The Holidays: Family Fun or Merchandise Madness?

“We have become a nation of addicts, and shopping is our drug. Never is this more apparent than at Christmas.”

~Unknown

Black Friday shoppers wait in line in 30 degree temperatures

Last week in English, a classmate of mine brought up a very good point about the upcoming holidays. She said she felt that it was just a corporate media scam to make money. We had a small class discussion about it with different opinions and points of view. I agreed with some and didn’t with others, either way it made me think long and hard on why I thought Christmas and the holidays was a scam for stores to make money.

What I came up with was… Merchandise and money.

The day November 1st comes around you already see stores start to sell Christmas decorations. Even though Thanksgiving isn’t until late November, the cornucopias and dried ears of corn still have to share their shelf space with miniaturized Frosty the Snow Man’s and plastic snowflakes. And when people buy said Christmas decorations, they sit in dusty boxes and dark corners, still unopened or unused, until December comes around. What difference does it make to people if they bought the same item a few weeks apart. The only difference it makes, is in store sales.

The day that November turns into December, though, that’s when it really starts. If you thought the plastic reindeer’s haunting the store shelves were bad, wait until you see the garish, fake snow-covered garlands drape over every surface imaginable. Holiday cards, Santa hats, gift wrapping and ribbons, even dresses tailored especially for the “Holiday Season”.  It’s almost like stores have been hit with a rapidly spreading, deadly virus.

But as I said before, Christmas is so commercialized by stores because of stores. Don’t believe me? According to Target’s annual report, they made 961 million dollars around Thanksgiving-Christmas time in 2012. To give you some perspective, that’s almost 1/3 of their yearly income.

But that’s not the only thing. Black Friday is where the real money is made.

Black Friday, exclusive to America only, is known for it’s reputation of crazy mobs that trample people to death in the wee hours of the morning. Though that has happened a few times over the past 5 years, it’s really much more beguine than that. Similar to Boxing Day, it’s just a day of “holiday shopping”. Now, spread over two days–some stores now open on Thanksgiving night with deals–stores drastically cut prices on choice items to sell to the public. All in the spirit of “Christmas.” But even these “discounts” are fake. According to an article that came out in the Wall Street Journal, Black Friday discounts are a sham.

“When shoppers head out in search of Black Friday bargains this week, they won’t just be going to the mall, they’ll be witnessing retail theater.

Stores will be pulling out the stops on deep discounts aimed at drawing customers into stores. But retail-industry veterans acknowledge that, in many cases, those bargains will be a carefully engineered illusion.”

What the stores do, to avoid loosing money from discounts, is that they ramp up the starting prices and then discount the item. For example, a store buys a hat from the supplier for $8, and sells it for $10 in September. During the holiday seasons they will inflate the price to $20 and give a 40% discount on it. In the end they will still earn $12, $2 more than what it originally sold for. And that’s how Black Friday works. It’s a money machine.

Speaking of machines, the Monday after Back Friday is another time for stores to make money off of the holiday season. Known as Cyber Monday, it’s a day to buy anything “techy”. Cameras, computers, USB drives… Well, at least it use to be just for technology. Now days Cyber Monday is just a day to shop online. From tires to shampoo, it’s all just a click away. You’d think that people would be tired of shopping by now, but oh contraire. You still have people camping outside at 3 AM with their business suits stored in their cars for when they go to work later that day. Just to get that new 100 inch flat screen TV for $899.99. This time though, if you buy merchandise online, you have to pay the credit card processing fee and the shipping, too.

And that’s just the shopping side of things. What about the music?

Though most stations manage to hold off until December, some of our local radio stations (94.7 FM and 103.5 FM) have started as early as November 12th. While I don’t mind humming along to “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” once in awhile, listening to four different renditions within 48 hours is a bit much for me. Not to mention, the Christmas muzak they play at the malls tend to drive me up the wall after about 10 minutes. And let’s admit it, what artist hasn’t done a holiday album or concert of some sort? I can assure you that most singers have done the smart thing and taken full advantage of the cash flow that the holidays can bring. I mean, look at this:

AdamSandlerHanukkahSong-Front_smallWhich you can hear here.

TV shows do Christmas specials that often pump up the viewer ratings. For example, in 2012 popular UK TV show Doctor Who had it’s annual Christmas TV special “The Snowmen”. It racked up a total of 9.87 million viewers, compared to the approximately 7.2 million viewer average. Movies also often come out around the holidays and advertise as a fun movie to watch with family and friends during Christmas. For example “Les Miserables,” originally suppose to come out on the 14th of December, came out on Christmas Day in 2012. It earned $27.3 million it’s opening weekend.

But just because I believe that the holiday’s have been turned into a money making fiasco, doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the core values. Spending time with family, being with friends, giving things to the less fortunate… These are the type of things I appreciate. And while I know companies are never going to stop taking advantage of the holiday season, I know it’s safe to say that I’ll still enjoy the time off school that the holiday’s bring.

“The Christmas journey does not begin with a new crèche or with new miniature village houses; nor does it end with new candles.”

~Unknown

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2 thoughts on “The Holidays: Family Fun or Merchandise Madness?

  1. I really enjoyed this article! I would also like to point out how many stores now have sales during 6 pm on Thanksgiving instead of on Black Friday. Black Friday is more of a two-day event nowadays!

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