American Consumerism, on Steroids

December 16, 2007 at 4:40 pm (Work)

Back 3 or so years ago I posted about My Contribution to American Commercialism while working at Bed, Bath, and Beyond during college. I have since moved on to working at a small, family owned, online retail store that sells various outdoor gear such as boots, socks, gloves, hats, and gardening tools.

This is my 3rd Christmas season with this company and every year the madness gets worse. That’s good for the company, of course, because it means they are selling more stuff and thus making more money, which is why retail establishments, online or otherwise, ultimately exist. Nevertheless, if you think consumerism is bad during the rest of the year, just wait until the holiday season.

Christmastime is when all the really nasty people come out of the woodworks. One example of this is the week before Christmas when the last-minute-overnighters appear. Now if people want to procrastinate and wait until the last possible minute to order Christmas presents online, that’s their problem, and we’re happy to do what we can, of course. The issue comes in when we can’t. Meaning, it’s just too late. Somehow, people think this is the store’s fault, not their own. This isn’t just at Christmastime, of course, but it’s more prominent around this time because by golly, it’s a Christmas gift, and if it doesn’t arrive on time it is the End of the World™. And as we all know, the End of the World™ means that the customer has every right to treat the employees of said online business with every bit of un-Christ-maslike malice, hatred, and nastiness that they can generate.

Because as we all know, getting and giving stuff is really what Christmas is all about. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand how disappointing it can be if you are unable to obtain a present for someone in time, especially for a child, who doesn’t always understand (though we sell very few items that one would give to a child). But it’s really no need to break down into toddler-like tantrums. As adults, we would like to think that we are mature, able to handle disappointment, especially over minor issues, with grace, and move on with life. After all, these are lessons that we were supposed to have learned as a child, when a tantrum over disappointment might be expected, to a certain age. Nevertheless, we were punished for tantrums as a child, so that we would learn the appropriate, mature way to express ourselves toward one another. Christmas consumerism would suggest that this lesson was never learned by a frightening percentage of the adult population.

Of course, it’s not just Christmas when these folk appear, and it’s not just the last-minute-overnighters. It’s also those who think that the package may not arrive in time, so they resort to nasty emails right after they place their order insinuating what horrible rumors they will spread about your company if the package doesn’t arrive in time. It’s also the week-after-Christmas people who apparently didn’t know how to read a shipment chart, and so blame you when their package didn’t arrive on time, even though the information displayed on the website clearly stated the cut off date, and they ordered afterwards. It’s also those who receive their package, find out that the boots didn’t fit, and insist you must pay the shipping for a new pair and for their return because your website sizing chart was “wrong.” Because after all, their experience must be normative for the rest of the world. About 10% of our shoes come back for exchanges and refunds do to size. 90% go by our charts and they fit just fine. But, we should change the chart. Just for them. Because if it has been their experience, it would just be thinking outside the box a little too much to imagine that it wasn’t everyone else’s as well.

So, in conclusion, I am sad to report that nothing much has changed since I first posted about American Commercialism three years ago. Whether it be sitting at a desk replying to customer emails, or standing behind a counter ringing people out, the tendency of human beings to treat one another in a most unloving way remains the same. Ironically, it gets even worse at Christ-mastime.



  1. Earl said,

    first, I’m sorry that sucks to have to deal with
    second, I’m sorry because I’m one of those ‘last minute’ers
    third, I hate x mas and that’s why Florrie and I agreed on only 1 present for each other this year and every year for now on (even if we have kids).

    as a culture I don’t even know how we could go about rectifying things, because that would require people WANTING to change and as much as most people complain they still go shopping every year.

  2. Leshem Shamayim said,

    Christmas? I’m sorry it happens now. I cry.

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