Posted 12/9/2013 12:00 am
Updated 9 months ago
I’ve got a few things on my mind, none of which deserves much ink. Here goes:
• I feel sorry for the retail workers who had to work on Thanksgiving Day. Not because it’s tragic to have to work on a holiday — lots of people work on holidays. I just feel sorry for anyone who has to face the madding crowd whipped into a frenzy by the idea of shopping as contact sport and artificially induced scarcity in stuff that they probably don’t even need.
One of my newspaper friends posted a picture on Facebook of a reporter at his desk. He was wearing headphones, presumably transcribing a taped interview, one of the underappreciated miseries of our craft. The caption: “No one cries for the journalists who have to work on Thanksgiving.”
True enough. But unless a journalist is in a war zone, a holiday shift is generally pretty boring. I’d work 10 Thanksgivings in a newsroom before I’d volunteer for one Thanksgiving evening at Wal-Mart or Best Buy.
• I do regret that Thanksgiving Day has been turned into the start of the Christmas shopping season, although I suspect it’s too late to go back. That train has left the station, that genie is out of the bottle, the toothpaste is out of the tube. It’s clear that a lot of people are eager to shop on the holiday, even if I’m not.
The retail analytics firm ShopperTrak reported that sales on Black Friday were down more than 13 percent compared with last year, cannibalized by sales on Thanksgiving Day. Sales for the two-day period were actually up more than 2 percent, which is not impressive when you realize that Thanksgiving 2013 was as late as it is possible for the fourth Thursday of November to arrive.
I know that’s a hardship for retailers, who count on every day of the Christmas season in order to make the rest of the year worthwhile. The competition for the disposable dollar is frighteningly fierce, and that may never improve — not even when employment picks up and middle-class wages actually start to gain ground.
The only thing that may bring sanity to the Thanksgiving season is e-commerce. A lot of those limited-supply, door-buster deals that bring the crowds to the big-box stores were available online, often with no sales taxes and free delivery, weeks before turkey day. And more and more people are going to start realizing that.
• It really is time for online retailers to collect and remit sales taxes like the brick-and-mortar stores.
• In my heart of hearts, I don’t blame Sarah Palin for trying to make a buck while she can, and writing a book is a time-honored method for politicians. And releasing a Christmas-themed book at Christmastime is Marketing 101.
I do wish she had chosen something more original than perpetuating the ridiculous idea of a “War on Christmas.” Bill O’Reilly has been manufacturing this outrage for years — I first opined on it in this space in 2005 — and it hasn’t become any more substantive with the passing of time. But it does seem to have given certain people permission to be total jerks.
A friend of mine was at the Starbucks in the airport terminal in St. Louis last week when a woman came in and greeted the barista with a hearty “Merry Christmas!” That, my friend said, would have been nice enough if the woman had stopped there. “But instead, she turned around and announced to everyone behind her that she was proudly saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and none of that ‘Happy Holidays crap.'”
At that point, a man my friend described as “professorial-looking” spoke up. He told her that he hoped her Christmas would be merry, but since he was celebrating Hanukkah at that time, he wanted to pay for her coffee and muffin in the spirit of his holiday.
“I don’t think she apologized,” my friend said, “but she did thank him. I wonder if it ever crossed her mind that his response could have been anger or annoyance or just ignoring her like most did (including me). But he took the high road — the one that Jesus guy probably would have chosen in that situation.”
Meanwhile, I saw Sarah Palin interviewed about her new book (and other things) by Matt Lauer on NBC. Among other things, she proclaimed, “I love the commercialization of Christmas because it spreads the Christmas cheer.” She may be cynical, but at least she’s not a total hypocrite.
• The wisest words I heard on this subject were posted on Facebook by my friend Jack Shock, chairman of the communications department at Harding University:
“If He can survive being born in a barn, you can survive Radio Shack wishing you Happy Holidays.
“Now go focus on a real problem, which is how we’re going to help each other get through the next week.”
Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. Email her at GMoritz@ABPG.com.