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Melissa Martin: ‘Tis the season to overspend – not

By Melissa Martin

It’s decided. I’m giving Squirrel in Underpants Air Fresheners as my holiday gifts. I hope the scent is pine and not wet rodent. My gift is fun, functional, and funky. No wrapping paper needed. Everyone has to close their eyes as I give out this prized item. Cousin Clevis doesn’t have a driver’s license, so he can hang the car freshener on his bicycle handle bar. Aunt Wilma may call me a cheapskate, but I’m accept that as a compliment. I’m guarding my credit cards from the retail racketeers and shopping scammers. And I won’t be participating in Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Black Friday

The day after we count our blessings, we wrestle for bargains in crowed stores. The mob mentality hovers over the biggest sales of the day. We huff and puff about frustrating traffic, rude drivers, and full parking spots. Up goes the blood pressure. Up goes the cortisol. Down goes the logic and we feed off of pure emotion. Cha-ching goes the cash registers. Hello impulse purchases. We shop till we drop and our checking accounts are drained. Debt moves into our spare room—with the debt from last season.

It’s disturbing when our government has to pass regulations for Black Friday safety. On your mark. Get set. Go. The unruly crowds ready themselves for the sprint. “Danger, Will Robinson!”

Read the following 2014 letter about Black Friday safety concerns at osha.gov.

Dear CEO,

As the holiday season is approaching, I am writing today to remind you how critical it is to take safety precautions to protect workers who may be injured during the holiday season’s major sales events, such as Black Friday sales, or at other events where large crowds may gather. As you may know, a worker was trampled to death few years ago as shoppers rushed through a retailer’s doors to take advantage of an after Thanksgiving Day “Black Friday” sales event.

Under the federal law (the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970) which created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers are responsible for providing a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death. Enclosed please find an OSHA Fact Sheet entitled, “Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers,” which contains safety guidelines that your retail stores may adopt in addition to your own safety procedures. In addition, please be sure to maintain appropriate access to exit routes and ensure that exits are not blocked.

With thoughtful planning and implementation of an effective crowd management action plan and maintaining emergency exits free of obstructions, we all can have a safe and happy holiday season. If you have any questions, please call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or contact your local OSHA Area Office. Thank you for your attention to this urgent worker safety matter.

Let’s rename Black Friday to Futile Friday. Or Clueless Consumer Friday.

Cyber Monday

Yet, another day of shopping. It’s consumerism at its finest (or worst). More impulsive buying. Clink. Clink. Clink. Temptation at your fingertips. Tap. Tap. Tap. Squeal at the deals. Brain strain and credit card pain. And the banks are laughing all the way to the vault.

But wait, the shopping days are being extended and extended. So, do we call it Cyber Week? Cyber Month? Cyber Season? Let’s rename Cyber Monday to Cyber Senseless.

Who can stop the mayhem and madness of holiday spending? Look in the mirror. It starts with parents, grandparents, and adults. Limit the gift-giving and teach moderation to children. Say ‘no’ to a long Christmas list of toys, gadgets, and digital devices. Say ‘no’ to expensive clothing labels. Say ‘no’ to new cell phones. Social media and TV commercials are turning kids into the gimme generation. Consumers, like wildebeests, are following each other over the cliff—the spending cliff of debt and pretend happiness. More and more stuff under the tinseled tree does not lead to a more meaningful life. Quite the contrary—it leads to emptiness and discontentment.

“It’s the jolliest time of the year — until the bills start arriving and you realize you’re burning through money like chestnuts left too long over that open fire…What happened to traditional Christmas values of family time, celebrating love, valuing the simple joys of community, gratefulness, and sharing — oh yes, and the religious stuff?…Does it really take a bunch of videogames, clothing, gadgets, and toys to warm us? Are we missing the point of Christmas? Can we do the holidays without the crazed explosion of gifts? Yes, we totally can. And for the good of our finances, we really should,” says Richard Glunt in a 2018 article at moneywise.com.

I’m just saying.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Southern Ohio. Contact her at melissamcolumnist@gmail.com.

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