Degree of difficulty counts for something


OK, everyone sing along: “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, and all around are cries of “give me” and “I want that!”

Meanwhile, back at Santa Central, the elves are gearing up to provide another ho-ho-holy-Visa balance holiday. This entails advance planning the likes of which are otherwise reserved for the invasion of small countries.

Early start. A savvy shopper must start weeks in advance, cagily assessing whether retailers have put all their cards on the table before even reaching for her own.

Retailers would have you believe they are holding nothing back and everything must go early on, but savvy shoppers know better. They refuse to bite on the $34.99 sweaters marked down to $30. They know that better sales await; that retailers will blink.

Still, in the spirit of the season, a savvy shopper trifles with them. She might pick up some trim-a-tree here, a light-up singing Santa there, but overall she plays it close to the vest.

She knows there are better bargains out there. She cannot be fooled. Black Friday is coming. She plays hardball.

All about the ads. Thanksgiving is no longer about the turkey, pilgrims, peace on earth and goodwill among her people, yadda, yadda, yadda. No, Thanksgiving is all about the ads.

Is there a shopper worth her salt who doesn’t track down the newspaper circulars – stealing from neighbors who actually subscribe to a newspaper if necessary – to get a look at what “Black Friday” might offer?

Blessed Black Friday: the Friday after Thanksgiving when retailers make more money than they do the other 364 days per year – sometimes even approaching the sales figures that Wal-Mart enjoys daily, in even the smallest stores located deep in rural areas accessible only by mule.

Other retailers, however, must toss out deeply discounted lures – like raw meat to tigers – in order to get shoppers to flock to their stores. This, my friends, is the holy day of $6 CDs, $10 Bratz dolls, and $30 television sets. This is shopping nirvana.

Credit you deserve. Therein lies the problem. As a Black Friday shopper, you want – no you deserve – credit for your selfless sacrifice on the altar of rampant consumerism.

You want to show your battle scars, share your war stories, you want credit, by God, for having stood in the driving sleet for 45 minutes waiting for a store to open; for having thrown just enough elbows to keep other shoppers at bay until you could scoop the last “buy one get one free” Holiday Barbie into your cart.

Yet, by the very dint of admitting you’ve survived the shopping wars – you are also admitting that you scored the gift in question very, very cheaply.

For example, there used to be a time when electronics were a sure fire “gee whiz” gift. After this year’s Black Friday sales, you could give the paperboy a DVD player.

Degree of difficulty. So, with Peace on Earth firmly in mind, I’m suggesting we add another piece of paper to the standard gift tags: A Certificate of Effort that would provide the recipient with the “degree of difficulty” wrapped up in the gift.

Let’s say someone gives you a video game, perhaps, or a hooded pull-over from a trendy retailer. You might think, “Yes, I enjoy a good game of “Frogger” as much as the next guy.”

Or, “I sure do need a chartreuse green fleece,” but still you wonder “how hard is it when I know they were practically tossing these out to the crowd for free on The Biggest Sale Day of the Year?”

How hard is it? The Certificate of Effort would tell you. Perhaps the giver had to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the unwashed tryptophan stupefied masses in the frigid pre-Dawn darkness, with only her carefully circled stack of sale flyers for shelter.

Perhaps, in the crush as the doors opened she was thrust into a display and nearly impaled on a 6-foot plastic candy cane.

Maybe she took a wrong turn down the $24 DVD player aisle and found herself shopping against the tide of eager electronics grabbers – narrowly escaping with her life.

Lazy shoppers. Of course, there is always the problem of the shopping scofflaw. The type of person who might lazily have completed all her holiday shopping months in advance, or worse, ordered online, then attempted to portray herself as out in the trenches, late in the game, slinging VISAs with the best of them.

Thus, in the future, all receipts should include not only purchase price, but, in addition, time waited on line, number of items remaining in stock at time of purchase (“I got you the last one, really!”) and, perhaps, a notarized score for degree of difficulty.

Getting it started. To get the ball rolling, I would suggest a straight 9.9 for anyone who went anywhere near a $10 Care Bear bin this year. Happy Holidays!

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt is sure the bear-shaped imprint on her forehead will fade in time. She welcomes comments c/o or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)


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Kymberly Foster Seabolt lives in rural Appalachia with the always popular Mr. Wonderful, two small dogs, one large cat, two wandering goats, and a growing extended family.