In Hindsight

Shop Till You Drop

The weeks prior to Black Friday were spent preparing for it: learning which gifts could drop your kid into a coma, and which you’d need to beat a fellow shopper senseless to buy.

Say what you will about the holidays, they can never be accused of showing up late to the party. I’d barely polished off the last of the leftover Neccos from my little brother’s Trick-or-Treat haul before pine trees dripping with tinsel and blinking lights began sprouting up overnight in airports, public parks, and office buildings. Carols blare from fake rocks in shopping-mall food courts and grocery-store loudspeakers. Come to think of it, it’s the shops, department stores, outlets, and warehouses that really kick off the holiday season.

On the day after Thanksgiving—aka Black Friday—a Burlington, Vt., shopping mall gave away a Ski-Doo , and it was reported that the average Briton will walk five miles while Christmas shopping. But extra exercise was only a small part of the shopper’s delight. This November, there was a lot to be thankful for, but not even Trent Lott’s resignation inspired the gratitude we felt for all the sales.

If gifting your friends and family feels like tackling the Thai military’s $8.8 billion dollar shopping list, here are some suggestions on how to take advantage of “retailer desperation.” Some ideas include getting store credit cards and signing up for retailer newsletters—because what could encourage thrift more than up-to-the minute emails about cruisewear sales?

Perhaps joining Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping to celebrate Buy Nothing Day on Nov. 23.

This article on how to identify the type of holiday shopper you are has some advice that might have been useful to Rev. Billy and his congregation. And those who consider themselves non-shoppers can avoid the dreaded experience by buying gifts online. If someone had just suggested that earlier, perhaps the Church of Stop Shopping wouldn’t have had to travel from New York City to Disneyland to “defeat the bulbous yellow feet of the most famous corporate logo in the world” because of their hang-up over shopping.

This month we learned it’s going to take more than a preacher’s collar and an oversized megaphone to keep holiday consumers away from cash register lines. That’s right: Nothing can stop the American holiday shopper.

Or can it? Because of lackluster Black Friday spending, retail stocks fell this year; however, day-after-Thanksgiving scuffles over shoes at a Timberland store on Long Island, and fistfights at a Florida Macy’s left no doubt that the spirit and passion of holiday shopping was alive—and kicking.

Although a better-smelling high than “jenkem,” an apocryphal huffing drug made from human waste, a toy that morphs into a date-rape drug is not good for children. This video of Black Friday shoppers in Idaho shows a bloodthirsty mob the likes of which I haven’t seen since 28 Weeks Later. A Nov. 29 stabbing at the Manhattan Mall in New York City—unrelated to any specific sale or discount—did little to disprove the shopping month’s reputation for violence and mayhem.

For those who believe Black Friday shopping is especially dangerous, keep in mind the Australian teenagers who were stabbed with a screwdriver at the mall on Nov. 26—and their Black Friday isn’t until January 13th.

The key to shopping in November is preparation and perseverance. For the past few years, the Wong family has had Thanksgiving dinner in line outside a San Carlos, Calif., Best Buy. Because of their dedication, this year Jack Wong can happily report: “We got everything we wanted.” When making the most of Black Friday, it was a good idea to have friends in high places: The girlfriend of a New Orleans Best Buy employee managed to snag a very coveted Black Friday voucher for a cheap laptop, despite being farther back in line than other customers.

But while hard work and determination paid off for some, a dark cloud in the shape of Thomas the Tank Engine and covered in lead paint hovered over Black Friday this year. And while we ate cranberry sauce and watched football, some children ate Aqua Dots toys and ended up in the hospital—a chemical in the toy turns to GHB when ingested.

Although a better-smelling high than “jenkem,” an apocryphal huffing drug made from human waste, a toy that morphs into a date-rape drug is not good for children. In light of malfunctions and manufacturing errors, federal regulators asked shoppers to be “vigilant” when purchasing toys containing significant amounts of lead. It’s important to protect children during the holiday season, especially from subcontractors hired by the Gap, which have been accused of buying children from poor areas of India to work in Delhi sweatshops.

This month we also learned about some gifts that aren’t made by children to asphyxiate other children—such as Guerlain’s $62,000 lipstick with a case covered in gold, rubies, and 2.2 carats of diamonds. Bear in mind the diamonds are conflict-free, so go ahead and enjoy your custom shade without worrying you’re tacitly funding “wars against legitimate governments.”

Holiday shopping gets traditional, if slightly pricey, for those who were interested in purchasing all the items mentioned in “The 12 Days of Christmas.” For $78,100 you can leap with lords while your maids milk your singing swans in a pear tree. This November, the news assuaged our fears about overspending and extravagance during the holiday season, because as long as you don’t drink and shop, materialism can be an excellent cure for low self esteem. Just remember that when it comes to marathon spending, it’s not how much you have, it’s how much you think you have.


TMN Editor Nicole Pasulka believes she could beat a lie detector. When she sits in a chair she almost never puts her feet on the floor. Even though she likes the internet a lot, she is convinced that people will always read magazines and she is secretly building one in her basement. More by Nicole Pasulka