Saturday, December 29, 2007

Shoppers' Delight

A Christocentric moment, if you please.

I’d like to take this post-holiday moment to thank all the retailers and service providers out there at the winding down of your busy season. I know the lot of you get unfairly stuck with the bum rap that is the commercialization of Christmas and I feel that so few shoppers truly reach out to thank you for all the richness and splendor you add to our holiday.

I’d like to start by thanking all the showroom and floor designers who not only disallow space enough for a mother with a stroller to pass between racks and shelves, but who’ve thoroughly negated the ability of any two people to pass even abreast, making it easier for me to keep my fellow man at bay. How did you know I didn’t want to say Merry Christmas to just any old stranger? How did you know I was getting tired of my preferred method of birth control? And, thank you for allowing me to momentarily revel in the beautiful, almost poetic irony of the less-than-stroller-width aisles in stores that sell strollers. I never knew big business could be so artistically oxymoronic.

I’d like to thank all the planners, purchasers, and cashiers out there, who’ve never heard of an opaque bag (sack), as you’ve taught me that surprises around the holiday are just simply overrated. While, on an equal note, you’ve further taught me I should never have deigned to shop in your store without first taking Company training that would infuse ninja-like stealth techniques into my joyous shopping experience. It is these very forward-thinking translucent baggers that have revealed to me that the idea of a family holiday is a farce, instead prompting the need for me to leave alone, to shop alone, and to schedule my return around an empty house just after globally warming the planet by making a second trip to the overpriced, opaque bag store.

I’d like to thank all the vendors of big ticket items who’ve battled recessions and corporate competition to arrive safely in 2007 without the ability to print a gift receipt. I admire your sticktoittiveness, your old school ideals, and raise my fist alongside, these, my brothers, in proclaiming “Stupid Power!” Nothing says “the joy of giving” like the sensation of plain and simple purchaser’s risk. As I sit and wonder how you’ve been so masterful in staying afloat on the modern market without caving to the wants and desires of the consumer, I can only unravel the tapestry of how you did it just so far, concluding that to counter this gift receipt fad, your plan must have started way back when some one decided it took a full and unavailable manager to change out the register’s print paper for regular receipts. You are boldly pushing forth into a singular future, unafraid. Kudos! You’ve realized that my truer shopping need is to feel superior to your cashiers around Christmas-time and thusly you’ve seen fit to hire only those who are confused when I hand them a twenty and a penny on a purchase that rang up at $18.01. I feel alive!

I’d like to thank all the manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers who’ve displayed the wisdom of Solomon by putting their price tags on the INSIDE of the shrink wrap where I could never attempt removal. I appreciate the way you’ve scoffed at convention that claims “it is the thought that counts,” and how you’ve alternatively enabled me to sum up my love for my wife in much clearer and logical dollars and cents. “Honey, this year I love you $776.35!” You’ve given me the gift of exactitude, a gift that every husband and father wants.

I’d additionally like to thank all the glue manufacturers and price tag wholesalers who’ve somehow missed the fact that even stamps now come in the self-adhesive variety. As I gently scrape price tags off for gift wrapping, taking with them huge swaths of my gifts’ original packaging, I can’t help but feel the warm and fuzzy holiday fulfillment that I will experience giving something that looks damaged or used at brand new prices. It’s an unexpected reversal of fortune that speaks to the heart by instilling hope.

I’d like to thank the good people of Fortunoff and of Sears and similar places that understand I wish to go to two places to buy one item. We are, after all, fighting an obesity epidemic.

I’d like to thank the good people of GameStop for sharing an elongated and audible laugh with the other customers on my line as to my choice of PC game for my wife. Laughter gets us in the spirit.

I’d like to thank the good people of Coach for never, ever approaching a guy in camo-shorts and a Jack Daniels T-Shirt to ask if he needed help. In true holiday fashion, you saved him the embarrassment of giving you money in exchange for one of your products. Oh, how his bulldozing brethren would have talked!

