Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Good Intentions

The road to Christmas, much like hell, is paved with good intentions. We all start the season thinking we’ll get all of our shopping done early, will pare down the number of gifts we buy, and will really try to enjoy the season. I know that worked not at all for me. Nope. Once again, I found myself buried under a mountain of gifts, making Internet purchases on the knife’s edge of pre-Christmas delivery, and spending way more than I thought I would. How does this happen every year? In a word – marketing.

This year, the Back-to-School decorations were barely down in stores before they were putting up Christmas lights. What other event, besides a wedding or birth, do you prepare for so far in advance? Stores create the sense of urgency by making you believe that if you don’t shop early, you will miss out. Personally, I think that is just poor logistical planning on the part of the store. If they can’t figure out supply and demand, then why should that become my problem? Why should I help stores reduce inventory?

Sales are also ever-present during the extended holiday season. This is price fixing at its best. If a widget costs a dollar, then it should always cost a dollar. It shouldn’t cost $1.50 on a Wednesday and $.50 on a Friday. It especially shouldn’t be three for a dollar on Black Friday. This year, some poor guy got trampled at a Target. There is video of him desperately calling out for help as people just rush over top of him. News flash: there is nothing in any store, at any time of year, for any price that is worth a human life. Don’t believe me? Just ask the family of the guy who was killed at Wal-Mart in 2008. I bet Christmas is pretty bleak for them, but I sure hope the people who murdered him are enjoying their half-priced electronics. The bottom line is this - unless zombies have actually risen from the dead and your only shelter, food, and water is available at a big box store, you don’t need to push and shove to get inside of it. Ever.

Even the best laid shopping plans cannot withstand the blitzkrieg of marketing. I personally bought into the Sing-a-ma-jig “craze” and bought two of them, full-priced, on Amazon (even though I already made fun of them on the blog). As it turns out, I sort of can’t stop playing with them whenever I see them, but therein is the problem – I see them everywhere. Every store has them. Picking up a prescription? CVS has them. Picking up groceries? Shoprite has them too. I bet Petco has them as dog toys (and the thought of the noises they must make as the animals rip them to shreds may just keep me up nights.) They might have been the “must-have” toy of the year, but I’m pretty sure everyone was able to get them. Forget zombies, it’s the Sing-a-ma-jigs that are going to rise up in one unending chorus.

I think the more kids you have, the more crazy you go around the holidays. Just trying to keep track of who got what requires a spreadsheet. I found myself frantically texting my husband (on my brand new iPhone – thanks Santa) to order one extra gift for my son because I had picked up an extra one for my daughter. I even made sure to wrap their shared gift in a combination of their personal wrapping paper. And yes, I just admitted to purchasing different paper for each kid. I even went so far as to use their special-ordered name stamps (my daughter has a unique name that has yet to be found on a carousel of mugs, nametags, etc.) for each present lest my handwriting give me away.

Thankfully, Christmas is almost here. I already did my parental duty and read my son’s favorite holiday book to his class – it is a delightful story about aliens stealing all of Santa’s toys and replacing them with underpants. He giggled through the entire reading, the rest of the kids just stared at me in horror. I just have to get through the last few days and then it will be Christmas Eve – where this year, I may put out more than cookies.

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