Bruning: Take a minute to reconsider holiday shopping habits

Jessica Bruning

Over break, I had a discussion with my cousin, who had just returned from France, on the differences between the American and French Christmas. He made the comment that if he hadn’t known from the time of year that Christmas was coming up, he wouldn’t have been able to tell in France. He made the observation that it is a much more private affair with few public decorations and pretty much no retail advertisements. “They haven’t bastardized it like we Americans have,” he claimed. A few hours later my other cousin had to leave because he had to work at 7:30 a.m. at Best Buy on the day after Christmas. Early the next morning, another cousin left for her retail job.

It’s easy to blame retailers for the way we’ve made the holidays into a retail smorgasbord. We see their flashy advertisements, tacky decorations and annoying jingles everywhere and yearn for the days where simplicity and family were key.

I’ve seen various family members having to work terrible hours on nights, weekends and holidays so that America can quell her ever-growing desire to buy. On my end, I pray that I won’t have to join their ranks upon graduation. It has become pretty obvious that retail is not the most accommodating to family time.

But it’s not the retailers fault. How many of you rushed out the day after Christmas to spend your gifted money and make returns or exchanges? Do you consider that the people standing behind the counter as you fork over your money are there working instead of at home with their families? Why do you think retailers have huge sales even after the holiday? Because they know that you, the consumer, will be there and happy to spend even more money.

It’s an endless cycle. We go out for Black Friday deals. Yup, those people had to leave their Thanksgiving dinners early to get back home for work. Last-minute Christmas Eve shopping? That cashier won’t be getting back for their celebrations till long after you do.

There are many problems in the world today that can make us feel very helpless. Matters of war and poverty are daunting to the average individual. In the meantime, why not solve problems that we do have control over? Are our personal wants really worth causing another person to miss their holiday or family celebration? Would it be so much more difficult to hit the mall in a few days rather than the day after Christmas?

Retailers provide a service to their consumer. They hold sales when they know customers will be in their store making returns and exchanges in the hopes of getting the much coveted “add-on sale.” It is the purpose of businesses to make money, so this practice isn’t really too surprising. Really, can we hold it against them? We need to change our ways so that retailers will be incentivized to change theirs.

It’s a simple solution: Push back your need for immediate gratification and consider the people who work to provide you with that gratification.