Conscientious Christmas Consuming

I am pretty terrible at christmas shopping in that I don't do any real shopping at all. The thing I do is buying. And there's a difference;

When you buy things, you know what you want, you know how much it costs, you know where in the store it is located, you know the quickest routes between each store that you have to go to, and you know the best times in which to go.

Shoppers, on the other hand, think of none of these things before they get into their cars, or buses, or bicycles. This is why Walmart is going to simultaneously take over the universe and create such a convenient  vacuum of price to value that the whole universe will collapse in on itself.

I was thinking today about the big consumer box stores, the Walmarts, the K-Marts, the Targets, which I tend to avoid as much as I can, because, and I know this sounds unusually unlike me, but they do terrible things to the economy and ecology and they are unimaginably cruel in how they squeeze both their employees and their producers for every inch. And it breaks my heart too, cause Walmart has the most fresh and high quality produce in the area (and I live in one of the most fertile valleys in all the world) I can go an entire life time without a pair of sweat shop produced boxer briefs, but I'll nail myself to a crucifix before I ever buy rubbery broccoli at the Whole Foods again.

I made a joke that in 2003 we should have dropped Sam's Clubs onto the Iraqi people. Kinda tough to be an islamic fundamentalist when you can get water and baby wipes in bulk.

But today, and more in line with my devil doesn't care capitalist attitude, today I've found a business practice that I hate even more than the systematic destruction of the social fabric, and that is Club Cards.

My wife and I have lived in the same town for over a decade now, and during that time, between the two of us, we have had seven telephone numbers. I've lost my wallet twice, and god knows how many purses are sitting in the garage right now with stacks upon stacks of plastic club cards that have fallen between the seams, never to be thought of again.

Again, that is, until it's Chrismas, and you've been waiting in line for twenty minutes, and everyone around you is tired and angry, and you have just four items: Paper plates, deoderant, and two bottles of wine, which even at the club price is just a little more than you wanted to spend, but that particular red blend goes great with what you're making for dinner tonight, and you haven't killed anyone all day and feel you deserve it. And you get to the front of the line and your asked for your club card.

"Do you have your card, sir?"

"Sure do." you say as you try to find a place to set you basket so you can rummage through your wallet with two hands, fanning out your plastic cards like its the most important game of "Go Fish" in your life. First you sort by color, then by design, then 'oh look' you really need to call that photographer guy back, then you realize you haven't been in this particular store since you lost your wallet at a movie theater in 2009 and even though it's the closest store to your house, their broccoli is terrible.


"Kay, sir, can you just type in your telephone number?"

"Oh jesus, sure, I guess." 

This is when you realize that smart phones have destroyed your brain. You enter in your house phone from memory, which you only remember because you've been quizzing your eight year old every morning before school. You try your cell, you try your wife's cell, both of which you have to look up. You try to remember the phone number you had at you first apartment in town, but you totally draw a blank and all you can think is "Please Missus Checker Lady, please just swipe that blank card you have under the counter, I'll donate the rest of my change to breast cancer awareness if you would please do me this solid."

"Yeah, I don't have it. Go fish"

"Well, sir, would you like to sign up for another card?" she says as she pulls out a pamphlet the size of an insurance claim form.

"Naw, don't worry about it."

"But sir, you'll save an additional $75,000 and get a coupon for .37 off a gallon of gas the next time you're in Texarcana."

And then you look at the actual total in comparison to the Club Card total and your brain goes a little wonky because she wasn't kidding about the $75,000. And then you look back at the line, which now hates you so much that they've sent their children out to the parking lot to find your car and slash your tires. And you look back at the total and then back at the line and then reach for the pamphlet.

"Do you have a pen?" and you've never heard such public profanity muttered under the breath of such a large group of people.

And I get it. I really get it. The profit margin of a grocery store is somewhere between 3% and 5%. Crunchy broccoli not withstanding, they need to do everything within their limited power to create a loyal consumer. One who shops with them and with no one else. I get it. I do.

But I've decided I don't care.

They knew the margins when they started filling their aisles with precut salads and Cool Ranch Doritoes. And I'm sorry, I truly am that Walmart has destroyed your frozen burrito profitability, but you know, be thankfull you're not trying to peddle flat screen TV's or low introductory APR credit lines in this market.

So, not today, but starting January 1st 2014, I have decided to boycot every store that requires you to sign up for a club card in order to receive the posted price. I will empty my wallet of everything but my drivers license, my library card, my Costco Card (cause, you know, baby wipes and frozen burritos), and the business card of that photographer I keep meaning to call but don't.

Everything else goes in my wife's purse. Let her do the shopping.

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