I’d like to thank all the malls in the Midwest for imparting to me the truth about my intelligence, not a one of them carrying any adult chess set in any store. Whereas I once thought I might be intelligent enough to play chess, I have now been schooled in the truth, the fact that I am one of the masses and that the masses are not smart enough to play chess. Nothing says Christmas like mass!

I’d like to thank the good people of the fiber-optic Christmas tree outlet for creating a dark and ominous atmosphere that draws out my baby’s seventh cry for the day when the clerk approaches unseen from the side and startles us with his overzealous, yet invisible elf joy. Only three more cries to go before bed now. You are a wizard!

I’d like to thank Billy, the aspiring restaurateur, who took it upon himself, paper hat and all, as I pulled into the Steak ‘n’ Shake under the huge “Open Christmas Eve until 4 PM” sign, to come out to the icy parking lot and let me know they’d closed. It was 2:30. Not only was Billy providing me with vital information, the likes of which you just don’t hear, save for around the holidays, but he also offered up those rare, between-the-lines inferences that let me know if I’d insisted, I’d get a holiday loogey in my steakburger. Billy, you are a God among men!

I’d like to thank the cashier at the gaming store who allowed me to open the box on the last floor model of a specialty game I wished to purchase. I felt like the customer was finally “always right” as she understood that I’d want to look over the quality of the floor model and to count the game’s pieces. I gently pulled back the taped corners and released the folds of the box. I carefully lifted the single piece of Styrofoam that had been form-fitted to house each individual piece in its proper place against the board that was attached to the box interior. Then I watched as the cashier, with one heavy wave of her arm, purposely knocked down and mixed up all the pieces in preparation for closing the box again. Wow! That half hour she and I spent together trying to figure out which of all 45 specialty, puzzle-like pieces fit where in the form-fitted Styrofoam was quality time for us. I feel closer to my fellow man.

I’d like to thank all our online retailers, the ones who guarantee delivery by Christmas during the checkout webpage and then list the delivery date as December 27th on the digital receipt I get via email later. You pranksters, you. Ah, good times.

I’d like to thank all the gift wrapping stations peppered over the holiday consumerscape, specifically for both your unparalleled oragamic prowess and your unwavering memory that lets not one package go through without affixing a tag with your store’s logo on it. Amazing! You are operating at 100% capacity. I now share with ALL my fellow shoppers the special knowledge that our spouses will know we didn’t wrap the thing ourselves. I gave the gift the consideration of seeking it out and buying it. I gave the gift the sacrifice of my time as I waited on a second line to have it wrapped. But there’s nothing like your wife complaining that your gifts count less because you didn’t take the time to wrap them yourself. Brilliant! In the end, I now understand that the sweat and strain that is put into gift giving is perceived as part of the gift itself and that on Christmas I could never ask the stores to lie just a little. Could I? I mean, the wrapping stations are there to help you, but to truly help you is to get you to realize that you should not have been offered a single convenience in the gift giving process. If you falter, if you take that one, time-saving convenience, you are a bad gift giver, end scene. I’ve never felt such a brotherhood of guilt! Rock on! I go out into the world, wiser.

We all could use a break from the frenzy of holiday shopping. It’s true. A little escapism never hurts. And that is why I’d like to thank our local, super-duper, triple giant, multiplex just for being there. From it I can choose Academy Award nominees or holiday themed special viewings. I could sink myself into a drama or just let loose with a good comedy. I can pre-screen what my daughter will be watching or just take in a guilty pleasure or two of my own. The possibilities are endless. Here’s a big shout out to our friends at the cinema, especially to those who’ve unilaterally decided that an advertised 12:01 a.m. on the 20th is actually 12:01 a.m. on the theatre schedule for the 19th. Not only have you single-handedly negated the need for a 12:01 movie start time, a minute on the clock originally decided upon to waylay confusion involved with a midnight show, but you’ve successfully condensed my escapism from a two hour cinematic experience into a three second “It ended yesterday, sir.” Thank you. Thank you for refocusing my time management skill to the holiday tasks at hand.

In the end, there was only one holiday destination that was everything I’d expected it to be, both the things I hate about it and the things I love about it…church.

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