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Wither Black Friday?

The outdoor recreational retailer REI has gone public with the decision to close their stores on Black Friday this year to encourage both associates and customers to go play outside on that day.  #OptOutside

I think this is a brilliant idea for a couple of reasons:

  1. Recognizes that shopping doesn’t need to occur in a physical store anymore. Even “lowest prices” are available on-line now.
  2. Highlights REI as a business in touch with their customer base and associates.
  3. Generates employee goodwill.
  4. Touches on the rise of “experiences” trumping material gifts.  What better way to burn off those turkey legs and extra stuffing than to take a hike with family and friends?  Have some memorable conversations with folks you don’t get to see often.  Or escape from folks you see too much.
  5. They don’t suggest a boycott of shopping or anything negative about Black Friday, but they open up an alternative.

We’re just at the threshold of Halloween, but I like the thought of both Halloween and Thanksgiving as holidays unto themselves and not as the bellwether and gateway to a season of mass consumption.   So I tip my woolly beanie to REI and will plan to spend some time in Nature on November 27, 2015.  I’ll be packing some leftover pie and cranberry sauce with me if you care to come along.

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May I Have A Word With You?

This holiday break I have become addicted to Words with Friends, thanks to my elder child.  It appears she doesn’t have enough to do in med school since she had trounced me in EVERY game we’ve played to date.  The wordsmithing skills  of the young Jedi have overtaken this Yoda-Mom, but I am not giving up.

In other news, the house has almost achieved full rotation back to normal after the revelry of the New Year.  Warmest thanks to this blog’s fan, “owrp”, who took up the gauntlet and scrubbed 2 greasy free-standing oven pans.  One of these  roasters was the cooking vessel for Miss Hidden Meat 2011:  a Pepsi-Cola throwback (made with 100% cane sugar) slow-roasted pork butt!   Yum!

The tablecloths are washed and folded, the plank is stashed back in the garage and the last of the mac&cheese casseroles is browning in the oven for dinner tonight, and I can’t help but feel warmed by the love of family and friends.  Here’s to 2012:  may all our wildest dreams come true.

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Serfs of Retail: Toil Not In Obscurity

This post is a salute to all those folks who are working retail this holiday season. I’ve been there.  In a past life I held the esteemed position and title of “Department Manager for Dresses, Coats, Suits and the euphemistically called, Special Sizes.”  My fiefdom was in a quasi-urban location of a local white-glove department store chain.  Back in the olden days, there were lots of little department store chains, and they employed a great many local folks, many of them (euphemistically called)  “Senior Ladies.”  My “ladies” knew that I’d be there for maybe a year and then another new trainee would take my place so it was in my best interest to listen to their wise teachings.  They taught me a lot about how to manage people and took good care of me.  So, Midge and Dot, if you ever read this, I’ve never forgotten you.  But for the hustling-bustling holidays they would increase the payroll with part-timers, many hoping to parley the Holiday job into a full-time gig (with benefits).   These are not jobs for the faint of heart.  I’ve cleaned out fitting rooms and found stuff that made me sure the previous occupant mistook this location for a rest room.  I’ve taken back coats that were clearly worn for multiple years — each button was different.  I’ve rescued “lost” children, and then been cursed out by their mothers when they returned from the fitting room or hair salon.

Can’t lie:  learned a lot, but I hated it.  I hated the loop of holiday Muzak.  I hated working the 12-hour iron shifts six days a week and dealing with both cranky customers and associates.  Maybe it was the store I worked in:  I had other retail pals who would wax rhapsodic about the great teams they worked with, the encouraging store managers who brought in breakfast for morning meetings or dinner for the late nights.  My fellow managers would bust out of there as if the building were on fire and leave the most junior staff to take the last reading and close up the place.  The carrot and stick motivation was that if the store made the year’s volume target, we’d get a bonus.   You may be surprised to hear this, but the store never quite managed to hit that magic bonus number.

So now I try my hardest NOT to go into any retail establishments (especially department stores)  until after January 1.   I know the Take-a-Napsters are a compassionate bunch so I direct this to the folks who seem to forget we are all children of the moon and stars when I say, “Come on people, have a heart” when you are pawing over the One-Day Sale Table or waiting on line at the register.  The folks toiling are trying to help you — more likely trying to help get you OUT of their store — so they can get on to the other chores they have to do before they can go home to their holiday to-do lists and families who miss them.  Civility from both sides of the register is a social lubricant sorely needed all year-long, but especially now.