If someone you know and love is getting up at 5 a.m. to hit all the best Black Friday sales, please tell him or her to be careful. There might be an argument over whether or not noted bank robber Willie Sutton ever said he robbed banks because “That’s where the money is.” But there is no argument that bad things can and do happen when large groups of people gather in search of some limited benefit. Follow some basic shopping safety tips.

If you think I’m going to tell you to worry about the pushing and shoving on a Black Friday, think again. If you are a person who will even get involved with that kind of activity, my words are not for you. Let me put it this way: If you find yourself in a place where people are fighting to get good deals, go shop somewhere else. If someone grabs the last Instant Pot at the doorbuster price of $14.99 and tries to pull it out of your hand, give up the Instant Pot and go home. That’s not a holiday celebration, that’s a tussle. Tussles escalate. Before you know it, you find yourself in a bruhaha and that becomes a donnybrook. Then someone is throwing shots.

Situational awareness and conflict avoidance. ‘Nuff said.

Basic Shopping Safety

Now, let’s talk about the little-known dangers of holiday shopping.

Large, active crowds are prime areas for sneak thieves to operate. While you are looking at the best prices of the year on a big-screen TV, someone might be grabbing your purse out of the cart. Or consider this: While you are distracted by hungry kids and a long shopping list, you might be standing around looking at your phone after paying. Someone could walk up and just calmly grab a bag of your new belongings from your shopping cart. It happens every day.

After you pay for your goods, move directly to your car. In your vehicle, stow your purchases out of sight if you can. Then, if you need to check your phone, sit in your car and lock the doors before checking your messages or posting to Instagram.

That mini-computer in your hand makes shopping so much easier by allowing you to find directions to stores, learn the business hours and see the latest sale prices. But if you are looking down at your phone, you are not looking for danger. Could someone grab your phone or your purse or get the jump on you for a violent assault if you are not paying attention? You’d better believe it. We talk about this all the time. Do you think there is less crime over the holiday season? Stay alert.

Skimming and Scanning

When it comes to staying alert, keep an eye out for credit card skimmers during the holiday season. These have become especially onerous at gas pumps. A skimmer is a small device that slips over a credit card reader and skims your account information when you use your card at that machine. I always pull firmly on the credit card reader if I am going to pay for my gas at the pump. Only once have I found a skimmer.

Speaking of being at the gas pumps — lock the doors to your car when you pump gas. It is very common for criminals to slyly open the door of your car and take things out while you are standing there, pumping gas. Pay attention. Lock the doors. Keep your head moving and look for danger.

Shopping Safety Tips Summarized
Don’t argue over items
Park in well-lit areas
Keep purchases out of sight in vehicles
Pay attention to your surroundings
Don’t take out payment until asked by the cashier
Keep your purse or wallet close to your body
If shopping with others, have a plan of when and where to meet

Responding to an Active Shooter

Now, for the big concern: An active shooter during the holiday shopping season. What will you do? There are so many variables that I cannot give you specifics in the space we have. But I will say this: Be armed, trained and ready to respond. If the shooting starts, move to cover. Remember, cover stops bullets. Concealment just hides you. Move to cover and quickly make a plan. If your plan is to get your family to safety, then move from cover to cover, heading away from the shooting while keeping your family together. If you have the opportunity to engage the shooter, remember target isolation. Look for an angle that will help ensure you are not going to hit others if you fire.

The dangers we face on Black Friday range from the very large to the very small. Keep track of your children. Don’t leave anything unlocked. Make it difficult for opportunists to take what is yours. But also, be armed. Be vigilant. Be trained. Have a plan. No sale price on a piece of merchandise is worth fighting over. Avoid conflict if you can.

Stay safe and shop online. The USCCA Store has some great deals for the holiday season.