Christmas Shopping as Cultural Experiment

I’m the type of person who likes to make the best of a bad situation, and Christmas shopping presents limitless opportunities for me to do so. How do I turn shopping with the masses into something enjoyable? By donning my cultural anthropologist hat and making other shoppers the subjects of observation. Here’s what I noticed this year:

  • At the mall, the population is about 20% seasoned shopping vets, and 80% fish out of water. I fall headlong into the latter category. Most of the seasoned shoppers finished last month. That leaves men shopping for their women.
  • The store personnel are likewise fish out of water. Many of the employees are temps, and many of those are simply family members of the full-time employees. They’re dressed awkwardly and sometimes can be mistaken for fellow shoppers. Expect no help from them other than to point you to the cash register. They do not know if they have the item you’re looking for. They can help you look, though.
  • Don’t wear anything even remotely red if you’re shopping at Target. Unless, that is, you want to have some fun. In that case I would suggest you sport a red polo and an attitude. And no, I’ve never done this. Never.
  • Cashiers can go into intellectual meltdown if you refuse to give them your personal information. See my experience from two years ago.
  • Stay clear of the “kiosk” section of the mall if you don’t want to be approached and handled. I had to fight off one girl who tried to rub lotion on my hands because I knew what the Dead Sea was when she asked me. Or something like that. Kiosk vendors are malls’ equivalents to the guys who try to wash your windows in downtown parking garages without your approval and then want you to pay.
  • There’s lots of “sneaky sneaky” going on. I found it funny how often I would overhear someone’s phone conversation to a relative asking about gifts. “Don’t let your mom know that I’m on the phone asking about this,” was common conversation.

See there, even Christmas shopping can be a little fun, if you know what to look for. Those of you waiting until the very last days should take an extra large notebook for your cultural analysis — just don’t forget to get your gifts in the meantime!