Losing Christmas in a big box stampede

By Neal Larson

So, millions of Americans took the bait this year, pushing aside their unfinished turkey and mashed potatoes for an all-too-eager Thanksgiving afternoon trek to the big box stores so they could snatch up this year’s cheapest flat-screen TVs and other items that don’t matter much in the big scheme.

Many are blaming the stores for opening too early. Though disappointing, the stores aren’t to blame. It’s the consumers who drive this level of demand, consumers who will trade in the traditional day-long peace of an important holiday to save fifty bucks on the latest Android tablet or a good deal on a pair of sneakers.

Shameful video taken at one Wal-Mart clearly showed throngs of people pushing, shoving and fighting so they each could grab a cheap… cell phone. (And these weren’t even the free ones being handed out by the Obama administration.) Apparently it was such a good deal that it transformed dozens of shoppers into an energetic herd of thoughtless jackasses.

In another case, a woman’s boyfriend who was supposed to be babysitting her 2-year-old, instead left her kidlet in the car while he ran in to grab a cheap 51-inch flat screen. Now, if the TV had been a 60-inch, I can see maybe thinking about it. But instead of giving the kid Benadryl and putting him in the trunk, he left him in the back seat. (Criminals are so dumb these days.) A 911 call ensued, as did some lie about losing the kid in the store. I’m guessing this guy will enjoy his 51-inch TV alone this Christmas.

A sad recipe of cheap goods, an entitled herd and scientifically targeted marketing produces a regrettable display of human behavior.

Far be it from me to criticize all who ventured out at strange hours to grab a nice bargain. Times are tight, and dollars must be stretched. I get it. My own wife and daughter put on their flak jackets to hit a few midnight sales themselves. While frantic, many of these combat shoppers conduct themselves with dignity. But many don’t, and I wonder what in the world is so mesmerizing about a good deal that people forget who they are — and who others are — that they have no observance of mutual respect or personal space? Do people feel that insecure about their future and their situation that they must get it now because they worry it will all be gone next week? Has a feeling of scarcity permeated our existence?

A small conversation has been running for a few years now about scaling back, and enjoying relationships more than material things during the holidays. I’m a believer in questioning things that are taken for granted, and asking simple, but hopefully good, questions. Do we let the media set the thermometer for our own standard of living? Is giving a reciprocal gift of like value really that important? Do you feel like you’re not doing your job as a parent if you don’t get your kids what other parents get their kids? Is your Christmas spending driven more by social expectation than it is true charity and love?

Let’s all take a breath this year. I’m all for stimulating the economy and people spending money. We’ve spent our share already. But Christmas got lost in all of this somewhere. Let’s start digging and find it again, and share it with those who need it. Share it with those trampling other people for a cell phone. They need it the most of all.

Neal Larson of Idaho Falls is a conservative talk show host on KID Newsradio 590am and 92.1fm. “The Neal Larson Show” can be heard weekday mornings from 8:30 to 10:00. His email address is neal@590kid.com.