Thursday, November 23, 2006

Holiday reruns: Some rules for shopping this holiday season

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Once again I'm not up to writing something clever and original, so I'm drawing upon my massive body of work to post another rerun. I present to you Some rules for shopping this holiday season, first posted November 19, 2005. (Originally posted as "Part 1", but I haven't come up with a Part 2 yet!)

Some rules for shopping this holiday season

I was out doing a little early Christmas shopping yesterday and tonight, and I noticed I wasn't the only one. The Christmas shopping season has definitely begun. To make the Christmas shopping experience a little more pleasant*, here are a few rules I've derived over the years:

1. Please control your children. The time to take care of this one is well before you go out to the Mall. Teaching your children how to behave in public is something that you should have been working on from the day they were born. Once you're out there, don't think you can figure out on the spot how to rein in your children when they have decided to play "tag" through an entire store. And there is a corollary to this one:

2. Please discipline your children, but not here. Yes, it is important that your children know how to behave, but again, the time to instruct them in this is long before you ever set foot in the store. Do not decide to discipline them in the middle of a store or the middle of a crowded Mall walkway. If you are having a problem with your kids, remove them from the store, take them home, and sort it out there.

3. Don't be rude. Few things piss me off more than rudeness in public to total strangers. This includes the use of obscene language in front of kids. Don't piss me off. (That should probably be rule #1, and actually summarizes all the other rules.)

4. Please do not have joyous reunions with long-lost friends in the middle of a walkway. So you haven't seen so-and-so in years? Great! So they're looking good? Fantastic! So you really need to get together sometime and catch up with each other? Super! Now, would you mind stepping off to the side? I'm trying to shop.

5. Please do not engage in conversation circles. A conversation circle is a fascinating human geometric structure created when three or more people meet in the middle of a walkway and decide to talk. If it's just two people, they tend to stand face to face, about 24 to 36 inches apart. (This is true in the U.S.; there was a study a while back that shows that this distance, and the likelihood of physical contact, varies from country to country.) Three people will form a triangle with each person about 18 - 24 inches apart, shoulder to shoulder. Four people will form a diamond, five people a pentagon, with the shoulder-to-shoulder distance decreasing but the diameter of the construct always increasing. I once saw a conversation circle made of about 12 people, all standing shoulder to shoulder, forming an impenetrable circle about ten feet across in the middle of a walkway. People going in every direction had to squeeze around the people in the conversation circle, who were blissfully unaware of the existence of anyone other than themselves. Which brings us to the next rule:

6. You are not the only person in the world. Some people slip into solipsism while shopping. They will stand in the middle of an aisle, oblivious to the fact that other people are trying to navigate the aisle with their shopping carts. You are not the only shopper in the store, nor even the most important shopper. I am. Which brings us to the next rule:

7. Get out of my way. There are many different types of shoppers. The two extremes are the Saunterers and the Guided Missiles. These roughly correspond to "gatherers" and "hunters". In a Mall, Saunterers will move slowly and aimlessly, apparently waiting for inspiration to strike them, or perhaps waiting for the drugs to wear off. Guided Missiles know exactly what they want and where they have to go to get it. They move with determination and speed, which doesn't always work well in a Mall walkway jammed with Saunterers. The Guided Missiles will weave in and out of the Saunterers, who are often known to come to complete stops for no readily apparent reason. I am a Guided Missile, and a big one at that. Get out of my way, and we'll all be happier. And finally...

Special rule for retailers: Baby, it's cold outside.
This is especially true in regions like Northeastern Pennsylvania where temperatures can get painfully cold during the Christmas shopping season. People shopping indoors need to dress for the weather outdoors. That means hats and scarves and heavy coats. So unless your store has a heated indoor parking lot, or offers changing rooms and lockers or a coat check room, please do not heat your establishment to make everybody toasty and warm. This may be great for employees, but it will tend to make shoppers grouchy and overheated. And sweaty. And smelly. I can smell them. If your store or Mall is full of smelly sweaty people, I'm gettin' out of there. And I don't want to walk out of your sweltering hot store into the freezing cold air. That will also piss me off.

So, see? Very simple rules that, if we all follow them, will make me happy this holiday shopping season. And when I'm happy, it's a better shopping experience all around.

*More pleasant for me, that is. But trust me, you want me to be happy when I'm out amongst the crowds.

1 comment:

cooper said...

Solipsism is an impressive word, Harold. It's a good word, too. Teenagers are prone to this state of mind year 'round - have you noticed?

Guys do tend to be guided missile shoppers. That's definitely me.

Good luck with your "new" house.