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ScottChristmas Consumerism

It's cold outside, the traffic is heavy, the stores are packed solid with cranky, pushy people and Christmas music, and the news is dominated by stories about - what else? - shopping. It's that time of year again: The Annual Holiday-Themed Mass Consumption Month!

Actually, that's not exactly correct. It used to be just a month, but every year the Christmas shopping season is stretched a bit further to boost sales. I clearly recall hearing Christmas music playing at the FSK Mall before Halloween. That makes the Christmas shopping season stretch over a full two months; one sixth of a year. If this trend continues, the shopping season will literally be as long as an actual meteorological season!

If you think about it, it's truly remarkable how we Americans are driven into a buying frenzy. The Christmas music is usually the first sign. Malls and stores will begin playing the music earlier every year, tricking the shoppers into thinking that the holiday season is quickly approaching. Besides that, it is scientifically proven that background music affects shopping habits, and I can't help but imagine that the music associated with Christmas is extremely powerful in increasing buying.

Have you ever wondered what the "Christmas spirit" really is? It is a mindset that has been meticulously created by clever marketing over the last few decades. It has been handled so expertly that companies can now advertise their products and spread sappy messages about how Christmas isn't about presents at the same time!

The Christmas lights, the endlessly repeating music, Photos with Santa, and storewide sales are all parts of the Christmas spirit, and all of them are intended to attract customers and entice them to buy more than they ever have in the past.

One of the lesser-known forces in driving sales is the televised news. For the last week or so, the news channels have featured numerous stories about how the day after Thanksgiving is expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year, as always. Today, in fact, is known as "Black Friday." If you want to know how it got that name, just watch the news - they talk about it every year - and I don't feel like repeating it. Anyway, from now until Christmas, much of the news will be about….shopping.

Shopping? How is shopping news? It's just a bunch of reporters at crowded stores saying the same thing: "It's really crowded here today because people are rushing to buy gifts for Christmas." Wow, thanks for the newsflash.

As far back as I can remember, there has only been one holiday shopping-related story worthy of the news. It was last year, when a woman was trampled to death as people charged the doors of a Wal-Mart to grab $30 DVD players. That should have been yet another sign that the Christmas consumerism in the country has gone too far, but then today on CNN I saw a stock clip of some woman rushing up to a mountain of $27.50 DVD players at Wal-Mart and taking five or six in one armful. Manslaughter's got nothin' on a good deal.

There was one intriguing report about shopping today. One of the correspondents said that, of the shoppers he had talked to, many of them said that they had to be more careful with their money this year than they have in the past (Obviously this is Clinton's fault). Shopping carefully simply means only buying things that are on sale. The stores, however, have had years of experience in balancing sales and purchases, so the second half of the story was that people are ending up buying more stuff than ever.

The stores are obviously in control of the American consumers. With an arsenal consisting of commercials, the entertainment industry, the televised media, and a psychologically designed shopping atmosphere, it's no mystery why people are continually willing to buy more stuff every year, no matter how they are doing economically.

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