Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 27, 2004

Retail heresy

This might be close to heresy, considering how important retail sales are to Gilroy’s economy, but here goes. If you’re reading this column after spending any time among the retail masses yesterday, you’re either braver or crazier than me. Or both.

I don’t avoid the outlets, malls and discount stores out of any noble “buy nothing” day observance. As a matter of fact, I find such boycotts, just like when when drivers try to organize “don’t buy gasoline” days to protest high gas prices, to be silly and pointless. If you’re just postponing your consumerism, not reducing it, you’re achieving nothing.

A lingering tryptophan coma isn’t the reason I generally don’t spend a dime on the day after Turkey Day.

No, you won’t find me anywhere near a retail establishment on the day after Thanksgiving because I can’t stand the crowds. There’s really no one-day or one-morning deal a retailer can offer that’s worth the stress of the crush of bargain hunters, the constant jostling and the endless lines on the day after Thanksgiving.

The challenge of parking my car on the day after Thanksgiving raises my blood pressure to dangerous levels. Whenever I’m forced to become a parking lot vulture, it’s a bad omen.

I know whereof I speak. I worked for several years at a Macy’s-like department store in Columbus, Ohio. The day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas were hellish workdays that no retail employee could take off.

In fact, you might argue that my former employer, a department store called Lazarus, is responsible for our current post-Thanksgiving frenzy. Store owner Fred Lazarus Jr. persuaded President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 to move Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November – the day it had been observed since President Abraham Lincoln’s decree in 1863 – to the fourth Thursday in November. Lazarus’ reason? To create a longer Christmas shopping season.

Now, not only do we have the unseemly shopping frenzy on the day after Thanksgiving, we also are inundated with holiday decorations in stores and catalogs stuffing our mailboxes before Halloween.

Thanks a lot, Fred.

I love to shop, and I especially love a bargain, so for me to reject some of the door-buster specials retailers offer so that they can get their paws on my money as soon as humanly possible is a significant measure of the stress the shopping mania induces in me.

There’s simply no pleasure in fighting for a parking place, racing to get the last one of whatever the post-Turkey day’s big deal might be, and then waiting in a miles-long cashier line for the privilege of parting with my hard-earned money.

If you enjoy it, I hope you had a successful day yesterday, and there’s no need to send me a thank-you note for reducing the crowds at your favorite retail store by one.

But it’s not just consumers’ post-Thanksgiving frenzy that mystifies me.

I also don’t understand why retailers continually up the ante by opening at earlier and earlier hours on the day after Thanksgiving.

While watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my daughter, I saw one ad for a retailer that was offering one of those few-hours-long loss leaders starting at 5:30 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving. That’s a full hour before dawn, for crying out loud.

Why do retailers need to get their hands on our holiday funds before sunrise?

Of course, I don’t need to rail about the irony in a department-store sponsored parade that’s become a thinly disguised advertisement for the latest children’s characters (and their related toys, books and DVDs, CDs and television shows for sale at a department store near you).

I know, the day after Thanksgiving is supposed to be the biggest shopping day of the year. It’s the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season, a make-or-break time for many retailers, especially toy stores.

But it doesn’t kick off the season for me. As a matter of fact, the only retailer I’m likely to visit for the entire four-day weekend is a grocery store.

And you can bet I won’t be anywhere near a cash register on the day after Christmas, when everyone else races to return all the stuff they bought yesterday.

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