5 ways companies are already ruining the holidays
October 20, 2012
1. “Christmas creep” sets in.
Christmas creep is the phenomenon of stores busting out their late-season holiday merchandise — most notably, the Christmas crap — earlier and earlier each year. The term also applies to annoying holiday advertisements, which we now have to suffer through for nearly a quarter of the calendar year.
Target is 2012’s worst offender, having unleashed its first Christmas ad in mid-October. Doesn’t it just seem wrong to be looking at Christmas lights on TV when you haven’t even picked a Halloween costume yet? Well it is wrong, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, as the Consumerist notes , the unspoken industry rule is that Christmas ads don’t hit airwaves until November 1 (or, this year, after the election). For another thing, it goes against Target’s own standards, which for years mercifully spared us from their Christmas ads until after Thanksgiving. “Guests really tire of these messages when they’re started too early in the season, and it doesn’t align with where they are in their lives,” said the company’s previous chief marketing officer. That’s a nice sentiment, but apparently it got tossed out the window when that guy left the company.
2. Stores push layaway, which can be bad for consumers.
Like so many services marketed to lower income customers, layaway can be a bad deal. There was a time when layaway was more solidly pro-consumer: stores let you pay for items over a period of time without incurring interest charges, making layaway a much better deal than credit cards. But these days most major retailers that have continued or revived their layaway programs now charge fees. As Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court said in a radio interview last holiday season, “Depending on the price and the policy, you could be paying a lot more than if you’d put the purchase on a credit card.”
3. Black Friday gets out of control, and it’s not even a good deal.
Stores tout Black Friday deals, including “door busters” that require shoppers to line up well before dawn, for weeks before the big event. But is Black Friday really worth it for shoppers? In many cases, no. “Black Friday is for the retailers to go from the red into the black. It’s not really for people to get great deals on the most popular products,” University of Washington computer science professor Oren Etzioni told the New York Times last November. Etzioni, who studies artificial intelligence and helped develop the Farecast airline price predictor, used his expertise to study holiday season bargains and found that many items are cheaper in the weeks after Black Friday and at other times during the year. So Black Friday is good deal for stores, but not the best deal for shoppers.
This is especially true when you consider the rise in violence and mayhem that we’ve seen on Black Friday in recent years. Last year alone , two people were shot, fifteen others pepper sprayed, and one man collapsed and died in different stores around the country.
This year maybe try celebrating Buy Nothing Day instead.
4. Your mom might get scammed on Cyber Monday. (OK, and you might too.)
Nothing says “holiday spirit” like “the 12 Scams of Christmas”! That’s a real, sadly necessary thing distributed by McAfee to keep your mom (and you) safe from the scammers who try to take advantage of the uptick in online shopping during the holiday season. The most common scams include mobile malware, bogus Facebook contests, phishing schemes, and even downloadable holiday screensavers:
Bringing holiday cheer to your home or work PC sounds like a fun idea to get into the holiday spirit, but be careful. A recent search for a Santa screensaver that promises to let you “fly with Santa in 3D” is malicious. Holiday-themed ringtones and e-cards have been known to be malicious too.
This problem is likely to get worse this year, as online shopping is expected to increase by 12 percent this year, compared to 2011. More online shoppers, more scams to take advantage of them.
5. You can’t even trust the charities.
The Salvation Army’s ubiquitous red kettles make a lot of people feel better about shopping at big box stores around the holidays. Spend some money at Walmart, give a few bucks to charity — it all works out, right?
Unfortunately, for all the good the Salvation Army might do, the group undermines that with its discriminatory anti-gay policies. Gay rights activists have long targeted the charity for denying services to LGBTQ citizens under the justification that homosexuality is a sin. Earlier this year the group got into especially hot water when one of its spokespeople said on an Australian radio show that he agrees gay people deserve to die.