Saturday, November 24, 2007

Shop around

After 6 holiday seasons (the currency for measuring time in retail), I left my career at a major department store chain absolutely hating shopping. Part of it was being thrust into the pack of wild animals I'd sneered at from the other side of the counter, and part of it was frustration when those at the register were not as quick or efficient as I'd been or as those I'd managed.

Almost two decades have passed, and I still find shopping at peak times unappetizing. (And despite all of the media hoopla yesterday, in my experience the busiest shopping day of the year wasn't "Black Friday" but was, depending on the day of the week on which Christmas fell, the Saturday before Christmas or Christmas Eve, or the "One Day Sale" we held a week or so prior. But in the rising tide of holiday sales, the Friday after Thanksgiving was an obvious peak that left us exhausted, never to fully recover until sometime in early January, during the brief lull between gift return madness and preparing for inventory season. It's not hard to figure out why I left retail, is it?)

A friend told me about another friend who was staying up Thanksgiving night to be first on line at the local mall when it opened at 2 am Friday. Yes, that is crazy, but the only reason a store would bother to open at 2 am is if it's lucrative for them, so there are clearly enough crazies out there to make it worthwhile. And seriously, you have to be somewhat excited by the whole circus aspect of it to join in. If you hate fighting the crowds, there's always gift certificates or the internet. Or catalogs.

I remember when the Sears "Wish Book" would arrive in the mail, and we kids would scour its pages, folding down the corners of ones which held the gifts we absolutely had to have. I think some of our letters to Santa included page numbers.

Earlier this week I did some shopping for my growing group of nieces and nephews and cousins. I like the smaller, independent toy stores with their mix of European imports and trendy brands. I know that most of what I like, the Plan Toys and the Melissa & Dougs, are sold at the big chains as well, and that they really aren't as unique as they appear, but there is something nice about not having to tunnel past plastic action figures from movie cartoons, and dolls so ugly (and yet so popular) my head hurts.

This year I became obsessed with kids' card games and board games. Hopefully the children in my family will be as eager as I am to play the "Sleepy Princess and the Pea."


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