Last-minute shopping in Reno

many shopping carts

If you’re driving into the playa from your home, this section probably isn’t relevant to you. For those of us flying in, I believe it’s helpful to be mentally and logistically prepared for the last-minute shopping spree of purchasing gear and fresh food.

Now, you may think advice about making a shopping list to be overkill, but let me offer what I’ve seen and witnessed. For my first five years at Burning Man, I was part of a camp that typically had 50 percent virgins and 50 percent people coming in from overseas (mostly Australia and New Zealand). Few of us drove to Reno from our homes. Fewer still had cars. Many didn’t know American stores and what was purchasable at various stores. And nearly every single person needed to do last-minute shopping (especially those flying in from overseas) and everyone had to do grocery shopping.

We were picking people up from the airport, running dozens of errands for the camp, loading our truck and shuttling people back and forth from our storage unit and our rental homes where we gathered pre-playa, and supporting 30+ people with their personal shopping needs in the few vehicles we had.

Every minute in Reno is one minute you’re not at Burning Man

Can you see why encouraging everyone to be prepared with their shopping lists can help? I encourage you to do the same. Be prepared. If, for nothing else, every minute spent in Reno in one less minute spent on the playa.

Personally, I like to know ahead of time exactly what items I need to purchase in Reno and at what stores I plan on purchasing which items. This preparation keeps me from over-purchasing and it may help you too. I’ve witnessed, many times, people wandering aimlessly in Walmart and kind of grabbing things they think they’ll need, with little thought to the volume of stuff they are buying in those last hours before heading out to the playa.

Create shopping lists for each store

One way I prepare is by creating different shopping lists for different stores. These lists can help you as an individual, but also, if a group of people are camping together and provisioning in Reno, having prepared shopping lists can help you be more efficient.

For example, if I’m not able to run around to all the places I want to go, but someone else is doing a run to Home Depot, I can ask them to pick up a few items for me if I’m prepared with my Home Depot shopping list. Then with my PayPal or Venmo account already set up, I can reimburse them immediately. Easy peasy.

It can be ridiculously time-consuming to run a lot of errands in town. Bunching errands together can be another helpful way to avoid a huge time-suck. For those who still need to do a majority of their shopping in Reno, I recommend pre-articulating your shopping lists by stores or types of stores. Your camp will probably have a Group.Me, or some sort of similar text messaging app, going for in-Reno comms. Use of that technology can help shorten your shopping time.

Agree on how long you’ll be in a store together

Also (pro tip here), when you go into a store with more than one person, agree ahead of time how long you’ll be in the store, what time you’ll be in line buying your provisions, and when you all will be walking out of the store together. One laggard, times multiple stores, can throw your schedule off by hours.

Again, your errands list, pre-articulated by store, is very helpful. If you’re out shopping with others and one person walks into Walmart with three things to get and another person in your group has no list and is feeling flustered and behind with their packing, well … you’re not getting out of there any time soon.

Note: Checkout lines at many stores can get long in the days prior to Burning Man. Retail stores staff up to be ready for the onslaught of burners and their shopping needs. Still, it’s possible to get stuck for an hour in a checkout line at Walmart. You might just find yourself behind the group buying over $4,000 in liquor for their camp (along with many other supplies.) Been there. Done that.

Remember: Time spent in Reno is time not spent on the playa.

Make sure you have PayPal and/or Venmo set up

You’ll most likely need to transfer cash to various members of your camp on the fly. For example maybe someone picked up some AAA batteries for you at Target, or maybe you shared an Uber ride with a campmate while doing some provisioning. When using these services, always select the “Send Money to Friends & Family” option to avoid processing fees.

Last-minute shopping in Reno can be more hectic and time-consuming than you might imagine. Plan.


Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

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