Oh Come Let Us Go Shopping
Truly, we’re starting to feel like the Grinch about this. All of the advertising hurled at us—which, truth be told, starts in October—yells “Buy Me, at 20% off, with free shipping. It’s mind numbing. Stores and manufacturers work hard and long to whip us into a buying frenzy. And now they have precise tools to measure their success.
By Saturday morning preliminary statistics on Black Friday were available. According to the National Retail Federation, the number of shoppers in the stores was up by 4.8%, but the amount of money spent by each shopper was down by 3.5% to 347.44. Couldn’t they at least round off to the nearest dime?
And then came Cyber Monday. By Tuesday we not only knew that $733,000,000 had been spent online (thanks to market research firm comScore) which was 21% more than was spent last year, but we also found out that 60% of it was ordered on business computers. That was at lunch time, right?
And in more from the none-of-your-damn-business department, Facebook has a tool called Beacon, which broadcasts what you have purchased online to all of your Facebook friends. That’s just plain creepy!!!
Saturday, on the radio, we heard a Westchester County foster care official asking that as shoppers fill their carts and bags, they remember the children who don’t have parents racing through the aisles at Toys ‘R Us and Old Navy to get the items on their wish lists. They’re not talking about kids in foreign countries. These are children living in the midst of some of the wealthiest towns in this country who are being forgotten.
When are we going to say enough is enough? Most of us have plenty—at least the ones all the ads are aimed at. We have more crap than we need, use, or even want. Christmas giving used to be a singular occasion, with maybe the exception of a birthday, when you exchanged a special gift with loved ones. That one thing you’d been longing for, needing or the one item someone thought would bring a smile to your face and a bit of joy to your heart. But these days, we all take care of our wants and needs pretty regularly—they don’t get a chance to linger in our hopes and dreams. We march into the department, electronics, discount, toy—whatever store, plop down our shiny plastic card and our desires are instantly satisfied—until the next payday or next billing cycle when we do it all over again.
Then Christmastime rolls around—our friends and families go crazy, wracking their brains trying to figure out what to buy us—because we’ve already got everything—and we bought it ourselves. But still we brave traffic jams, fight for mall parking spots, stand in long lines, so we can buy and give more --- and what does any of it mean?
And is it December 26th when all the articles run about how much plastic debt we average Americans carry? According to a Wall Street Journal article Click here: Before You Shop, Be Credit-Card Smart - WSJ.com , that number is $9659 (come on, spend that extra dollar).
We’re not trying to be Scrooges—we like presents—who doesn’t? But we have allowed the dictates of the market economy to convince us that we must spend, spend, spend (even if we can’t afford it), and ultimately and all that consuming corrupts the meaning and spirit of the season.
Several years ago, Virginia’s family decided to stop the madness—and instead of buying gifts for each other, family members donate what they would have spent to a charity of their choice. “We still get together on Christmas--eat, drink, talk—all the same foolishness and traditions apply. I don’t miss the gifts and I don’t think anybody else does either. We have comfort and joy—you can’t buy that.”
And by the way, according to PNC Bank, it costs $19,507 to buy all of the items mentioned in The Twelve Days of Christmas (Click here: The Raw Story '12 days of Christmas' index up 3.1 percent). Maybe if we just got four golden rings or should we make it five silver ones, Cornish hens are on sale, so we can nix the turtle doves, a DJ should take care of the drummers drumming and the pipers piping. . .