COMMENTARY: Shopping for the best gifts

by Dec 3, 2019OPINIONS





By now, most of us are in full shopping mode. Even if we were not lured out by “Black Friday” or bunkered in with our digital devices scrolling through vast buying options of “Cyber Monday,” we are indeed in gift-giving mode. We are on the hunt for those special somethings for our exceptional people.

The old familiar stories are playing out this year. Already being reported in mainstream media are the lines of people, some with tents set up for days, waiting for their chosen trinket. They want to make sure that they are there in time to get it before the store runs out and that they get the “cut-rate” price. If the preachers ever wanted fodder for their sermons on the evils of materialism, we graciously provide it during the holiday season as we push, shove, hit, and trample anyone who gets in the way of our getting that prized possession. Indeed, for many of us, shopping has become a religious experience, as we see “things” as our just reward for our hard labor. We not only get joy in getting the prized gift; we take great pleasure in getting the “last one” and knocking the person behind us out of the chance to the present.

A typical sales tactic on retail websites is to post the “quantity remaining” on hot sales items. The retailers know that as that number trickles down, buyers will become more anxious (desperate) and will make not only a quick purchase but possible additional quantities of an item because they may not get another opportunity for this super buy. Like lemmings, many of us will fall in step to the sound of that flute.

We tend to spend more than we have. A CNBC poll taken after Christmas last year provided some astounding and frightening evidence. “Americans racked up an average of $1054 of debt over the period (2018 holiday season), about 5 percent more than last year, according to MagnifyMoney’s annual post-holiday debt survey. For a shopper making a minimum payment of $25 a month on a $1054 tab, that means it would take until 2023 to pay down the balance-and you’d also be coughing up $500 in interest over that time (assuming an annual percentage rate of 15.9 percent).”

Going in debt to give gifts. I wonder how that special loved one receiving that special gift would feel if they knew that they were receiving it from the bank, the credit union, or worse yet, a loan shark? It would put an interesting crinkle in the holiday cheer. “Hey Jack, look what First Citizens got me for Christmas till Jill can pay it off!”  I wonder how folks celebrated the holidays before the invention of the plastic card?

We recently ran a reader account of an alleged stalking incident at a local retail store. Abductions of men, women, children, and even pets are more common than we think. There is also a phrase for it. It is called human trafficking. People are still kidnapped and sold into slavery for sex and labor. In 2017, there were 10,949 confirmed cases of human trafficking and 23,078 survivors identified in the U.S. In the incident related to us; there were one woman and two children at possible risk. While we do not need to live our lives in a state of constant fear, it would be foolhardy to pretend that human trafficking is not a real threat and that abduction only happens in other places. In fact, North Carolina ranked 21st highest in human abduction out of 50 states in 2018. What city ranked second in the nation for cumulative reported cases from 2007 to 2016, you might ask? It was Atlanta, a three-hour drive to Cherokee. Do you think this information might be important as people are shopping all hours of the day and night, many times with their children in tow, in retail store parking lots this holiday season?  Not to make you fearful, but to inform and make you aware so that you may make wise decisions.

Gift-giving should be a heartfelt, heartwarming practice. And most heartfelt, heartwarming gifts are not necessarily store-bought. For example, have you ever noticed the reaction of your loved ones when you give them your time? I would bet it is a gift that is never refused and always cherished. I can tell you from experience that I do not miss the things my deceased loved ones have given me. I miss spending time with the one’s no longer able to give them. I miss being able to spend time with them and hold every memory as a most valuable gift.

Hopefully, this commentary is just a refreshing of perspective and some sound advice as we navigate an overly commercialized holiday. We get busy with the business of Christmas instead of the meaning of Christmas. In the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, let’s not forget that the holiday we enjoy was created around the arrival of the one they call the Prince of Peace.