[Opinion] - Tis The Season. I'll Be In The Car

As the summer comes to an end, and the first week of September approaches, the minds of parents turn towards that cherished annual tradition: I speak of course about the Christmas shopping season. I know that the season is nearly here because several stores I frequent have already begun winding down their Halloween displays, meaning that it won't be long until garland, artificial trees and officially licensed Disney ornaments once again clog our store isles and pet's digestive tracks.

And why not? What about the damp, occasionally balmy autumn doesn't scream festive preparedness? And why shouldn't the commercial exploitation of people's high suggestibility take on a length challenged only by American Presidential elections? I'm all for it, if it means I can buy the entire series run of Cheers for $20. But let's be honest with ourselves for a moment, shall we? Because despite all the plastic holly branches and animatronic Santas saying lewd things to Mrs. Claus, it isn't anymore about Christmas then Bed, Bath And Beyond's candle section is about Hanukkah. So let's call it what it is: Buying Season.

I give top marks to the lighting company Noma, for finding a way to convince people to buy strings of Christmas lights during the summer, by re-boxing the same twinkling LED white pixie lights as “deck lighting.” Now, it's impossible to look out on to the far shore of any lake and not see every cottage lined with these piercing little laser pointers, giving every summer-time getaway that look of post-festive apathy that used to mean that the man of the house was too lazy to take the lights down each January. I hope whichever marketing executive came up with that idea got a promotion. And hit by a garbage truck. Next, there will earnest attempts to convince us that tinsel gives home interiors a “stellar feel,” and that giant inflatable snow-globes filled with previous cherished licensed characters are fun summertime lawn ornaments, and not gaudy looking attempts to overcome feelings of masculine inadequacy. In fact, I don't see why they shouldn't just adopt that as their marketing promotions right now: “Buy an 18 foot waving, illuminated snowman. It'll make all your neighbours think you've got a big wang.”

Before we get to the Christmas season though, we must first survive that preliminary pole-vault known as the American Thanksgiving, an event that in Canada used to only be marked by there being nothing but reruns on for a week in November. But thanks to the strong cross-border influence, not to mention all big box stores having their headquarters located in Arizona, Canadians now too get to experience the thrill of saving 79% on a microwave. I refer of course to Black Friday, and it's digital counterpart, Cyber Monday, as well as the lesser known Credit Declined Tuesday and Hock Shop Wednesday. To Canadians, these are relatively new terms, introduced only in the last five years or so, due to the American dollar's value dropping faster then an Austrian from a high altitude balloon.

Time was, Boxing Day was the big deal north of the border, but thanks to parity, more and more retailers have begun offering “extreme” deals for anyone willing to stand outside a Walmart at five in the morning at the start of a Canadian winter. I'll admit, a few years ago, mostly out of curiosity, I went to a Black Friday sale, and I have to say I was pretty disappointed. Everyone was lined up in a calm and orderly fashion, standing a reasonable distance from the doors. There was no pounding at the doors like French Revolutionists at the gates to Versailles, and no mad rush once they opened, trampling the slow and infirm. Inside, people treated each other with basic human dignity. Where was the gouging, the Detroit-like street violence, the random shanking of housewives with a crazed look in their eyes? Where was the chaos I was promised?

Truth is, people not prone to giving into sensationalism have gotten wise to the whole “sales” gimmick, especially around the holiday season. Yes, there are deals to be had on Black Friday, but in the interest of drawing in the Christmas dollars, those “one day only” sales remain largely in place, if under promoted, until late December. And shoppers needn’t worry about waiting for Thanksgiving itself to arrive, because many stores now take part in “lead up” sales, which can start as late as the weekend before, and as early as June. Meaning that you get all of the value of the Black Friday rush, with none of the neck rupture. And don't be in such a hurry to get to the Boxing Day sales either, because those have a tendency to linger, like a virulent form of chlamydia, so that your average Boxing Day sale comes to a close around Valentine's Day. All in a wash of ads claiming “the demand was so big, the manufacturer had no choice but to hold it over,” a coy marketing way of saying that the buyers are so gullible, they went out and bought a new front load washer and dryer set, despite having three already, because it was just too good a deal to pass up.

Myself, I think we should adopt a system like Belgium. Over there, there are only two sale seasons, determined by law. Yes, while the rest of the West is too ineffective to get done the stuff that should have been dealt with decades ago, like health care reform and not feeding poison milk to school children, Belgium was so on the ball they ran out of things to legislate. This is, remember, a country that didn't have a government for most of  2011, and still got more done in that time then the American congress has since Watergate. In Belgium, there is a summer sale between July 1st and 31st, and a winter season between January 3rd and 31st. It is only during these periods that price reductions can be offered on clothes, footwear and other products. And as far as I know, no one has ever been trampled to death by a raving mass of Belgians desperate to get a two-for-one deal on a pair of loafers.

Now, you may say “is this possibly this is because the Belgians just aren't as focused on materialism, that the buying of unnecessary extravagances has been expunged from their society?” To which I respond, “How should I know? I'm not a sociologist.” All I know is that every year, those of us who delight in the misfortune of others get to watch security camera footage of Americans attempting to murder each other for little more then red tags and the possibility of layaway. Just think how much more savage things would get if, instead of a perpetual cycle of sale after sale, each dressed up as if it were the best and last thing ever, there were only two sales per year? They’d have to rename JC Penny Thunderdome.

Now if you'll excuse me, my flyers have just arrived, and I see I can get a snooker table that also hard-boils eggs, for a third the regular cost.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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