So. Everybody all done with their Christmas shopping? Got all your little prezzies all wrapped up nicely and nestled under the tree? Baking all done, house cleaned, grandma properly medicated, family sanitized for your guests' protection and all that? Wonderful! Now that you have a moment before the annual invasion of people you can only tolerate once a year begins, I need your help with something. Come over here with me where we can have a private conversation.
Shhh. Don't look in their direction or they'll know we're talking about them. No, I SAID don't look ... okay, they're distracted by a new shipment of Ugg boots, so we've got a minute. Now I'm not positive mind you, but I'm beginning to suspect that Target and other retailers have a very serious problem that may, in fact, call for an intervention.
I'm talking about this:
Not easy to look at - is it? Especially when you consider that it's December 22 and just steps away, a tiny, grandmotherly, blue-haired lady is punching a large bald man in the head repeatedly to get him to let go of the last 25th Anniversary Super Mario Edition Wii in the store.
Is nothing sacred anymore? It's Christmas, for Bumble's sake! It's a time for "Peace on Earth," and loving mankind and the "milk of human kindness" and all that Dickensian warm and fuzzy stuff. I wasn't aware that Cupid was invited to Mary and Joseph's natural childbirth open house in Bethlehem, how about you? (The chorus of heralding angels does NOT count.)
I know, I know, this thing started innocently enough a few years ago. And while it might seem like harmless fun to put one or two Halloween items out for sale in July, the sad fact is that it's a gateway drug. Soon, it's singing wreaths displayed beside candy corn, Cadbury eggs strewn among the potted shamrocks and sweetheart flower arrangements studded with sparklers.
And before a bored teenager in an unattractive smock can say "Do you have a rewards card?," we've progressed to pathetic spectacles like this one - adorable pink huggy-bear cookie jars, heart-shaped plates and pretty, pastel-striped plastic glasses openly flaunting their amorous intentions in plain sight of innocent Christmas decorations. (Excuse me. *sniff* I need a moment to recompose myself...)
(Okay. I'm better now. The restorative powers of chilled vodka are amazing, aren't they?)
Now please don't misunderstand me. I'm not passing judgement on these poor, trouble institutions. That would be wrong. Because the ugly truth is - it's not really THEIR fault. They can't help themselves. You see, these misguided, season-addled retailers are trapped by a force they're powerless to resist - the poorly groomed, misshapen claws of that most nefarious of characters, the consumer.
Yes. I said it. This whole damned thing is YOUR fault. You're the one with the problem. (Ha! Gotcha! This is really a stealth intervention and it worked beautifully. I should probably go try to sell the concept to TLC immediately.)
What's that? You don't see how it's your fault? So you're telling me that you have never, ever- EVER - bought a holiday related item more than a month ahead of the event? (For Christmas, I'll give you two. All other holidays, you get one month. Period.) How about that set of coffee cups with the little pink and red hearts on them you spotted in Walgreens on Christmas Eve when you were picking up the box of candy canes you forgot to buy for the kids' stockings? And since they only had one or two sets of the cups, you figured you'd better buy them now or risk missing out on them, right? No harm done there, is there?
WRONG. If you'd stopped for a moment to think about others and not yourself and how cute you and your girlfriends would look drinking Bailey's spiked hot chocolate from them at book club next week, you would have remembered that retailers keep a close eye on what people buy. And - here comes the train kids - WHEN THEY BUY IT. One set of Valentine's Day coffee mugs purchased on Christmas Eve is really not a big deal. But multiply that by the number of Walgreens scattered across the country like Spot's droppings in the back yard and you've got what's known as a "sales trend" in the retail game.
Paula Poundstone used to do a bit in her act where she'd suggest to the audience that they all leave the theatre and go to 7-11 and buy the same item "like a Slim-Jim or somethin'." The punchline of the gag was that it would throw 7-11's inventory tracking out of whack and they'd be expecting 700 people to show up next week at the same time to buy Slim-Jims. It was a very funny joke. I still laugh at it when I catch a re-broadcast of Paula's old HBO special. But this, dear friends, is NOT a stand-up act. It's reality. And it's not funny anymore. Not at all.
So how do we fix this? How do we wrangle our holiday shopping windows back into reasonable shape and cure retailers of their premature merchandising? Well, I believe a little "Retail Rehab" is in order. Simply do not buy anything that is completely out of season. And I mean anything: Not. One. Item. I don't have to give you specifics. Because we both know that when you're buying that Spongebob Squarepants singing tree-topper in April your body senses it's wrong and you get a weird feeling in the small of your back - like a kidney infection.
I'm not naive. I'll be the first to admit that I know it won't be easy to beat this monkey off our collective backs. When the Cadbury Creme Eggs hit the shelf, whether it's April or August, I'm all over those suckers. But I'm going to try as hard as I can to resist and you should too. Otherwise, someday soon we'll all be celebrating NewValStPatEasMothMemFath4thLabHallThanksHanumas. And nobody wants that.
Get out of here. And take your cake with you!