Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Competitive (read: Crazy) Side of Christmas Consumerism

I recently reached my stop and hopped off the Crazy Train. (Not going to claim I didn’t hop on another.)

I’m not really sure where I boarded that Crazy Train. But I was on it for about a month. Okay, and a half.

I suppose it all started in a haze of post-Thanksgiving Christmas gift shopping. Come on, you know how that time of year mixed with that level of maternal consumer responsibility can make one irrational. But of course I was on top of it. I had done the Black Friday thing and besides that already had a great head start. (I’m looking at you, Target, and your sneaky pre-Thanksgiving toy coupon books.) Unfortunately for my sanity, my loving husband had set the bar on “the big gift.” Graham was getting a drum set. It had been researched, compared, decided. Hubs had it in the garage in boxes already. He was going to freak on Christmas morning and we both knew it.

But Reid? What was going to make Reid freak? Yes, these are the kind of big questions that were haunting my thoughts. People, I’m telling you about my Crazy Train experience, after all. I NEEDED REID TO BE EQUALLY FREAKING OUT ON CHRISTMAS MORNING, DAMMIT! I’m talking about my little sweetheart. My Reidy. My Doogie. My blondie who loves to follow directions and hear stories of what a sweet little baby he was. He melts me. Regularly. Naturally he must be rewarded for that by Santa.

Reid is my techie. Hand him an iPad, iPod, iWhateverelse and he’s on it. He tells the rest of us how to use our devices. He instructs his big brother. He NEEDED toy technology. He NEEDED the LEAP PAD! THE TOY OF THE YEAR! AN IPAD FOR KIDS! SOLD OUT EVERYWHERE! BLOGGED ABOUT BY MOMS IN THE KNOW! UNAVAILALBE ON ANY SHELF! SO YES, NATURALLY THAT WAS THE THING I MUST HAVE FOR MY CHILD!
This is the stuff marketers’ dreams are made of. I was trapped.

The next part is embarrassing to type. But I must confess it here as part of the healing process. I spent every morning for about a week this past December outside the locked doors of my neighborhood Target. Yes, you did read that right. It went down each morning as I pulled into the lot and surveyed my competition.

The first morning, Alpha Mom was already waiting. She informed me that she had been coming to the Target every morning for two weeks. Once, she had been thisclose to snatching the Leap Pad, but a woman "in high heels" beat her to the shelf and grabbed all three. While marveling about how I was bonding in the cold with this random stranger over our shared need to secure a Leap Pad, I was a bit taken aback about the high heels comment. I may have fidgeted and wondered how well my dress slacks were hiding my shoes. She said she works nights and that the weekend before, she hired a sitter for her kids and drove all over the metro, racking up hundreds of miles on her car, trying to find the elusive Leap Pad. I thought about the amount of money she must have spent on a sitter and gas. And compared that against the retail value of the Leap Pad. And I thought about the Leap Pads going for two times their values on eBay and Amazon.

My friends, family, colleagues and even clients knew what I was doing. They offered to help, and asked for regular updates on my progress. This only fueled my fire.

Each day there would be another competitor mom or two. I sized them up. Wondered if I could out-run them. Or if they could beat me up. One day there was a dad. But each morning as the Target employee who opened those red doors and most likely mentally judged us with his sideways looks, and we dashed straight down that gleaming linoleum and then to the right, nothing was there. Each day, the stockers would say, “Oh I think we’re getting four on the truck tomorrow! Come back Thursday and we’ll have more! We’re getting in about two each night!” Yadda yadda and whatevs. Why was I trusting strangers in red shirts who obviously had no information? Because I was crazy.

Finally, one morning it happened. The regular, plus a new blonde in scrubs, and I dashed back to the aisle. They, in their tennis shoes, beat me to the punch. There were supposed to be four, according to the red t-shirts from the day before. But there were two. My mompetition looked at me, Leap Pads in hand, shrugged and said, “Sorry! Welp, Merry Christmas!” The blonde offered to give me her “strategy sheet” if I walked to her car with her. I wished her a Merry Christmas, said, "Hope your kids enjoy that,” and took my high heels and my dignity to the office.

I tried to tell myself that Reid DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT A LEAP PAD WAS! That he couldn’t care less if one showed up under the tree or not on Christmas morning. That by the time his birthday rolled around in June, it would be easy to find all the Leap Pads I wanted at the normal price. I managed to find some sense and hubby bought him a kid’s digital camera and some other goodies we knew he would enjoy.

He had a great Christmas. Without the Leap Pad.

Last week, running typical weekend errands at Target I sauntered to the aisle where it all began. There were two Leap Pads on the shelf. No one was running towards them, no one was fighting over them or pulling mace out of their purses. I tossed one into my cart like no big deal, along with my shampoo and some glue dots. And as I exited the store that day I hopped right off of that crazy train.

The Leap Pad now has a temporary home hiding out in the basement. When June rolls around, a certain little boy may or may not freak out at his techy birthday present. And his mom will enjoy the return of her sanity.

1 comment:

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