Friday, December 02, 2005

I Skipped the Extreme Shoppers, Thanks

The Christian Science Monitor feature a story entitled "'Tis the Season of the Extreme Shopper" on November 30, 2005. This is probably a significant reason why I don't bother getting up at the crack of dawn on the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday seems to be asking to be renamed Black Eye Friday if the brawls at some shopping centers and Wal-Mart stores are any indication. The article puts the phenomenon into perspective by outlining how the day works and more importanly reminds us that people these days will regift anyways. Think about it? You get up to be at the store at 5:00am, buy some expensive gift that was probably overhyped anyways (can we say Cabbage Patch Kids?), and then the person you got it for simply turns around and sells it on the Internet. According to the article, there is a Website just for that called Whabam. Of course, for some people, E-Bay will do quite nicely, or if you are not that savvy with selling online, you can likely wrap it up again and pass it on. This passage I think sums the situation nicely:

"Today these practices grow out of affluence. Everyone still talks a good line that it's the thought that counts. But increasingly, it seems, it's really the gift that counts for some recipients. Sophisticated consumers know what they want, right down to the model number. Woe to the giver who gets it wrong, or who arrives at the mall long after the 5 a.m. doorbuster bargains are sold out."

Well, woe onto them. I did not get up, and I am not losing any sleep over it. In fact, my family and I slept very well that morning, thank you very much. You see, for us, this was time to spend with the family. And we did. We ate, and drank, and had a jolly old time laughing and having fun. Besides, every one knows that if you wait long enough the stores will lower the prices anyhow as the season gets closer to Christmas itself. But there is also the matter of keeping your dignity. The last thing I want is to end up on CNN or the local news because the store had a brawl of some people who clearly don't know how to behave. Just do a Google News Search to get varied news coverage of the event.

Now, I will say we did go out and browse on some stores, but it was well in the afternoon after the hordes (can we say hyenas maybe?) had long left. Since I like wine, my father suggested we visit a World Market store they have nearby. He said they have an excellent wine selection from around the world with nice prices too (read affordable). The store did not disappoint. It had all sorts of things in addition to the wines. We took our time, browsed a little, bought some vino (nothing fancy, some special edition Zinfandel with some reindeer on it. Hey, at a less than a few bucks, why not? It will go nicely with some pizza later in the month.) and then headed for the Half Price Books store next door. All in all, it was a nice leisurely afternoon for my mom, my wife, and daughter; Dad had to work. No one was pushed or shoved, and we still found a few nice things. Am I devastated I did not get some laptop for 200 bucks? Nope. Actually, I have never understood the deal with people acting like crazed maniacs on Black Friday. I don't see how any bargain can justify such behavior, and I am not saying every single person who gets up at that time behaves like a jungle animal, but a lot of them do, and all they do is make the rest of those people look bad. Not to mention they totally disparage the spirit of the holidays.

At the end of the day, it is the thought that counts. According to the article,
"December serves as a reminder of the pleasure of giving, and the satisfaction inherent in every act of generosity, however modest or grand." I think that is the key: the satisfaction in an act of generosity. And by the way, generosity can take various forms. Sometimes the fact that you came together as a family can be the best gift of all. How about helping to cook a nice meal? How about helping out at a charity or community center? You won't see people rushing to break through doors for things like that, and yet they can be just as good if not better. And hey, if you are not sure, there is always the option to give a gift card. If you know someone is a book lover for example, get them one for a bookstore. Overall, there is no need to become an extreme shopper. Sure, I am shopping for a few things; in fact, I already have a small list. However, I am not about to go crazy over it. Part of the holiday is actually taking the time to browse and compare prices, and just watching people. Sometimes that can be the most interesting part of the experience as long as they are not killing each other over the latest incarnation of Elmo. So, I hope the extreme ones got what they wanted. As for me, why bother? The holiday is about more than that, and it is that "more" which will make it memorable.

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