I know that the holiday of Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. I know it is about the hope and joy of a gift to the world. I am aware that this story is the start of a message of salvation but…
We went shopping today with the lofty intent to complete our Christmas shopping in one day. Everyone else in America had the same idea. The anxiety and stress really made me think and I have decided – Christmas is more of an Old Testament holiday.
I don’t know why exactly but driving through the parking lot just seems like it would be safer with the blood of a slaughtered lamb smeared above the driver’s side door of my Honda. The anxiety in the air over finding Hatchimals or the NES system feels like an impending plague. We spend our time trying to decide what sacrificial offerings will be laid at the altar of Santa. We continually recite the Ten Commandments as we squeeze the buggy past other shoppers on a toy aisle that was built at exactly two buggy widths without a centimeter to spare. The “Thou shall not kill” commandment was helpful.
We could bring over some positive parts of the Old Testament too. A little unleavened bread would have been nice in the long check-out lines.
Just a thought. I don’t think Jesus himself would be upset about putting some distance between himself and the holiday anyway. His primary message was about selling worldly things and going out to do good to your fellow man. The primary message of Christmas in modern times is to acquire worldly things and do it in spite of your fellow man. #OppositeDay
Shifting the theme of Christmas wasn’t my only revelation for the night. I also noticed a few things about humanity. We found ourselves in Target; a store that charges a little more than Walmart because people prefer to shop in stores that aren’t Walmart. Upon leaving Target we noticed a store named Five Below. It is a store that is themed on price – every item is five dollars or less. We thought it was an interesting approach to commerce and decided to check it out.
I couldn’t figure out how I felt about the store and I am having trouble describing it exactly. Imagine a large department store is raided during a zombie apocalypse. Now imagine that the remaining items were gathered together and placed in a smaller store. Now imagine that the items were all valued at less than five dollars originally but the employee in charge of pricing had an infinite stack of five dollar price tags and just thought, “eh, everyone I know and love has been killed by zombies so to hell with it”. That is how the store feels to me.
Then I realized… Target is the Rich-People-Walmart. Walmart is often surrounded by discount stores. Target would have its own category of higher class parasitic stores. Hence, Five Below is the Rich-People-Dollar-Store.
Something in human DNA urges us to simplify our thoughts and opinions. We are predisposed to make stereotypes and rules-of-thumb to keep our mental energy at a manageable level. The psychology of the dollar store is simple, everything is the same price and the total purchase price is simple to keep track of. Humans of the upper middle class are no different than anyone else. Who cares if a pencil case + a giant Hershey bar + a used pair of boots would be cheaper at Walmart? No one has time to add all those decimal values to compare. We know that 5 + 5 +5 equals 15 plus some magically calculation for tax. Thank you for simplicity, Five Below. Honestly, I was unsettled by this store.
Supermom and I returned to our side of town and visited Walmart and a real Dollar Store just to make sure we hadn’t crossed over into a weird alternate reality. Our Dollar Store had that poverty vibe that underlies an honestly poor customer base. For those of you who wonder if you could ever tell the difference between a faux dollar store and a real one, I would like to offer some key evidence.
- Two young boys (8-10 years old) were playing with plastic machine guns in the checkout lanes. They were “blasting” each other in the “muhfak’n” head. Mom (grandmom?) was busy checking Facebook on her phone.
- A semi-drunken man was also on his cell phone, discussing his feelings of betrayal for not being included in Thanksgiving dinner and how his senile mother has been outwardly violent with her in-home nurse. All of this while trying to decide which color of disposable plastic party cups he should buy. Loudly.
- There were board games that were made overseas and blatantly violate copyright laws. For example, there was a game titled Snakes and Ladders. The game was exactly the same as Chutes and Ladders but all of the chutes had been replaced with snakes via photo editing software. All of the game pieces were made of paper, including the board itself.
- A man in the checkout lane beside us had driven back to the dollar store because the small bag of screws he had purchased were the wrong size and he needed a refund. He probably spent more than $1 in gas to make the trip for the refund of $1.
- The store has exposed concrete flooring instead of vinyl tile. Not only that but the concrete isn’t sealed or epoxied. It is rubbed smooth by the dragging of sad feet.
- There were cardboard boxes of Admiral Crunch cereal stacked along the grocery aisles. Cap’n Crunch would never stand for such laziness on his ship.
- A lady in front of me bought about fifteen travel sized shampoos and lotions because they were only a dollar each. All together the shampoos may have filled half a normal bottle but in the small sizes they sold for fifteen dollars. No wonder these stores are popping up like meth labs.
These are the hallmarks of a real dollar-store. Don’t be fooled by impostors. The rich dollar store is stressful just like the poor dollar store but for different reasons. In the rich dollar store I worry that I might be trampled by someone Snap-chatting while shopping. In the poor dollar store I worry that a gunman will enter and rob the store like I see on the news every other day.
Both have their risks and rewards I guess.
If you enjoy the holiday season and shopping in a sea of assholes, this post is for you. Every year I find myself just as confused but just as involved as I was the year before. You’re welcome.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.