Everyone at one time or another has had that sick feeling that you may have paid too much for an item. Since prices vary so much, it is entirely possible that this situation could occur. But how about a whole holiday season of shopping? When I opened the newspaper on Christmas Eve and read the advertisements, it was like the merchants had run an ad that said, “Hey sucker, we got you again this year!” I thought to myself that they didn’t even have the common courtesy to wait until Christmas was over before the “70% off sales started.” I felt used.
Why do we do it over and over again each year? What is it about this one day that generates billions of dollars in sales and can represent the success or failure of a merchant? It started with the birth of Christ, moved on to Santa Claus, and now it is “shop until you drop for whatever reason.” The merchants and their advertising buddies create a gigantic world of need. I need a new car, I need a new coat, I need an iBox, an iPad, or a telephone that has a hundred functions – the least important of which is making a telephone call. Life, according to the ad agencies, is incomplete and is not satisfying, without a cashmere sweater, a fleece top, down pillows, and a 50 inch flat screen TV. I really don’t know how I can drive any longer with just a normal car with a few basic features. My car does not have a built in GPS; will not park itself and does not have heated seats or a heated steering wheel. I do not have a Bose stereo system. What is wrong with me? Then again my car is paid for.
Will the insanity ever end? I sat down and went through our Christmas cards. I had to ask my wife several times who is Ed Fuller and Amy Lang? In fact, most of the cards that we sent out were the result of people sending us a Christmas card the year before. Our data base, it seems, is generated from the prior year’s Christmas cards. It is always nice to hear from someone that you haven’t seen in ten years and can’t remember what they looked like. Walking through the house, I passed a stack of unwrapped and mostly unopened presents. I asked my wife, “Did we forget these gifts?” “No,” she replied, “Those are returns.” Of course, prior to making any attempt to return an item, we must understand the multitude of return policies and the associated timeframes established by the merchants. You just don’t walk in and get cash.
Even church services were somewhat of a disappointment; once more jammed with people who come once or twice a year and do not even stay for the entire Mass. At one point, I thought the Mass was over until I realized that the line of people exiting the church were actually people heading for their cars after communion. One would think that if you only attend Mass once or twice per year, wouldn’t you want to stay for the entire Mass to see if anything had changed since last year?
Each year, I try to maintain a positive attitude toward Christmas and each year I am disappointed. As I write this, there are exactly 362 days until next Christmas.
DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati’s Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.