When Josh Brolin’s character in Wall Street Money Never Sleeps is asked how much is enough he replies, “More”. It must have been the Christmas season. Although we do not openly agree with him, most of us, deep down, wish we had “more” even as we tout how grateful we are. We talk about the reason for the season, but the truth is Americans plan to spend an average of $700 on Christmas gifts and we all know how those well-planned budgets fail at Christmas time. The electronic gadgets we crave are guaranteed budget-breakers; my iTouch comes in a close second to the best Christmas present I ever received. I do not expect anything will ever beat the joy I felt upon discovering an orange Huffy under the tree when I was six. Why do we get caught up in frenzied over-spending during what is supposedly the most blessed time of year with family and friends? Is it our herd mentality that is so evident on Black Friday? Is it our desire for our children to feel the kind of joy I felt when I spied my Huffy? Is it the endless TV ads, emails, and catalogs that lure us in with their touted deals? I keep telling myself that I have everything I need, but the diamond commercials make me drool. My husband puts me in check by yelling “Blood diamonds!” with faked indignation. I never should have let him watch that movie. Honestly, what makes me overspend is that I want to buy special presents for everyone I love. We get more pleasure from giving than receiving, but I wouldn’t try telling that to a six-year-old.
Black Friday even sounds ominous. Signifying sales that retailers hope will push their profits into the black, it also represents the dark side of Christmas. A California shopper felt the frenzy of competition when she turned on her fellow shoppers with pepper spray in an L.A. Wal-Mart last night. That is what the news reported the incident as this morning- competitive shopping. On any other day pepper spraying a crowd of 20 adults and children would be labeled outright as assault, but in the name of consumerism today it is deemed part of the competition for deals that can only be attained today, unless you shop during the two weeks before Christmas. I know a lot of people who shop at Wal-Mart because I know a lot of people who do not have much money. I have found that the irritation is not worth lower prices and does not make me “live better”. Perhaps there is something in the air in Wal-Mart that brings out the worse in shoppers, and most of the minimum-wage clerks. Perhaps I am only justifying my own bad behavior. The only time I embarrassed myself by losing control and screaming at a store clerk was in Wal-Mart. I told the guy checking me out that he double-rung an item, so he finished ringing me up and said that I would have to go to the courtesy desk to get the overpayment back which I had not even given him yet. After a half hour in the “courtesy desk” line with at least 25 other people, another clerk snapped at me that the cashier would need to take care of my refund. I let her know in my not-so-nice, barely restrained voice that they should change the sign because I certainly was not receiving any “courtesy” and she would take care of my refund or let me speak to a manager. I also told her that it is common sense to apologize to an inconvenienced customer. But, at Wal-Mart it isn’t. Once again displaying her polished customer service skills, she told me to watch my language. I do not know what overcame me. I laughed like a maniac and yelled, “Watch my language? Well, here’s some language for you…” I am at a loss to repeat exactly what I said because I sort of blacked out. I remember flinging quite a few expletives and the people in line clapping and saying, “Yeah!” I swore I would never return to the place of my shame, where I became another crazy Wal-Mart shopper.