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Shopping for the soul

By Justin Darr
web posted December 6, 2004

One of the best things about living in America is if you have a sufficient amount of money, you can buy just about anything on the planet legally. You might have to make some phone calls and wait for a while, but in almost in any case you can eventually purchase anything you want. However, as anyone who has ever picked the name of the person who wants "nothing special, just don't spend a lot of money" in the office gift exchange, or has the child who does NOT want the "Super Plus Dragon Head Crushing Mega-Poki-Zord-o-Saur," some of the hardest things to find are the simplest.

Such was my dilemma as I tried do my Christmas shopping this week. I thought I had prepared for anything. I woke up early to beat the crowds, ate a good breakfast for plenty of energy, organized a list of friends and family for whom to purchase gifts, filled my wallet with cash and headed out. The only real limitation I placed on myself in my shopping would be showing my support for the boycott of Macy's Department Store by patronizing its competitors.

It seemed like Manuel Zammarano, head of the "Committee to Save Merry Christmas", had a great idea. What better way is there for Americans to really make a statement against the politically correct crowd, who want to make any mention of our Judeo-Christian heritage sacrilege, than by refusing to support the companies who are complicit in their aims? I decided that the "Committee to Save Merry Christmas" had such a great idea that I would extend the boycott further and not shop anywhere that did not utilize the words "Merry Christmas" in its store visual presentation. After all, I was Christmas shopping! Is it too much to ask for a few signs around the store acknowledging the fact? Evidently, it is. After several fruitless hours in the local malls, I had to admit that if I was going to be faithful to my boycott then my family was going to get a harsh lesson about the real meaning of Christmas Day because they were not going to get any gifts.

For starters, here is a brief list of the retailers (in addition to Macy's) who might decorate their stores in "Holiday" colors in an attempt to entice you out of your money, but make no mention of Christmas at all: Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, Strawbridge's, The Shoe Department, New York & Co., The Disney Store, Kirkland's, Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, Banana Republic, JC Penny, Express, Delia's, Littman Jewelers, Aeropostale, The Limited, The Limited Too, Bombay Co., The Gap, Payless Shoe Source, Charlotte Russe, Gymboree, Wet Seal, Things Remembered, Lord and Taylor, Toys R Us, KB Toys, Radio Shack, Forever 21, Parade of Shoes, Finish Line, Hallmark Shops, and Five Below.

What was really strange was the goofy advertising some retailers use in place of just saying "Merry Christmas". For instance, Fashion Bug will give you free panties if you buy a "holiday" sweater, Sears invites you to "Walk the Wish Walk" (whatever that means), CVS does not sell Christmas paper to wrap your gifts, but does have a fine selection of "Traditional Holiday Wrap", three major booksellers may not wish you a Merry Christmas but make up for it by expanding their "Gay and Lesbian Literature" sections toward the front of the stores, and American Eagle has a special on "Ring My Bells" boxer shorts to get you into the Christmas spirit.

In the end, only seven retailers made any mention of "Christmas", "Santa", or "Merry Christmas". They are: Kay's Jewelers, Bath & Body Works, The Whitehall Co., Williams-Sonoma, Party City, Carlton Cards, and Victoria Secret. After I purchased my wife her third panda bear Christmas tree ornament and scented bath beads, I realized that I might be spending all the money I saved on Christmas presents in divorce court unless I did something quick. But what can you do? How can you make a stand for your values when it seems as though the battle may already be lost? Luckily, before I was forced to abandon my boycott, I found that there are indeed many fine retailers who still love Christmas and have the courage to say it. They are our neighborhood privately owned businesses.

As I returned home in the evening from my shopping adventure, I had the pleasure of visiting stores which offered hand crafted baby dolls, antique HO scale train sets, autographed baseballs and footballs, fine imported watches, authentic Amish quilts, custom fitted shirts and slacks, American made power tools, surround sound home theater systems, pet supplies and gifts (and the pets to go with them), furniture, custom installed pool tables, hot tubs, neon signs saying whatever you want, cigars, musical instruments, and home made pumpkin pies.

As an added bonus, each of these businesses had more nativity scenes, elves, lords a leaping and "Merry Christmases" than you could shake a stick at, and excellent, personalized, customer service. I found greater quality, selection, and value than anything the cookie cutter mega retailers could ever hope to offer, benefited my local economy, and met dozens of wonderful people in the process. For the first time in my life I actually had fun shopping! It might have taken more time, thought, and effort on my part. I definitely had to drive more miles. But, in the end, I found that I had to sacrifice nothing in boycotting businesses that refuse to reflect my values, and I may just have helped a few small stores stay in business for another Christmas.

The private retailer is going the way of "Merry Christmas" signs in the malls. Soon neither may be left. This year, as you go out to buy your Christmas gifts, why not do more than just punish the retailers who do not celebrate Christmas but take the extra step and reward those who do?

Justin Darr can be reached at justindarr@juno.com.

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