Opinion Columns & Blogs

Bruce Maiman: Paying big bucks for the Christmas spirit

Is it over yet?

The Christmas Shopping Season always makes me feel like a fish in the Dangerous Ocean of Tacky Christmas Commercialism, trying desperately to avoid the Hooks of Retail Greed baited with the Worm of Christmas Sales Gimmicks. Or words to that effect.

The Big Difference between the Christmas Shopping Season and the rest of the year is that for 11 months of the year, all the stores want from you is your money. On Christmas, all they want is the rest of your money, and they spend millions of dollars coming up with ways to make you feel guilty if you don’t give it to them.

It’s called “Christmas Spirit.” They know that if you don’t buy all your closest and dearest friends, including the ones you truly despise, a Lovely and Thoughtful Gift for Christmas, no matter how good your reason is, your friends will think you’re a jerk.

Like at the office. Bob the Annoying Co-worker (his official name, by the way) hands you a tacky little box and says, “Here! Merry Christmas! It’s the fruitcake Lisa in Accounting gave me last Christmas, which I’ve been using as a doorstop at my house ever since. So what’d you get for Me?”

And you say, “Nothing, Bob. The doctor told us yesterday my wife needed an emergency elbow transplant, the kids were mysteriously rendered completely hairless, and the house blew up. This fruitcake will be the first solid food we’ve had since we went out stealing Jack-O-Lanterns last Halloween.”

And Bob says, “Oh. Well, Merry Christmas anyway, selfish jerk!”

Christmas is for Giving, says the store clerk. What they mean is: Christmas is for Giving Us Your Money in Exchange For Totally Useless, Terribly Expensive Junk. They love to adopt that Holier Than Thou Snotty Salesperson Attitude and say, “You really should buy your wife this Terribly Expensive Impractical Gift because Christmas is for Giving. After all, nothing says Love more than this Lovely Platinum Ear Deodorizer and Wax Vacuum, don’t you agree? Now, will that be cash or charge, sir?”

Take my advice: Buy it. Even if you already have one. Otherwise, it’s Christmas Giving Guilt, Phase Two.

Phase Two is why they take all that information from you at the cash register – name, driver’s license number, phone number, blood type. They wait until you leave. Then they call your wife.

“Hello? Is this Mrs. Tenderloin? I just thought you’d like to know that your husband, Mr. Ted Tenderloin, drivers license number B783647, was just in our store eyeing our Terribly Expensive Platinum Ear Deodorizer and Wax Vacuum, but instead he bought you a pair of slippers that look like Bigfoot. That’s right, ma’am. He’s on his way home now. Might I suggest meeting him at the door with all your most interesting body parts draped in barbed wire and threaten never to take it off until he comes right back here and buys you our Totally Useless and Terribly Expensive but Nevertheless Lovely Platinum Ear Deodorizer? Did I mention it features a Wax Vacuum? No, that’s all right, I already have your credit card number. I’ll wrap it up and put one behind the counter for you. We close at 10. Merry Christmas.” Click.

The only thing the stores say that’s even close to the truth is: Christmas is for children. When I was a kid, I could give my mom anything, and she’d love it. You could give your mom the contents of your nose, wrapped in a Kleenex, and she’d say, “Ohhhhh! The contents of your nose, wrapped in a Kleenex! What a Lovely and Thoughtful Gift! And you picked it yourself, just for me, and that’s what makes it so special!”

And then she’d cry.

My friends and I used to sit around from Halloween until Christmas, thinking up the most disgusting thing we could give our moms and still have them thank us for it, just to see where they’d draw the line. Mom did say the amputated finger that one year might’ve been a bit much, but hey, it was a tough neighborhood and somebody had to teach that guy a lesson.

Still, Mom always seemed to love those gifts, although I do remember being served a ton of liver and Brussels sprouts the first couple of weeks of every January.

So look: If you’re stuck now, at the last minute, give everyone the gift that’s sure to please: the contents of your nose, wrapped in a Kleenex. A nice one. With a ribbon on it. If it was good enough for Mom, it’s good enough for anybody.

Now pardon me. I have to get to the store before 10 and pick up my wife’s Ear Deodorizer. Did I mention it comes with a Wax Vacuum?