This Christmas Villgage sits in the window of one of my neighbors
So here we are again. Another Christmas Season is upon us or as some prefer to say Holiday Season. Its actually been here since Halloween. Christmas is the only holiday I can think of that horns in on other holidays like Halloween (selling Christmas decorations alongside Halloween’s) and now Thanksgiving. Remember when no one was open on Thanksgiving except for convenience stores and that was so people could buy gas to get t a relatives home to spend time with people they really don’t like that much, but felt obligated or be seen as a total jerk?
I remember spending a Thanksgiving in 1991 at a friends house (who I did like) who lived in Modesto, California…and after our mid-afterrnoon meal the host stood up and asked who wanted to go to Kmart? I was confused. Kmart? It’s Thanksgiving…they aren’t open today. Boy, was I wrong. That year Kmart opened its doors at 4 o’clock. I believe they were the first store to try this. We went and there weren’t alot of shoppers but I guess enough for Kmart to do it again the following year and the rest is…history.
1991 is the only time I was ever in a store on Thanksgiving or Black Friday…until this year. As you know, Walmart employees planned a strike this year and there were several Walmarts listed on the OUR Walmart website as possibly participating. The store in Orange was on the list for Thanksgiving Day at 8 p.m., so I decided to check it out. When I drove into the shopping center parking lot at 7:30, I entered on the Sears side and noticed a line of people waiting outside their door. I had no idea that Sears was opeing at 8 o’clock as well. I drove to where Walmart was and to my surprise people were pushing shopping carts filled with Walmart bags to their cars. I stopped one woman and asked her if Walmart had opened early and she told me this particular store never closes, except for eight hours a year! I have to admit, I was speechless. I headed to the toward the store entrance expecting to see a few picket signs but the only people I saw wore yellow vests, directing shoppers to their main entrance. I asked one of the employees if they were still having the big 8 o’oclock sales event and he told me they were, but there were still sales on smaller items to be had before then.
So I wandered inside and I have to admit…I was impressed with the stores crowd control. It was controlled chaos. There were employees all over the store directing traffic and keeping people moving. I found out later that the ones in the yellow vests were temps and probably could also fill in if any employees decided to walk out. Customers lined up in aisles that wrapped around several times, hoping to score one of the huge flatscreens when the magic hour came. Lines to the cashiers where clearly defined by managers standing and controlling whose turn it was to pay. I only saw a few shoppers get upset that the lines were too long but managers quickly came over to diffuse any possible outbursts.
I looked at my watch and it was 8:10…no sign of anyone unwrapping the flatscreens, so I wondered if there would be a loud “Bang” over the store loudspeaker lettting shoppers know that it was time for the main event…like the ones at the racetrack, but nothing happened and I couldn’t get the attention of anyone inside…they were in crowd control mode. I went back outside to see if any picketers showed up yet, but the only ones outside were shoppers, hoping to get bargains. I went back around the main entrance to go inside and by now shoppers were not allowed in. The crowd looked around 500 and a worker told me that they were not letting anyone else in until the store cleared out a bit more inside. They did not want anyone to get trampled.
I read in the newspapers that weekend that the threat of a strike did not hurt Walmart sales one bit..they actually did better than they expected. In a press release, Walmart reported, “that they saw larger crowds than last year.” I have been asking people if they shop at Walmart and how they feel about workers wanting to form a union, and the responses I got were, “At least they have a job”; “If they don’t like the pay, why did they take the job?”…or there were some who empathized with the workers but not enough to shop somewhere else. They told me all the big box stores treated their employees badly, not just Walmart…where else could people shop to buy cheap goods? Don’t even get me started when I asked them how they felt about buying goods from countires that are basically sweatshops, owned by corporations who screwed Americans, by shipping their jobs overseas…to get out of laws that required companies to have safe working conditions…all in the name of their bottom line…they really got annoyed with that question.
But what does that say about us as a society? We claim that we care about others. How many times have we heard politicians tell us how we care about those less fortunate? Judging from the sales numbers and the opinions of those individuals who shop at Walmart at least, I would say we don’t care very much. You’ve heard the saying, “Talk is cheap?”
Every year there are religious groups (Christian) who are pissed off that stores wish customers a Happy Holiday instead of Merry Christmas. Some go so far as saying there is a war on Christmas, like when a judge in Santa Monica sided with an atheist group over a nativity scene being displayed in a public park. Why aren’t these same people who tell us that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” equally upset that stores like Walmart are turning their beloved holiday into one endless sale-a-thon?
I don’t know why we Americans allow ourselves to be guilt-tripped into going along with this Christmas thing. People feel obligated to participate in the Secret Santa gift exchange at work which now has an average price tag of $20. Employees expect big bonuses and lavish parties at the end of the year. Others who don’t have family or close friends get depressed wondering why no one has invited them to share Christmas, although I recently discovered that the suicide rate does not increase, according to the CDC. But that does not diminish the fact that people get stressed out and tempers flare during what is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.”
When did this holiday, that I thought was all about giving to others, become more about, “Gimmee! Gimmee! Gimmee!” I think it has to do with this constant barrage of advertising, whether its at the gas pump, grocery store or sides of public transportation. They all send the same message…Shop! Shop! Shop!
So how does all this talk of Walmart and Black Friday tie in with the Christmas Season? It’s all about advertsing Christmas even before we can celebrate Halloween. Its about hi-jacking now two holidays so businesses can make as much money as possible. Mark my words, next year more stores will open Thanksgiving and they will open even earlier. Why? Because consumers will show up and spend money even if it means putting their purchases on a credit card and taking all of 2014 to pay for the junk they bought in 2013.