Coping: How Christmas Saves the Economy

In one of the great twists of history (or irony), we arrive this week at the peculiar time of year when a religion founded on a savior gets geared us to be a savior of a different sort:  Saving the Economy.

For those who don’t know it, the reason Black Friday is called what it is because of the old financial term “In the Black.”   As opposed to “In the red.”

Many consumer products companies operate “In the Red: (losing money) until this time of year.  In shopping mall leases, for example, it’s not uncommon to have one rental rate for other parts of the year and a differential, higher rate for November and December.  In some leases, there’s even some juice for the mall owners – a bonus if sales hit some threshold, which is why you might here shopping center ads starting any old day, now, if they haven’t already.

The whole point of such ads is to get you down to the shopping center, where presumably you’ll wade through horrific traffic (things like flaring tempers over a primo parking slot are not uncommon) in order to pull out the credit card and load up on useless crap.

Not everything is useless: New phones and lingerie are two that come to mind.

Christmas season shopping is something we don’t do much of around here, anymore.  Somewhere out in the storage room we’ve got a lighted 12”-high ceramic tree that will suffice if we’re not too lazy to dig it out.  Seemed like too much work last year.

As for the Big Gifts?  Waiting for Christmas is for kids.  There’s no point waiting when a click can produce most goods in two days and time you can really afford it.  Most families we know don’t have any more money at this time of the year, so other than entertaining the kids, the big presents for mom or dad are more likely around landmark birthdays.

What’s more, although there has been a pretty good attack on Christianity all ‘round, with many crusaders forgetting that things like the Pledge of Allegiance remind us to be “One Nation, under God…”  the blowback is this:  If you attack Christmas, you also attack revenue.  Ooops~

With a GDP coming in around $17.5 trillion for the year, against accumulated public debt of $17.966 trillion means we are about 2.4% bankrupt as a country.  We haven’t learned a damn thing from the Housing Bubble collapse, so it will happen again…Not much reason for a merry anything, if you ask me.

A little resurgence of Believers at the checkout stands, buying big ticket items, could certainly help matters.  But with holiday-specific decorations banned many locales, nativity scenes cast as inappropriate for public places, and too many Christmas lights an affront to the conservationists, who’s in the mood to spend?  God help you if you have a liberal HOA that tells you what you can do with your own property this time of year.

Around here, we’re not planning to buy a single thing this year for one another.  $100 checks for each of the kids, a bigger one for the local Food Bank, but the real things of value we already have:  Each other, health, and no mortgage.  Gifts that keep on giving.

Tomorrow, I’ll go down to the county office complex in town with a check for another year’s worth of property taxes.  That’ll end our spending for the year, except for food and unless the car conks out.

The whole point of most religions was summed up in that great line from the movie “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”  “Be Excellent to One Another.

It’s the one gift that can’t be handed down by government decree, won’t show up on Amazon or  at the mall.   It can’t be wrapped, nor is it particularly durable as divorce rates show.  It’s something that can be hoarded, saved up, put away, or resold.  Yet as those wiser than me have said, if you have all that click and mall stuff and you don’t have this, you ain’t got squat.

If you do have this one precious thing, none of the other stuff much matters, as it pales in comparison on any sane value scale.

The great conundrum of ‘Merica gets worse every year.  The sales hype becomes ever-more shrill as millions get twisted up into forgetting that “excellence to one another” is the point.  It’s the point in public, in government, and in private behind closed doors.

It may be what Common Core intends, but excellence to one another must be modeled, not storyfied.  Ruin enough families and there goes the modeled behavior part, eh?

This weekend, we talked about something I call the “Invention Horizon.”  It has application during the Christmas season. 

While each religion markets (often in exclusionary ways), underneath it all is this “excellence” gem…that’s the concept worth holding onto and sharing.

And if – as the anti-religionists demand – we do minimize the trees and wreaths and such, are we not fools for throwing the Baby out with the credit card receipts?

Seems to me that if we’re ever to advance off this lousy rock, we need to step back for a moment and embrace best of class human values and begin to generalize Christmas carols into what we might label People Carols…songs about the core values that transcend cultures.  *(I’d nominate this song from Bill & Ted’s as an example.)

Unfortunately, we aren’t yet able to cross that divide, except when it comes to a few bits of lyric in pop songs…but maybe that’s enough.  Well, at least it’s a start anyway.

As for Christmas saving the economy?  Yeah, might happen once again.

Ask me on December 6th.  That’s because there’s been a big increase in dream content over at the National Dream Center site that seems to be referencing of “employment” and the next employment report is due December 5th..  A week from Black Friday.

Three plus weeks of lead time on a news story?  Yeah, what a hoot, but remember there was about that much time on the last “biggie” like this – the Dallas/Houston worries that preceded the Ebola panic in what’s feeling like the same way.

But don’t mind the introspective Monday around here.  Just jump in the Cars and spend like there’s no tomorrow because, guess what happens on this track?

Just in is a press release come in from the Gallup Poll folks:

Gallup’s November measure of the total amount Americans expect to spend on Christmas gifts suggests U.S. retail spending this holiday season will increase by roughly 3%, better than last year but still below pre-recession levels.

Take it as you will.

Banks Have Got to be Kidding

Had a note pop up in the inbox from my Big National Bank we do business with. All because last week  I called their automated service (which was screwed up) so I ended up talking with a human.  Simple check order.

That should have been the end of the story. 

But then four days later this weekend up pops:

Tell Us What You Think   – Your Call on November 17

I politely told them:

Dear Big Bank:

Please note that I called and ordered checks on Nov. 17 (arrived before your email, by the way).  Then on Nov. 21 you ask me about my phone call experience.  I got to the email on the 22nd as you work for me, I don’t work for you.

Let me see:  The events took 10-minutes instead of 2.  Wasted 8 minutes of my time.  At my age, 8 minutes is a big deal. 

Since my time is worth $100 and hour (a bit overpriced, but what isn’t these days?) you wasted $13.33 of my time. 

We’ve had this time-wasting discussion before so I won’t hold my breath waiting for the compensatory deposit.

Let me get to the point, however:  I am 65.9 years old.  This means I have been around for how long? 24,053 days roughly.

That’s  577,272 hours of sucking air and paying taxes and being on hold with your bank part of the time.

Zooming in: that’s 34,636,320 minutes.  Your bank has consumed more than 3-hours of my time in this life…I carefully track such things.

I assume you know your frigging automated check ordering whizzy was broken, so that leaves me with 8-minutes to recall after your cheap POS automated system let me go through the whole ordering process before flipping me over to a customer service person I know not where.

Once transferred, I spent a total of 3-minutes on hold while the “help” looked up this and that.  So that leaves us with 3 minutes to recall.

And since I did about half the talking (answering questions you already have on file)  but let’s be generous and say he talked 2 minutes.

Do you see the problem?  You are asking me (with no compensation and a considerable number of minutes going into a trance to recall the event with clarity) to recall events that make up 0.0000057% of my life.

Amazingly, I really can recall life down to those levels, but I will await the posting of the $13.33 to my account before telling you the details.  Take your Gingko though.

I know that you won’t pay me for my time, but because it will take you 2 minutes to read this and figure out what the hell to do with it, I figure I will have burned about the same amount of Bank time that you wasted of mine.

Watch your email closely.  I’ll be sending a customer service follow-up email  in March 2015 to see how good YOUR recall is.

Sincerely, more or less…


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George Ure
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