Anyway, I did not go out shopping on Black Friday, although some family members did brave the crowds. ("It's like a party," they said. "No, thank you," I replied.) I did not participate in Cyber Monday, either -- the Monday after Thanksgiving when, presumably, everyone goes back to work and spends their time shopping on the Internet instead of doing their job.
Yet, I admit I'm not completely free of crass materialism myself. Nor am I entirely exempt from the commercialism of Christmas. I like to see piles of presents under the tree. It's fun to sit around the living room with your family on Christmas morning and rip open the wrapping to find what Santa has brought. And if you're lucky, Santa brings you gifts right off your Christmas list.
So I can't help but wonder, where do Baby Boomers and other elders like to do their Christmas shopping? Certainly not Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale or Hot Topic.
I heard some commentators on CNBC remark that nobody goes to Sears anymore. The stores are old and boring, they said. The segment was in connection with the recent financial report of Sears Holdings (which comprises Sears and Kmart) showing that revenues were down in the most recent quarter, marking almost five straight years of declining sales.
|My new laptop|
But I can tell you, unequivocally, that the most popular place at the mall is the Apple store. I was recently in the market for a laptop (my first one!). We have a local computer store, called Silicon Valley, where until now I've taken most of my computer needs. I checked out their laptops. They seemed okay. But I had to go take a look at the Apple version. You know ... I really do want to be cool.
So on a Tuesday morning a few weeks ago I showed up at the mall at 10:05 a.m., five minutes after the mall opened. I parked at Sears, right next to the door. I walked through the mall and saw hardly anyone. After all, the place had only been open for five minutes. When I got to the food court I found a scattering of early shoppers getting coffee at Dunkin' Donuts and picking up Egg McMuffins at McDonalds. But as I walked around the next curve, I unexpectedly ran into a line. A line at 10:05 in the morning! It was outside the Apple store. They were waiting to buy an iPhone 4s.
Since I wasn't buying a phone, I didn't have to wait in line. I entered the store through the big glass doors. The place was already crowded. I found a greeter who agreed to put me on a list to link up with a salesperson. While I waited I perused the Apple offerings. I already knew, from doing some homework online, that I wanted a MacBook Pro. Now, after surveying the options, I landed on the 15-inch version. Then I looked around for a salesperson. They were all busy. I fiddled around with a couple of keyboards, tried out a few functions. I looked around again; the salespeople were still busy.
Eventually I got a salesperson who seemed very nice, but who couldn't bear to give me her full attention. The whole time she was explaining the benefits of the MacBook, and trying to upsell me to buy more Apple products, she was also checking her iPhone, texting someone, and basically annoying the hell out of me.
The fact is, I try to buy local when I can. A small business in your community might not have quite the charisma of the national brand. But it typically offers better service and prices that are at least competitive, if not better than national chains.
For that very reason, I try to patronize my local hardware store, which I do on occasion. But I must admit I do hear the siren call of the big box stores. I sometimes go to Lowes, but more often find myself at Home Depot. I love wandering up and down the aisles, picking out a few odds and ends for the house and getting ideas for home improvements we might make -- new flooring, perhaps, or a new bathroom, or some plants to improve our landscaping.
For clothes I go to Macy's. They seem to offer reasonably good brands at almost-bargain prices. You can get Dockers. You can get Ralph Lauren. Izod. Tommy Hilfiger. Michael Kors. Kenneth Cole. Calvin Klein. Nautica. And a host of others. So on the one hand, why spend more for Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom's; on the other, why trade down to JCPenney or Kohl's?
I heard B recently comment that she, too, shops at Macy's. "Why would you need to go anywhere else?" she asked rhetorically. I realized she was being rhetorical, because I happen to know she also goes to Talbots; and one time at the mall I saw her slipping sheepishly out of Saks. But she also goes to Target and Marshall's; and we've bought a few things for the house at Home Goods.
I used to joke that my favorite store was 7-Eleven. Or Wawa, when we're in New Jersey or around Philly. It's got good coffee and cheap gas. What more could you ask for?
But now I favor Costco. In fact, just last week I bought a copy of the new Steve Jobs book there, as a Christmas present for B's younger son. It was marked down from $35 to $19. Costco sells good meat, good fish, cheap cereal. They have clothes, electronics, everything. I also bought a big bottle of 500 vitamin tablets, for $14. How can you beat that?
Gee, I wonder if vitamins are on B's Christmas list. Or ... I just saw online, Wawa offers a gift card. What'd'ya think?