Can we chat for a few minutes? Just between you and me…
You know that blu-ray player Target’s going to have on sale on Thanksgiving? You don’t? OK, so you know how Target is going to be open on the evening of Thanksgiving? Yeah, no shit. The actual evening – not just midnight on Black Friday, like the rest of retail hell. No, the Big Bosses of Target, who most certainly will not be working any time near Thanksgiving, have decided to make the poor bastards who don’t earn enough to pay rent and buy groceries come in on Thanksgiving to work. First off, don’t kid yourselves; no one is getting time-and-a-half, or holiday pay, or any kind of bonus. Their “bonus” is not being fired. The poor shmucks whose shins you’re battering so you can get that lead-infested thingummy made in China for a 10% discount are required to be there, whether they wanted to or not. According to these big-brained, overpaid jack-wagons, this decision (which will not affect them in the least. ever) is so they can help provide you and I, the consumers, with Super Duper Bargains for the holidays. Yeah, I’d like to talk about this a little.
I worked retail for about a decade. Yep – my entire 20’s was spent wearing a name-tag and pretending to be friendly. Luckily most of this work was done in bookstores, which tend to be a little less frenzied than other places, if for no other reason than we catered to people who read. Other than a hot Harry Potter midnight release party – entirely voluntary and actually quite festive – we didn’t go in for those “door buster” wake up at 2 in the morning shenanigans. The Holidays were always rough. We got a lot of customers who were shopping for someone else – many non-readers, in other words – and in general it was more stressful. Over a decade later I can remember my least favorite customer. She came up to the counter in her WalMart smock, railing against us for ruining her whole family’s Christmas. I am not exaggerating. That’s what she said, at roughly the same volume as a 767 taking off. I should have been allowed to wear hearing protection. “I WANT EVERYONE IN THE STORE TO KNOW YOU RUINED! MY! CHRISTMAS!!1eleventy!e089!”
I must be a pretty powerful grinch. This is how we ruined her family’s celebration of the Birth of Christ: she ordered a book full of cheat codes for some video game. She came in to pick up said book, despite the fact that we hadn’t called to let her know that it had been received. Instead, she lied and said we did call, just like the Baby Jesus would want. When all computer checks showed that the book had not been received, she decided to scream at the top of her lungs and lie some more. Desirous of getting the fuck away from her bugfuck insanity, I went and checked all possible shelves, from the hold shelves, to the video game shelves, to the “to be called” shelves in the back. A fortuitous shipment received literally the moment I went into the back room deposited a box of special orders. I opened the box and found her cheat codes book. I scanned it in to “receive” it and then went calmly back to the register. In a clear tone entirely devoid of yelling and yet capable of being heard many aisles away (thank you, theatrical training) I mentioned that she had been mistaken, she had never been called, and in fact the book had only just then been received. I wished her a Merry Christmas. And then I fumed.
How Dare another member of the Brotherhood of Oppressed Retail Workers pull that lying, hysterical bullshit? If her family’s Christmas was literally ruined because little Bobby would be forced to figure out how to play an expensive video game all by himself, didn’t she deserve it for raising such an ignorant brood? Christmas – which I am reliably informed by hysterical “christians” – has some kind of war going on against it, even as we speak. Is that war being waged by the retail workers who may possibly keep you from spending money? After all, isn’t the True Meaning of Christmas about abusing anyone who can’t fight back, and then spending money you don’t have on crap no one actually needs?
So this ever-expanding retail holiday fuckery. Let’s get back to that. And let’s say this year’s big ticket is a $40 blu-ray player. Setting aside for a moment the “do you really want to spend money on a transitional piece of technology and then have to re-buy your entire DVD collection” because actually I work in this industry and it’s in my best interest that you do indeed re-buy all your stuff, let’s think about this $40 blu-ray player. You are aware that this isn’t the blu-ray player you’ve been looking at, hoping you could afford. It doesn’t have those bells and whistles that the a-little-too-expensive model you’ve been coveting has. Not only is it missing some of the fancy blu-ray technology, but most likely it’s from some manufacturer you’ve never heard of. And if it is a manufacturer you’ve heard of, it will be poorly made – like the WalMart versions of national brands that are cheaper because Sony (for instance) is producing a shitty, cheap model just for WalMart. If you saw this blu-ray player for $50 without all the manufactured hype you’d probably wrinkle your nose and move on. This Black Friday bluray player is actually blu-ray player-shaped, and will kind of sort of play blu-ray discs, albeit with a much higher failure rate than other, slightly more expensive players, and there’s a pretty good chance that within the next six months it will totally crap out, enabling you to maybe save a little more money to buy the one you were looking for in the first place.
Look, if you need a blu-ray player – or a flat-screen, or a 1000 piece bucket of legos, or a life-size barbie dollhouse – if you really need this plastic stuff that’s made in China, that will wind up in a landfill before the decade is out, well, that’s between you and your God. I need some stupid shit too – my amazon wishlist reminds me every day that the KitchenAid Standmixer, the iPod, the Bissell Spot-Bot, and the non-stick madeleine pan are just waiting to be purchased so they can make my life ever-so-much-more perfect. Lord knows I’m not sitting her with my tofurkey and nut-loaf whilst I upcycle goodwill sweaters into pot-holders for everyone on my Christmas list. But if you need those things… THEY WILL BE CHEAPER ON THE INTERNET!!! WHERE YOU CAN SHOP AT ANY TIME, IN YOUR UNDERWEAR!!! Even in the event that Target’s cut-rate, piece of shit blu-ray player is, Oh, I don’t know, $20 more expensive online (where you can read the reviews of people who note that it destroys 50% of the blu-rays they put in it, and that it is now a rather expensive cup-holder), isn’t it worth $20 to you not to have to stand in the cold, not to justify keeping low-paid impoverished grunt-workers at work at 2am? Isn’t it worth $20 to spend a little more time with your family, or your pets, or even playing drunken yahtzee with friends? How much is it worth to not contribute materially to the amorphous free-floating anxiety and anger that have taken over the holiday? Think of the aggravation of standing in lines, fighting over crap, yelling, being bitched at for taking that Last Thing that will RUIN THAT PERSON’S CHRISTMAS. Isn’t that worth $20 to you? If I gave you $20, would you stop making it profitable (to upper management) for these companies to crap all over the employees – and us (seriously, this stuff is some awful-shoddy crap) by staying home during the wee hours of Thanksgiving? I’m not saying don’t shop. I’m just saying let there be one or two days a year where you’re not contributing to that layer of evil hiding out behind he ozone. Because at this point, I’m willing to say that if you show up at a store on Thanksgiving for anything that is not insulin or baby formula then you are just as bad as the people who buy dogs from Pet Stores knowing that they came from puppy mills. It’s just a matter of where exactly you fit on the continuum from Ignorant to Evil.