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December 17, 2008 - Dan Voigt
In our part of the world, we survived the infamous “Black Friday” pretty well, for the most part. Thankfully, there were no deaths, such as the tragedy at the Wal-Mart on the east coast where the worker was stampeded by shoppers trying to get their holiday shopping done in the first two minutes of the shopping season. I was told of an incident at the Wal-Mart in Spirit Lake where the police were called after fists flew over a television set, but all in all, it seems that our Midwestern sensibilities helped keep us safe and sound, albeit perhaps a little lighter, financially, after “Black Friday.” But when you stop and think about it, are we totaling blowing the whole concept of holiday shopping out of proportion? I think we have. Stop and consider this. Do we hear of such spectacles as people camping out in tents outside of a retailer from noon on Thanksgiving Day until its doors open on Friday in the United Kingdom (Jolly old England, that is)? Afraid not, chaps! I’m pretty sure that the idea of standing in line at the local store over night to get in first on “Black Friday” doesn’t go over real well in Paris, Madrid or Cairo. So, does this phenomena of camping out, standing in line to shop make us crazy or what? Hmmm, a good question that has no simple answer. I personally don’t subscribe to the whole idea of getting my shopping for the holidays done way early. It doesn’t pay. I tried it one year, had everything bought by the first week of December, all wrapped up, stashed away. No, I didn’t forget where I stashed it at, either! In the days leading up to Christmas, I kept seeing things that would have made great gifts, after I’d already bought the gift for the person, and I really struggled with second-guessing whether I’d made the right decision in a gift. What’s that? Buy the new gift and take the old one back? Ahhhh, sounds like a reasonable idea, but let’s think about what time of year this is. If you shop early to avoid the lines, what makes you think there won’t be lines at the customer service counters as well? It’s been my experience that you wait three times as long in customer service for help as you do just buying something. Plus, add in the fact that a lot of stores don’t like to refund after 30 days, even with receipts, and it becomes quite the interesting little game of second-guessing. So, that’s why I do the typical male thing - wait until the final week to 10 days or so to start shopping, let alone thinking about shopping. To me, that makes the whole holiday shopping thing even more of a challenge – adapting to the moment, or the “MacGyver” approach. You know, making a stealth fighter out of two paper clips, bubble gum, a dirty athletic sock and a box of raisins. But, there are still many people who believe in jumping on something right away, like their holiday shopping, and will pursue it, almost to a frenzy, in order to get done right away. I see a similar mindset at the racetrack every season. The feature race of 25 laps prepares to start and the green-flag flies. The field of cars screams s down the front straightaway towards the first turn, with every driver wanting to be the first one into the turn, and invariably a car flies off the track or two or three cars smack into each other and create a mess of bent metal and exploding tempers. The adage here is “you can’t win the race on the first lap – you have to lead on the last lap.” It just seems like holiday shopping has sort of adopted that type of mentality in some places – like the tragedy out east. Rescuers trying to help the injured store employee were stepped on, cursed and screamed at by the “shoppers”, who were angry that they were being delayed in getting that $93 GPS receiver for their urban assault vehicle. Compassion for the injured? “Get outta my way, I gotta get that $89 Blue Ray player for my kids!” So much for Peace, Joy and Happiness at Christmas time, Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the whole holiday shopping season just as much as anyone does. I may grouse and grumble about it, but there is still a lot of fun in picking out that gift with someone in mind, and trying to guess what their reaction will be when they open it. But at the same time, we all have to remember that there is a reason other than the materialistic one for this season, and all too often, it seems that we let that reason become clouded by the “Black Fridays” and the “Special Eight Hour Savings Events” at this time of the season. As you engage in the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas, please, for everyone’s sake, take a moment to remember that there is a deeper meaning to Christmas that colored lights, big sales and brightly wrapped packages. True, Christmas is about giving, and it all started with a single gift to all of us, thousands of years ago, on a winter’s night in a stable.
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