The 30-something man in the gray business suit had been standing at the end of my register for 15 minutes, talking earnestly on his cell phone. I assumed he was taking care of a bit of work-related business while his wife shopped elsewhere in the store. Suddenly, he snapped his phone shut, grabbed a CD case from the display behind him, and bolted up to my register.
Breathless, he held out a new video game, grasped firmly between his two hands. Gears of War, on sale for the great value of only $58.96. "You have no idea how badly I need this game!"
Me, the cashier, I'm a near-50-year-old mother of seven. I just don't have the mental largesse for such nonsense. I looked the young man straight in the eye: "Sir, you do NOT need this video game." (I'm also a little testy late at night after a long day of school, babysitting, and cashiering.) The fellow straightened, his eyes wide with disbelief. I continued, "You do not need this game - you want this game. And if you want it really, really badly, and if you have the money to pay for it, I will sell it to you. But let's be honest here, okay?"
He stood with his mouth open, gulping air like a grounded fish. Finally, he croaked, "That's exactly what my wife was just telling me on the phone!"
Then there was the young mother, winding up a shopping trip for her two-year-old's upcoming birthday party. Two shopping carts, full. Piled up. Grandmom pushed one buggy while Mom wrangled the other. Grandmom made some quiet protest about didn't it seem excessive, getting all this stuff for a birthday party? "You're only 2 once!" enthused Mom, unloading her cart onto the conveyor belt. Streamers, balloons, party favors, games, paper plates and napkins, snacks, presents. Her total bill? $500.03. "Yes, sir! I even nailed my budget!" Mom counted out 5 crisp one-hundred dollar bills, then dug in her purse for the remaining 3 cents, elated at her careful shopping.
I struggled against the urge to shout, "Lady, are you crazy?! $500 on a boatload of crap, for a birthday party for a 2-year old? You've got to be kidding! You think he's really going to appreciate all this?" No, that wouldn't do at all. Swallow hard, cough, "Have a great afternoon!" There, my CSM would be proud of me.
All this to say - Folks, it's only 71 days until Christmas. (In the retail world, Christmas is the axis on which everything turns.) Have you started your holiday shopping yet? No? Me neither. Let me exhort you, as Christmas draws nearer, to exercise some restraint, to infuse a little sanity into your shopping.
After working 8 months in retail, I've learned that many Americans are living a life of non-stop stuff orgy. We think we have to have, and we think more is better. And we are so very blind and deceived, missing entirely the things of eternal value in our obsession with the junk lining the shelves of our local discount store -and, like the Mom above, we're even passing our addictions on to our children.
People, step away from the giant Kiddie Combo pack of blechy candy. Step away from the gadgets and games and beeping lights. Resist the mind-numbing siren song of the marketeers.
Keep it simple. Keep it sane.
I challenge you to step back and take a deep breath...
Breathe the free air.
3 weeks ago