‘Tis the Season

Little-known Christmas shopping facts

| illustration by Charles MarshI have found that as I get older, reminiscing has gradually become a larger part of my holiday experience. I start dragging those Christmas memories out from under my mind well before Thanksgiving. And like most people, I’d love to relive them. I’ll always remember those Christmas Eves when I couldn’t wait to go bed but was too excited to go to sleep. When I did finally drift off, I’d still wake up much earlier than the rest of my family. Then I’d quietly grab my little teddy bear and slowly creep down the stairs to see what Santa had brought me. Yeah, those were the days. Man, I miss my 30s.

But the bad thing about reminiscing is that I sometimes lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. Which, of course, is shopping. But before venturing out to the malls, I always go through the same pre-shopping routine. I stand in front of the mirror and practice my look of total disbelief that I’ll give when my credit card is declined. If I’m convincing enough, the store might make an exception and allow me to write a check. That gives me an extra couple of days to figure out where I’m getting the money. It worked the other day. But that feel-good moment was ruined when this cute cashier checked my ID and said, “Wow. You’re older than my dad.”

According to statistics, it takes the average person at least five trips to the mall to complete all his or her Christmas shopping. Like most men, I usually get those five trips out of the way on Dec. 24. But I may have to start on the 23rd this year because my 4-year-old granddaughter, Riley, has given me a copy of a fairly extensive list she has submitted to Santa. As you may have heard, Barbie has been replaced as the top toy for girls by the characters from the Disney movie Frozen, particularly Queen Elsa. Unfortunately for me, all those characters from that movie comprise the majority of my granddaughter’s list, and they are already getting difficult to find. Hence, my early start.

Now I realize that Barbie has had a nice 11-year run as the top Christmas toy, but I was still a little bummed when I heard she’d lost the pole position. After all, she’s been around since 1959. Truth is that in recent years, Barbie had lost major ground to other doll brands because of ongoing criticism of unrealistic body proportions. I guess that’s why someone has decided to counter that criticism by producing a “normal” Barbie doll, with the same kind of features you’d see on a real woman, complete with flaws. These include tattoos, flat feet, bruises and probably an eating disorder. I’m not making this up. But if she’s really normal, she’ll finally leave Ken. Why? If you’ve ever walked in on him while he’s taking a shower, you already know why. But one of those Barbies could wind up under the tree if Anna or Queen Elsa start playing hard to get.

The other gifts I need for everybody else should be easy enough to find, as long as I avoid the pitfalls. You see, shifty retailers have little gimmicks to get you to buy things that absolutely nobody wants. And I’m a sucker for every one of them. For instance, they always stock “impulse buys” at the end of aisles and near the cash registers. That ploy works great on those of us with no self-restraint. They also know that a “50 percent off” sign leads in increased sales, even if shoppers don’t know the original price. Other tricks that subliminally increase sales are traditional Christmas smells and slow music. And things like that really bug me.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, why can’t everybody just be truthful? Wouldn’t that be nice? So this Christmas, my wish is that we just all try to remember that honesty is the best policy. Unless you’re trying to return something you’ve already worn.