By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — It’s the day shopaholics look forward to every year: Black Friday is almost here!

“Everyone is getting ready to hit the stores,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. “This is a big deal for lots of folks. Thanksgiving Day and Friday morning the holiday shopping season begins.”

And while the day can be fun, stressful and chaotic, Lenhart has some tips to make it a safe and successful shopping day.

• Planning ahead. “Plan out out your shopping trip,” said Lenhart. “Figure out where you’re going and you’ll save some time.

• Get a babysitter. If you have small children, he said, consider getting a babysitter so they “don’t slow you down.”

• Have a game plan. “Some cell phones won’t work in malls or box stores,” said Lenhart. “So have a specific time and place to meet.”

• Shop with one credit card. “Only use one credit card when shopping,” said Lenhart. “If it gets lost or stolen, it’s a lot easier to cancel out one credit card compared to numerous ones. Also, stay away from a debit card. If it’s stolen, the person could drain your account and you’re responsible for it. If a credit card is stolen, you’re only responsible for $50 of what’s purchased.”

• Stay calm. “Avoid verbal or physical altercations,” said Lenhart. “It’s in no one’s best interest to get into a fight over an item.”

• Confirm all purchases and save receipts for refunds or dispute the cost of an item.

• Know your rights about charges, rain checks and gift card purchases. “Some gift cards will start deducting a percentage of the card’s value after a certain amount of months. So a card bought for $20 may only be work $18 in a few months,” said Lenhart.

• Lost credit card. “Act quickly to cancel the card,” said Lenhart, “to limit your liability.”

• Be aware. “Be aware of your surroundings,” he said. “If you start shopping in the daylight, park in an area that will be well lit when you come out of the store. Park as close to the store you’re going into as possible. Know your surroundings.”

• Large purchases. “Ask a security officer for help if you have a large purchase,” said Lenhart. “Once you put your purchases in your car, cover them up so no one can see the bags. If you have a trunk, put the items in there.”

• Have water and snacks if you’re waiting in line before the store opens.

• A purse with a strap. “Ladies should wear a purse with a strap that goes across the front of their body,” said Lenhart. “It’s difficult for a thief or pickpocket to get a purse off a woman if it’s located there.”

• Unattended package. “If you see a package that has been set down, contact a clerk or security officer,” said Lenhart. “It’s probably a gift, but in today’s times, we don’t know that for sure.”

• Trips to your vehicle. “Make frequent trips to your car instead of carrying around an armful of gifts,” said Lenhart. “If you don’t feel safe walking to your car, don’t hesitate to ask for help. People are out there who want to hurt our way of life. Most importantly, have fun and be safe.”

By Melanie Speicher

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.