Service of the Pulse of Christmas 2010

December 20th, 2010

Categories: Christmas, Cost Cuts, Customer Service, Economy, Mixed Messages, Retail, Toys

Here are some observations of this holiday season:

**I passed by a silent Salvation Army bell ringer yesterday and looked to see why he was quiet and if he was OK. He was texting.

**An officemate, Bambe Levine, told me about her happy experience at J. Crew. She went to return some boots last week and had 20 minutes to spend before her lunch date. Her heart sank when she saw a line that, in spite of a generous number of cashiers, promised to take at least 40. She asked a manager if she might leave the boots and return to wait in line after lunch. The manager said to her, “Let me take care of it,” and did so immediately.

**Meanwhile, I tried for several days to buy a gift at a boutique in Grand Central Station. Can’t go into too much detail as 1) the recipient reads these posts and 2) I don’t bash brands here. The staff was pleasant yet clueless. I hung around for over half an hour waiting for one to bring the size I requested from basement storage. Nobody seemed to realize that people have other things to do. Eventually, I told the cashier that I had to get back to the office and she suggested I return after work, which I did. The item wasn’t upstairs yet. She promised the basement retrieval man would call me. He never did. I gave it another try on Friday and this cashier couldn’t have been nicer, more apologetic, and she repeated how responsible the man is both before and after she found the gift in the back room. To sweeten my mood [my face wasn’t happy when I had to wait at the back of the line to pay], she gave me her employee discount.

**Unforgiving sticky price labels continue to plague gifts I buy. The hairdryer trick to dry the adhesive so I can scrape off the price works although it takes forever; burns my fingers and gets glue on the appliance. This year, the heat melted some of the packaging which is annoying. Simple solutions: Barcodes on sticky labels combined with prices clearly marked on store shelves just as they are in grocery stores.

**Garish, tasteless trees are the style in office lobbies this year-minus gifts for children that have been there for as long as I can remember. What a sad turn of events. Some tinsel is better than nothing. It could be June in the lobby of my office building where there’s not the tiniest nod to the season. Menorah lights and a simple wreath–I know just the place–would cheer.

xmas2010wreathsmall2**An anemone greenhouse/tree farm outside Rhinebeck, NY has traditionally sold beautifully decorated wreaths. Normally, if you don’t go early in the season, they sell out. We dropped by yesterday on a whim. They still had quite a selection, and the wreaths were slightly discounted.

**ABC TV covered the Santa letters program in “Sad Santa Letters Tell of Economic Woes, USPS Says. New York’s Operation Santa Chief Says More Letters This Year Asking for Coats, Food.” Pete Fontana, who directs the USPS New York Operation Santa, said: “Though many considered last year to be the toughest financially since the economic downturn, it appears that more people are struggling this year, both from the letters and the decreased amount of volunteers who sign up to fulfill some of the writers’ wishes.” There’s a website of participating post offices if you want to pick up a letter and fulfill the wishes of some of the neediest writers. Wouldn’t it be great to win the lottery in time to pick up all those letters and fulfill the wishes?

Any changes–good and bad–or observations to share about this holiday season?

6 Responses to “Service of the Pulse of Christmas 2010”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    One of a number of issues which bother me about Christmas: Adults coaxed into acting towards others as they should the year round and children threatened with the prospect of no gifts if they don’t behave. Another is the month long shopping frenzy which traditionally takes place. I can do nothing about the behavior bit other than to ignore it, hoping that good manners and consideration of others remain in place regardless of season. As to the shopping, I profited by July sales, and some successful haggling, along with some online and/or phone purchases well before crowds weighed in.

    Nothing seems to have changed over the years, other than increasing greed and commercialism surrounding the season. I received my first Christmas mail mid summer. I can’t comment on store personnel, since I shun most large stores and am happiest buying in small ones where purchases are appreciated and the owners are often either at the counter or close by. A recent exception was a happy one. Wandered into Brooks Brothers, and was not only treated like royalty before parting with a cent, but encountered the unexpected presence of a multitude of relatively inexpensive but sturdily made Teddy Bears, one of which is on its way to the new great grandson. Better yet, a percentage of bear cost goes to Saint Judes Hospital! Because of its warm reception and philanthropic activity, I am likely to return as well as recommend to others.

    One parting blast. A former school buddy sent an ecard, which was heralded as “sure to promote the Christmas spirit.” Great card: Beautiful tree, jolly Santa, No Nativity scene, no Holy Family no Kings.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Wow, Lucrezia, your comment is better than my post.

    Starting from your last sentence, I wish I could remember who is doing it, but at one business or store Santa is being replaced by a snowman so as to be politically correct. Grump.

    Good for Brooks Brothers and I, too, like to support St. Judes and I love bears and was a stuffed animal lover as a child [more than dolls] and still am.

    Like you, I look for bargains all year long and need to shop close to the big day where I haven’t found a perfect thing. This year, I supported craft fairs as much as stores of all varieties big and small and also bought things on the Internet. None of the stores were so crowded as to be uncomfortable, except the place at Grand Central I wrote about where I went at lunch the last time, but then, while I love to shop, you won’t see me near a store on Black Friday.

  3. Jeremiah Said:


    I find it most interesting that your observations about this Christmas do not mention the supposed reason the holiday is celebrated. According to most, but not all Christian creeds, December 25th was the day of the year on which Jesus Christ was born.

    Reality is that the celebration did not even become one until centuries after Christ’s death, that we know neither the day, nor the year of his birth, and that the founding fathers of the early Church, found it convenient for marketing purposes to hijack the existing Roman festival of Saturnalia, celebrated around the winter solstice and the like barbaric Germanic pagan rituals celebrating the rebirth of light as the days began to become longer.

    A discussion of various mercantile aspects of this season of the year seems very much in keeping with the spirit and ideas of those early Fathers who created Christmas.


  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    We are closer to the three wise me in this regard….the men who visited the baby Jesus with gifts. No doubt this is another anachronism, but I like the symbolism and one of the things I like to do best, and wish I could do more of, is give gifts. I’ll make up any excuse! Now if I could only win the lottery….

  5. Jeremiah Said:


    Your response to my comment is entirely consistent with the point I was making.

    The Gospel of Matthew, the only one to mention the Magi, invented them as a marketing ploy to reinforce the point to its primarily Jewish audience that Christ was indeed the Messiah. The three wise men coming to present gifts to the Messiah were predicted in various Hebrew Scriptures antedating by centuries the time of Christ.

    The story ties in nicely with Saturnalia, one of the features of which was gift giving. Perhaps as a
    consequence, in a number of Christian countries, the giving of gifts and Christmas have been purposely separated from one another, in an effort to diminish the commerciality of the former all-important Christian feast day, and gifts are exchanged on January 6th, Epiphany or Three Kings Day.


  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I knew there was something about Christmas that I liked–its roots being a superb marketing idea with legs, so kudos to the Gospel of Matthew authors and may this kind of inspiration continue to shine down on me on behalf of my clients.

    Someone once told me that a gambler will gamble even if there are no one-arm bandits or casinos or OTB at hand…they will take bets about who the next person to walk through a door will be, the next song on the radio and so forth.

    Similarly, some people like giving gifts and they don’t need Christmas to inspire or force them. My sister, for example, often leaves surprises when she visits my apartment. There’s no holiday, or if there is one, there might be a spider or reptile in recognition of Halloween which is not traditionally a gift-giving day.

    I, too, love finding and giving presents so Christmas gives me the excuse and a deadline!

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