Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's the Most Commercialized Time of the Year

2000 years ago God held up his end of the promise he had been making for centuries to send a saviour into the world to redeem man.  In honor of the birth of his son, we have developed many traditions, such as singing songs about magical snowmen and red nosed reindeer, turning our homes into giant light displays, and lying to our children so that we have something to hold over their heads in the hopes of better behavior (you'd better treat your sister nice or Santa won't give you the video game you asked for).   As an American I admit I get much enjoyment from many Christmas traditions that have nothing to do with the real meaning of the holiday, and feel no guilt over watching "A Christmas Story" or hanging stockings on my electric fireplace with care, in the hopes that Heather will stuff it full of goodies, although I try to remember the real reason many of us celebrate Christmas.  There is however one unsacred cow I never offered on the altar of the commercialized season until this year.

Black Friday, or African American Friday for the politically correct crowd, is a day when ordinary citizens camp out in front of stores overnight hoping to be rewarded by saving major money on a big ticket item, or by getting their hands on this year's must have toy.  Because nothing says "I love you" like "mommy broke a lady's arm getting you this tickle-me-elmo".  I have always avoided shopping on this day, because although I'm cheap, I also value my time, and the idea of spending hours waiting in line without being rewarded by a ride on something that is both terrifying and exhilerating is not appealing to me.  Plus, as much as I like people, I prefer not to share a shopping aisle with 72 of them.

This year I agreed to go with my friend Jeff to a "door buster" at midnight.  While I don't want to wait outside a store all night long I didn't mind the idea of staying up until midnight so Jeff could save a few bucks on some stuff.  I figured the store wouldn't be too busy, since all the awesome deals such as electronics didn't start until the main event at 5 the next morning.  Boy, was I wrong. 

My first clue was when we entered the store and there were no shopping carts in the front entryway.  We then entered a mass of people more chaotic than than passengers on the deck of the Titanic as she was going down.  We quickly decided to split up so we could save some time, so I took my half of Jeff's wife's list and made a bee-line for domestics, where a 40 piece rubbermaid food storage set was on sale.  I also got a shop vac and Buzz Lightyear coloring toy and headed to electronics where we had agreed to meet.

I found Jeff in electronics, looking as stunned as a Cubs fan after they win a game.  He hadn't found anything on his list yet so I took a tour around electronics to see if I could find any of the games or videos that were on his list.  We quickly realized that all the deals were located on pallets in the aisles, so off we went.  I decided to get a shop vac for myself, we found most of the items on the list, and were ready to go before 1 am.  This is where the night took a turn for the worse. 

After standing in a line that ended near the back of the store for about 5 minutes, I scoped the store out and discovered a far shorter line in electronics that only had about 12 people in it.  Jeff did a verification check while I watched the cart, then moved to the shorter line in hopes of getting out of there more quickly.  Our new line was moving slowly but steadily for about half an hour, then the girl at the register was replaced by a guy who obviously didn't know what he was doing.  I say this, because when we finally got near the register I heard him saying that he was not a cashier, and also because we stood in line for over 2 hours waiting to get that close.  This kid made more calls for a manager than the Dallas Cowboys.  And of course with each call the line did not progress for 10 minutes while a busy manager came from somewhere across the store to show this kid how to approve a credit card or whatever.  Finally, at close to 3:00 in the morning we got out of there with Jeff's 20 dollars in savings.  I will never go shopping on Black Friday again.  On the bright side, at least I got a shop vac for 15 bucks.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bed, Bath and Beyond: It's like Best Buy for Women

I recently got an ad from Bed, Bath and Beyond that had some bar stools that looked like they might fit the bill of what I have been wanting to get for our newly remodeled kitchen, so I thought I would stop by and give them a look on my way home from Home Depot.  As I entered this tiny sliver of the local strip mall, I quickly realized that I had moved into territory that few men would dare to explore without the cover of an ovary-bearing being.  I was as out of place as a hippie at an NRA skeet-shooting competition. The store was a bee-hive of young to middle-aged hip women gliding effortlessly from bamboo bowls to aromatic therapy solutions. 

They sell things at BBB to meet needs I didn't even know I had.  Did you know that there are devices that remove the pits from cherries and others that take the leafy parts off of strawberries?  I thought that's what thumbs were for, but then I don't have the ability to pull off corderouy pants or cashmere sweaters either.  At the top of my want list is the homedics foot massager.  Think of it, a device that gently rubs your feet for as long as you like anytime you want, and you don't even have to wash the dishes or compliment it on its new haircut!

While wandering through the narrow aisles wide-eyed and self-conscious as a teenager at his first dance, I was stopped by a woman whose job it is to try and sell home soda makers.  As the name implies, this is a device that sits on your counter and allows you to transform regular tap water into soda pop by injecting carbon dioxide into it and carefully mixing in a pre-made syrup, one liter at a time.

I tried to politely let the saleslady know that I am quite happy with Coca-cola's products and the convenience of grabbing a can out of the fridge, but she had a sales pitch to give, free product to disburse, and time on her hands and even though I obviously was not in her target demographic of "eco-friendly, bargain loving, health-conscious mother of 1.5 children" she went through her spiel, which included such touch points as the lack of high fructose corn syrup (high calorie)in the regular and aspertane (which has been shown to cause cancer she reminded me) in the diet concoctions, the low price per liter, and the fact that I could save the local landfill from 10,000 bottles by using her product.  She also assured me that it tastes just like Coke, and gave me a free sample she made on the spot, carefully walking me through the three easy steps to making homeade soda as she did so. 

Unfortunately, I don't really have to worry about calories, I don't mind paying 40 cents per can vs. 17 cents per liter considering the convenience of not having to mix my own soda, and landfill space is near the bottom of my list of things that keeps me up at night, right below fearing for Nancy Peloci that her eyes will pop right out of her head during a session of Congress.  Also unfortunately, the sample she gave me, while drinkable, definitely did not taste like Coke, which means her presentation neglected step 4: pour out unsatisfactory soda and get a real Coke out of the fridge.  At least she was friendly and offered to throw my empty cup away as I politely thanked her for her presentation but declined purchasing her $100 RC Cola maker.

Believe it or not, this was not my only interaction at the BBB.  While I was looking at bar stools another lady came up to me with a store ad and asked me to show her where some napkin holders were located.  I let her know that while I would like to help her I was unable to point her in the right direction, as I was not a normal shopper there.  She was extremely embarrassed at her mistake, as she had assumed that I worked there, as apparently any men to be found in the store without the accompanyment of either a woman or a flamboyant life-partner are normally store employees.  After that I figured I had better get out of dodge before word spread through the store that a man had infiltrated without an escort and I was kindly asked to leave.