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2000-12-21 - 19:14:43

Shopping hell

I'd read news reports that stores were expecting lower-than-normal sales during this holiday shopping season. The retailers were all afraid that people wouldn't come out to the stores in this final week, that they'd need to offer big deals and incentives to make it worthwhile.

OK, I didn't see any dropoff in the places I went today. I drove around Red Bank, trying seven different streets and one parking lot before stumbling on a person leaving a curbside spot. And at the mall, the lot was a death zone of speeding shoppers.

That's what bothers me about Christmas shopping -- not the crowds, I actually kind of like all that hustle and bustle. It's how everyone becomes an idiot at Christmas time. Like they're the only one out trying to find gifts for the last three people on the list. Like they're the only one who still has to wrap everything. Like they're the only one who still needs something for the girlfriend and it's 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve. I hate people who speed through parking lots; I hate people who stalk shoppers, following along at 5 mph until the person gets to their car, usually forcing that person to hastily load the bags and pull out. I was nearly hit twice today by someone whipping around a row of cars, trying to find that woman who just disappeared into her car. Why is it that at Christmas, when people are trying so hard to be nice to the ones they know and love, they're so rude to strangers in the process?

(Incidentally, I stopped at the mall on the way to work, and was able to find a good parking spot in the garage at the far end of the mall where no one parks, stepped right into Sterns, found the two items I was looking for, paid, and was back in my car in a matter or 15 minutes. It must've been some kind of record.)

And the other thing that's bothered me about this Christmas is the Salvation Army collection kettles -- you know, those famous Sidewalk Santas. While driving into work tonight, I heard on NPR's "All Things Considered" a piece about how the Salvation Army has fewer people to man its kettles this year. (The reason being because they use volunteers or paid employees to man the kettles, and they have fewer paid people because the money doesn't compete with other jobs.)

When I started some shopping a few weeks ago, I went into a store with a bell-ringing gentleman manning the kettle outside. I decided that I would put money into every Salvation Army collection post I passed during my shopping this season. Only I didn't buy anything in that store that day, and when I came out, I had nothing smaller than a $20 bill in my wallet. So I said I'd give a little more on the next one; or I could've given $20 in one fell swoop. But I decided I'd give a little at each kettle, to remind myself each time I went out and spent money, I was fortunate to have a good job and the money to buy gifts for my friends and family.

And I haven't seen another collection post since, manned or not.

So it looks like when I do get to the mall or wherever to get those last few gifts, I'll put that $20 in.

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