Rant-Choked on Consumerism

Ahhh, the holiday season is upon us! I noticed this a couple weeks ago when stores, eager to take advantage of the mild economic recovery, began putting up Christmas decorations—before Halloween! Memo to store owners: putting up your Christmas junk that early doesn’t make me want to buy stuff, it just annoys me. I imagine I’m not the only one who feels this way. Each year the shopping season gets earlier and earlier. Will there soon be Columbus Day Christmas sales? How about Labor Day? We could just make Christmas a year-round holiday. What do you think about making red and green our national colors and the Visa card our national symbol? Ugh.

I’m not big fan of the holiday season to begin with, but I usually spend my time writing about other things. So what prompted all of this ranting? Well, we got the new Bed Bath & Beyond catalog in the mail today. Judging by the looks of things, Americans’ Christmases will once again be filled with lots of useless items that people don’t need. It appears our addiction to cheap imports is not waning. Here are a few of the things that, according to the BB&B marketers, you just MUST have.As seen on TV

As you might have guessed, electronic gadgets are leading the way. On the inside cover of the catalog there are a couple of cheap iPad knock-offs and some accessories for your iPod and iPhone. Apple is not just a consumer electronics company—it is a cultural phenomenon—so when BB&B can’t sell the actual goods, the next best thing is to make some type of association with them. Thus the similar products. (For the record, I’m not a member of the cult of Apple, but I really want a MacBook. No, it’s not just a toy. I could really use it—honest!)

The second page is covered with accessories for your Wii. You can buy a Wii bowling ball, an inflatable Wii racing cart  (your kids can pretend they are Jimmie Johnson or Danica Patrick) or an 8-in-1 pack of Wii sporting accessories (sword, golf club, bow, paddle, ping pong paddle, jet ski dashboard, wake board and Frisbee). Why experience life when we could do it virtually with the Wii? Who really wants to go outside and do those things anyway? I do. (Portlanders, please don’t use the rain as an excuse to not go outside. It rains here all the time. Embrace it. Complain about it. Then go outside and get wet. It’s not going to kill you.)  

Moving along to the kids’ page, you can get a “licensed game rug” (as opposed to an unlicensed one), an ATM (it’s important that kids know how to use one at a young age), a teach and talk laptop, a real digital camera, and a jellyfish lamp that, for just $9.99, you can fill with water (and four batteries) and watch “lifelike jellyfish dance.” There’s also a marshmallow shooter with the target included (isn’t that what your little brother is for?).Watch out, he's coming to get you

For the special adults in your life, there are other offers that you might not be able to live without, like the revolving accessory organizer that you hang in your closet. It looks a little bit like the top of the Space Needle and it lights up and rotates so that you can see which ties and belts you have in your closet. It only takes four AA batteries. Why someone would spend $30 on that, I do not know.

Not in my closet

If the rotating belt carousel is not what the man in your life needs, perhaps the rechargeable Mangroomer® is something he can use. He can shave his whole back with one hand!

Trim it up

Moving on, I see that for $50, you can buy two individual glass wine chillers. They don’t just chill the glasses, though. You freeze the elegant stainless ‘steel chill drops’ and then when you want to cool your white wine, you pull them out of the freezer and stick them in your glass of wine—like ice without the melting! Each comes with its own stand.

Just chillin'

I like chilled white wine, but why would anyone spend $50 on a couple of wine chill drops? Wine connoisseurs, please explain to me if you have some insight that I’m missing.

There are several other wine accessories in the catalog—a $40 wine aerator that perfectly aerates your red wine as you pour it into the glass, personalized monogrammed wine stoppers, even a $400 single bottle wine chiller/dispenser. I guess if you didn’t feel like pouring your own glass. . .

For coffee drinkers (not coffee enthusiasts), the gift of the year might be a Keurig coffee maker. The convenience is obvious. No more beans or grounds to mess with. The machine measures the water too. All you need to do is load the capsule and press a button. Voila! You have a cup of coffee. Coffee purists might think that using pre-ground beans that sit in a plastic cup for months before being brewed is an abomination, but it is fast-growing market. Emeril Lagasse is even getting in on the action—he’s selling his own brand of K-Cups. Bam! My head almost exploded when I saw that.

There's big business in those little cups

Finally, for those of you that have a problem putting just the right amount of toothpaste on your toothbrush, for only $15 you can get a hands-free toothpaste dispenser. You’ll never have to touch that tube again. What’s more, for only $5, you can upgrade to the Dora or SpongeBob models. I think I finally found what I’ve been looking for!

The perfect gift?

If you do feel you have to buy something tangible, how about some great coffee? It’s something that you can share with others and when you’re done with it, it’s not going to sit there and clutter up your closet. Better yet, how about calling someone up and offering to take them out for coffee? Maybe spend a little time with them? Do something to create a memory. Consider buying tickets to a show or a concert or a ball game, something that will allow the recipients to create their own memories. It’s shared experiences that count, not the piles of stuff that fill our houses.

Resist the forces of the Christmas catalogs. Resist the power of Black Friday. Don't spend money just because you think you have to. If you find something of value to buy, that's different. Often, however we buy stuff that we don’t really need, and it just ends up cluttering up your house. If you want to call me Scrooge, feel free. You won’t offend me (actually, I’d take it as a compliment). Spend money on making memories—they don’t break, they don’t clutter up your house and they usually get better over time—and make this holiday season as enjoyable it can be.

I have no idea what it is, but I'm not buying it

And to all of you out there traveling this holiday season, have a safe journey. Enjoy your complimentary TSA massages!