Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Zen of Christmas

It is the season to be jolly, deck the halls and spend lots of money, before gorging yourself on food that is bad for you, but you don't have to worry about it: it's tradition. Yes, it's Christmas.

And nobody has more fun at this time than us happy little retailers, who rack up the big bucks. Of course, we also deal with more stupid questions per hour than any other time of the year, have to deal with morons who cannot manage to find the sticky tape to go with their gift wrap (the look on their faces when you point to the shelf along the front of the counter - in other words, right in front of them - can be so amusing), and people who don't think that they should be required to put some consideration into their purchase before they put several hundred dollars down on the counter, and now want a refund.

We have a pool going on which of our staff is going to crack up first.

But despite the huge crowds, the squealing kids in the playground by the food court, the corny mall music christmas carols, and the growing credit card bills, there is something very soothing about christmas shopping: it's guilt free.

After my many years of working in retail, I have developed a theory about shopping. It applies even to me, with my experience on the other side of the counter. It is very simple.

Shopping makes you stupid.

Any time you go shopping, your IQ immediately drops. Drastically. Don't panic, it's only temporary. But this shopping-induced impairment is what allows you to spend without stopping to read the sign and realise that it's not the leatherbound edition with the gold detailing thats only $24.99, but the omnibus paperback sitting beside it. Now, if you choose to nut out at the counter when you get to the total, that is your own fault, and you don't really want to enlighten the rest of the store to your stupidity, do you? Because when you raise your voice while complaining that the sign said it was much cheaper than that so that everybody turns to look at you, and we point you to the sign in question, we will smile apologetically, but only because we are polite enough to wait until you leave before laughing.

Yet this dreadful stupidity is nothing more than your mind protecting itself. It allows you to wallow in a shopping euphoria, the joy of buying, without having the capacity to do math and realise just how much you have spent.

But Christmas is different. Christmas is guilt-free. Christmas only comes once a year (poor thing) and you aren't buying it for yourself, after all. Well, mostly. All that hard shopping deserves something. But you get to enjoy all the delights of shopping (crowds, screaming children and mall music aside) without feeling bad about spending money. Whereas during the rest of the year, people hesitate before handing over thirty dollars - (do I really need this?) - now they hand over three hundred and smile, secure in the knowledge that they are Being Good.

It's wonderful.

It's why, even though I have been good, and organised (relatively speaking) and finished all my Christmas shopping, I am sure that I can still find one or two small things to buy in the coming week. After all, anyone working retail at this time of year deserves a little therapy.

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