proceed immediately to the checkout line. To avoid distractions or time delays, I look neither right nor left.”

David says that he almost always uses the self-checkout line. If for some reason he intends to use a regular line, he admits to being guilty of profiling customers ahead of him.

“I keep a sharp eye out for people who I know will be slow, such as women with lots of children and huge purses,” he notes. “I know they will have difficulty finding their credit cards or coupons and will dig around a long time. I also try to get behind people who are younger, because for the most part, they get through the line faster.”

He adds that he doesn’t necessarily get behind younger customers because they are more alert than older ones, but because they usually don’t have as much money and don’t buy as many things.

“I also avoid lines in which people are texting or talking on iPhones,” he says. “Distracted shoppers are just about as aggravating as distracted drivers.”

To make his checkout more efficient, he lines up like items on the counter, and has his form of payment at the ready. He says he’ll have the car parked near the door he plans to exit. Included in his tactical shopping pre-planning is his way out of the parking lot (extraction) and route home. Also included in his pre-planning is Internet research on the best products, sales and return policies.

“Browsing is a foreign concept to me,” he says. “Spending any more time in a crowded store than I have to is comparable to watching political campaign ads on TV or running fingernails across a blackboard. I just don’t want to go there.”

Once home, David says he conducts a post-mission de-briefing to review what went right or wrong during his shopping operation.

He says that he has some classified secrets for extreme tactical shopping, but that if he told us, he’d have to….you know the rest.


Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River. His son David is a lifetime Alaskan who works as a supervisor in the Department of Natural Resources Anchorage Recorders’ office.

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