Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Calm before the Chaos

I hate shopping. Maybe it's because I spent several years working in retail. Now I find myself automatically picking up clothes and folding them or greeting customers whenever I go into stores. Maybe it's because all those years in retail has made me loathe cash registers so much that whenever I see one I want to attack it with a clothes hanger.

Or maybe it's because I'm kind of intimidated by sales people. It's weird because I used to be one, and so I know it's their job to tell customers about new sales and encourage them to buy stuff they don't really need. But it makes me nervous if the salesperson follows me around the store, stands outside the dressing room to chat with me about accessories, and gives me coupons for sales where I can get 3% off on a particular item as long as I buy it within the next five minutes. (I also feel guilty because I used to do the exact same things when I worked in retail.)

I'm also incredibly indecisive, and I'm afraid that if I linger too long in the store the employees will think I'm shoplifting. And then I'll get arrested; the TV stations will do a news story that says something like "Ph.D. candidate turned THIEF"; my students will say, "Why should we do the homework when YOU didn't even pay for that Hello Kitty purse?"; then I'll never be crowned Miss America because of my record and I won't get to cry and throw roses at people when I win.

Usually I just want to get out of there as soon as possible, so I usually just buy the first thing that the salesperson shows me. That's why I have incredibly uncomfortable shoes that make me weep a little when I put them on (though of course they feel okay when I try them on in the store; it's when I go out into the street that the shoes magically become painful and unreturnable), outfits that would probably land me on an episode of What Not to Wear, and an assortment of beauty products, half of which I don't know how to use and am afraid that if I put them on wrong my face will break out and then I'll never be crowned Miss America.

The only stores I'm comfortable going into are bookstores. The sellers leave me alone and I can be around books, which make me happy. But other than that I don't go shopping very often, which is just as well seeing as how I currently have about enough money to do my Christmas shopping at a vending machine. (I hope my parents will like the Cheetos I'm giving them. What? Technically it could be a stocking stuffer.)

That's why I don't understand why anyone would want to go shopping on Black Friday, let alone at 4 A.M. when a lot of the stores open. (I feel sorry for the people who have to work that day.) But no offense if you are going shopping that day; I just don't think I could do it. (It was bad enough having to WORK in a store on Black Friday.) I know that there are a lot of good sales on that day, though I imagine some of the customers' conversations going something like this:

Customer #1: Do we really need a life-size statue of Oprah that glows in the dark? I'm not sure our kids will want that for Christmas. It - I mean she - might scare them.
Customer #2: That's not the point! It's 50% off! Get it before someone else does!

Customer #3: Oh my gosh! I didn't even REALIZE they sold giant whoopee cushions here! What a GREAT idea!
Customer #4: And check it out! If we buy six whoopee cushions today, we can get a free roll of singing toilet paper! (The toilet paper is an actual product; I saw it on a website. I wonder what it sings?)

Customer #5: Look! If we get five of the same sweaters in different colors, we'll save three dollars!
Customer #6: I knew it was a good idea to camp outside the mall all night! And people said it wouldn't be worth it.

I've also learned that it's never a good idea to go shopping downtown on the weekends, especially not during the holiday season, because that's when the tourists come out. They walk incredibly slowly, because they're so busy tilting their heads back and remarking on how tall the buildings are or pointing at the cars and remarking on how everyone is so FAST and beeps their horns real LOUD and gosh they sure aren't like that in our hometown! And I'm just trying to get into the holiday spirit and NOT knock any tourists over, but it's just so DIFFICULT sometimes.

One year I tried going to Michigan Avenue on a Saturday in December, and I found myself identifying with Ebenezer Scrooge before the ghosts visited him. Bah, humbug! Let's see those Christmas ghosts try to navigate the crowds at Water Tower Place for three hours (two of which will be spent just on the escalators) during the holiday season and then see what kind of advice they give Scrooge.

So on Black Friday I'm staying home. Instead of shopping, I'm going to work on my dissertation. What? You didn't think I was going to take the weekend OFF, did you?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


  1. I am NOT into Black Friday as a shopping day.

    I also tell every sales person: *polite smile* I am just looking. Meaning: don't bother me.

    Works like a charm.

    I try not to buy what I don't want because I have to return it, and it's more of a hassle to do so.

    This made me laugh --> Customer #5: Look! If we get five of the same sweaters in different colors, we'll save three dollars!
    Customer #6: I knew it was a good idea to camp outside the mall all night! And people said it wouldn't be worth it.

  2. I detest shopping, too. My husband loves it.

    Maybe I should say that I detest browsing. I don't get it!

  3. Yeah, sometimes I watch my fellow sales associates creeping out customers and I want to go over and be like "stop trying so hard. They don't want the whoopee cushion." (Yes, we sell those in my department.) Especially my manager. She's actually the most invasive sales person ever. But the sick part is that it works a lot of the time... Anyhow, on behalf of sales associates everywhere, I am sorry that we made you buy that water bottle you didn't need.

    And I'm totally working tomorrow. Luckily not until 11am, so by then the crazies should be gone, right? God I hope so...

  4. Shops between mid-November and mid-January (post-sales) = zoos. No wonder online shopping is proving so popular.

  5. I don't understand people who get in line at midnight & stand there for hours until the stores open. Or now that some stores are open all the time, I feel bad for the workers who wouldn't mind having Thanksgiving off.

    Black Friday in a mall is not something I do anymore, even if you save some money.

    Black Friday is awesome if you shop online. I love shopping online, I don't have to dress up in matching clothing or put gas in the car, or fight traffic, or wait in line. I do it when I want to!

  6. Hi FB,
    Your attitude towards shopping is a good one. I have to admit that I've made several returns; it's mainly because of my indecisiveness. :) I also have a problem of buying things I think I want.

    Hi Talli,
    Browsing is one of my weaknesses, because then I often buy things I wasn't even looking for.

    Hi gem,
    Good luck at work tomorrow. No need to apologize for the sales associates, because I was once one of them and I also convinced customers to buy stuff they didn't need. :)

    Hi Fran,
    I wish I didn't have to shop at all during this season. Online shopping is cool, because then I'm less likely to buy stuff I don't need. But I'm always paranoid that my neighbors are going to steal my packages.

    Hi notesfromnadir,
    I also feel sorry for the people who work at movie theaters, seeing as how so many movies come out during the holidays. I'd like to see those producers work at the theaters on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving; I bet they'd change their release dates.
    I like shopping online too, especially because online stores are always open.

  7. Happy Thanksgiving!

    I'm going to the gym. That's a first for the day after Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll try a store or too, but do I really NEED anything right now? I try not to buy all the hype, literally.

  8. Hi Lissa,
    The gym might actually be less crowded because everyone else will be probably be shopping. I think that people don't really need most of the stuff they buy on the day after Thanksgiving, but the sales convince them that they do need them.

  9. I can't imagine the appeal of singing toilet paper.

    LIke you, I'm not a big fan of shopping. I used to like it more when I was younger. But bookstores are a place I can spend a lot of time in, without feeling pressure.

    Hope you're able to brave this holiday season!

  10. Hi Theresa,
    Bookstores are also the one place I can spend a lot of time in. Especially the ones with cafes that sell cheesecake.