I like the old Staples ad. You’ve probably seen it, during the annual Back to School sales (which, if Christmas is any indication, should start just before kids get out of school) when mom and dad are skipping through the school supplies aisle, and the children are looking pissed and dejected. It’s a great ad and exemplifies the feelings of all parties involved.
But of course, they stole the song from the current season. I’m doing much better this year, normally I feel a lot like those two kids, “Great another round of doing too much crap”. One thing on my bucket list is to skip Christmas, much like the John Grisham book – no decoration, no presents, no special meals or any of it, just go on a cruise. Of course, it didnt work out for the people in the book. Don’t read it if you havent. The ending will piss you off.
This year I’m having fun, however. My wife took over the decorations on the front of the house. MY decorating style leans a little too much towards “trailer park”, whereas she has, over the years, become more “Martha Stewart”. She did a good job at it, so this year we have nice lights, without being over-the-top trashy. Despite early concerns, the tree went over well also. I took a time-lapse video of it, for the first time using an app on my phone to control my camera.
I should have dressed for the occasion, as my short sweat pants and beavis-and-butthead shirt are not conducive for posting online. Oh well.
Its also shopping time. I’ve done a lot of mine. In fact I think I’m done, which is why I’m happy about it. I did 90% of it online, which saves me from having to brave the crowds and traffic and mess that comes with this time of year. I think Christmas shopping would be a whole lot more enjoyable if so many people weren’t trying to do it at the same time. Plus – the stuff I want is hard to do offline. Better selection and more choices (really – there’s no where close that will make a calendar of my family’s pictures, print a 16×20 photo, or sell me a 75 liter Deuter AirContact backpack).
My wife has a grand expedition planned soon, a day trip to a nearby metropolis, complete with a tour of lights in a small town nearby. That should finish up whatever hasn’t come off the UPS truck, and we can sit back and relax afterwards.
Part of that shopping has included an insidious little app that drives retailers crazy. I can’t believe they haven’t tried to ban it or force people to leave their stores.
Since 2008, there have been price-checking apps, Red Laser being one. You hold your cell phone camera up to a UPC symbol, and it scans it, decodes it, and searches the web for that item, giving you the best prices. Amazon upgraded their app to include the same technology this year. Of course, it only searches Amazon, but they have most stuff, and its an added bonus – you can add the item to your “wish list” right there in the store. Find a great deal? You can scan the thing, and within about 30 seconds, you can BUY IT – right there in the store.
The technology is insane. And retailers have got to hate it. After all, online prices are almost always better. Even if they aren’t – throw in free shipping and no sales tax (which you are supposed to pay, by the way, if your state has it. Its called a Use tax and they will get you if they audit you) and suddenly that inconsequential price difference IS a big deal – even more if you have to drive 40 miles round trip to buy the thing.
But you dont hear about it. Do retailers not know? My wife asked me at Bed, Bath and Beyond yesterday, “Why are you taking a picture of that?” and I said, without shame, “Im not – I’m checking the price online”. Then again, what are they going to do? I buy a lot and Bed, Bath and Bi – I like the store. If they kick me out for checking prices, they will certainly lose money over time.
And I can still order from them online, which hurts their physical buildings, so kicking out customers who comparison shop could only hurt them. Maybe that’s why they leave it alone.
But using the app makes shopping fun. After all, who doesn’t love getting a deal, putting one over on retailers. Who hasn’t been shafted by a business? You buy something and the next day it’s on sale for $25 less? Thanks a lot for telling me it was going on sale…
So, its the most wonderful time of the year. For 21 more days. Then its just winter, being cold and unforgiving. I love winter. I split two cords of Bradford Pear wood, which burns nicely, plus I’ll have all those cardboard boxes left over from the holiday. Maybe that will keep the heating bill low.