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Home » Stories, True and Otherwise

The NC Double Scrooge: Shopping Division

Submitted by on December 9, 2010 – 12:25 PM92 Comments


We begin our roast of Christmas present in the retail ring. Have we left things out? Probably. That's what the comment section is for. And therapy. And bourbon.

Remember, vote for your worst three (3). Poll will stay open a while. Tell a friend.

NC Double Scrooge, Shopping Division: Please Pick The Three (3) WORST

  • People who brag endlessly that they're already done with their shopping (35%, 450 Votes)
  • The shopping itself (31%, 395 Votes)
  • Shitty gifts and the Oscar-worthy acting job you must do upon receiving them (31%, 394 Votes)
  • The Salvation Army Santa incessantly ringing that goddamn bell (30%, 389 Votes)
  • Cat- or dog-related gifts that make it clear this is the only aspect of your personality most people are aware of (you may substitute another repetitive theme to suit) (27%, 345 Votes)
  • Trying to find the most creative, most perfect gift for each person on your list before giving up and sending everyone Hickory Farm gift baskets (25%, 325 Votes)
  • People who complain endlessly that they haven't started their shopping (16%, 208 Votes)
  • Crossing someone off your to-buy-for list forever, only to finally get a gift from him/her and have to rustle up a gift in response (15%, 193 Votes)
  • Crappy, overly fragile wrapping paper that frays on cutting (14%, 178 Votes)
  • Trying to wrap presents when you suck at it (13%, 172 Votes)
  • Tracking last-minute presents and praying your shit gets there on time (13%, 165 Votes)
  • "Yeah, we know it was featured in [media outlet], but we didn't think ahead so it's on backorder, sor-reeeee" (10%, 122 Votes)
  • Getting buried in catalogs (9%, 113 Votes)
  • The returns process (7%, 86 Votes)
  • "Rush" shipping that isn't (6%, 76 Votes)
  • Can't your boss just buy her own gift? (6%, 73 Votes)
  • Amazon counting down the days you have left to send something and still have it get there in time (3%, 43 Votes)
  • Drunk department-store Santas; the line to see them; the terrified wailing they cause (2%, 26 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,283

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  • Elsajeni says:

    This is a habit of my dad's and (I hope) nowhere near universal enough to merit a poll option, but I vote for "People who (A) ask you to pick out your own present, then (B) hand it to you and ask you to wrap it and put it under the tree for yourself." I know he does this because, part A, he wants to make sure I like my present, and part B, gift-wrapping is A Job For Ladies and he fears irritating my mom on Christmas Eve by handing HER something to wrap, but come on. Shove it in a gift bag, crumple up some tissue paper, it's not that hard. (On the other hand, I moved across the country last year and for the first time he will not have the option of doing this, and I am a little concerned that I'll miss it. Apparently one of my treasured holiday traditions is… getting ticked off at my dad on Christmas Eve.)

  • Wehaf says:

    Huh; turns out holiday shopping doesn't really bother me. The only one I really hate is the Salvation Army bell ringers, mostly because the SA is:
    (a) primarily a church, not a charity
    (b) homophobic
    (c) misogynistic
    (d) hugely inefficient (75% of donations go to overhead)
    (e) creepy and overbearing
    and they steal presents from children:

  • Hellcat13 says:

    My mom WAS one of those Salvation Army volunteers last year. By the end of it she wanted to kill herself for all the damn bell ringing.

  • Lucy says:

    In place of cat- or dog- related: lotion/bath and beauty products, because you are A Girl and that is what Girls like.

  • Gillian says:

    The "gift section" in stores (department stores in particular): A bunch of cheap plastic made-in-China crap that clever signage convinces me would be perfect for everyone on my list.

  • Andrea says:

    Or how about those people who demand a Christmas list from you but will subsequently ignore it in favor of getting the "perfect" gift that they found in the Lillian Vernon catalog(see: pink tool kits from the mother-in-law).

  • Jill TX says:

    One thing I might add is "not having enough money to buy gifts for people you actually want to buy form / not wanting to give them crappy 'handmade' substitutes / not wanting to put the whole holiday season on a credit card"

  • ferretrick says:

    People who were overly etiquette trained in childhood that expressing ANY wish for ANY particular thing is rude and will always dodge a direct question about what they want for Christmas and refuse to give you any guidance at all.

    Like my dear husband, who when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, replied "All I need for Christmas is my ferret [my pet name]." Yes, honey, that's very sweet. NOW TELL ME WHAT TO BUY YOU FOR FUCKING CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sue says:

    Heh, my dad's was close to that. He used to hand over the gifts for my mom and brother to me for wrapping, and then my mom wrapped my gifts from him. This came to an abrupt end one year when he handed me all the gifts to wrap (including mine) and then realized his mistake. And couldn't figure out how to differentiate the two identical watches he'd gotten for me and my mom. He now wraps them himself, in tissue paper. It's the thought, right?

  • DriverB says:

    How about tracking the gift goodie box you sent all the way across the country (and I mean ALLLLL the way, from HI to MA), seeing it got delivered, imagining everyone opening fun times, only to find out that they never got the box because it was STOLEN?! And then having to fight the post office for three months to get your refund. :( Folks, spring for the delivery confirmation and insurance, because it is totally worth the extra three bucks.

    Ahem. That is to say, shipping troubles. I vote for that.

  • DriverB says:

    Oh! I forgot something, that I really wish was in the poll.

    Trying to do some kind of normal errand, but giving up because you would have had to a) park half a mile away or b) stand in line for 2x infinity, all because some freaks are trying to get in on a craaaaazy holiday deal.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I could have sworn we added both "Black Friday" and "the fact that Black Friday is a news story for like two weeks," but…oh well. Our black hearts will have to suffice.

  • Beth C. says:

    Yes, Driver B that's exactly what I was going to say! The complete inability to go about daily business because everyone else is holiday shopping. This is the only time of year I hate working downtown.

  • Jenn says:

    My dad used to pay me to wrap his presents for him. Then he discovered the wonder of gift bags.

    My family managed to solve the shopping-at-crowded-stores and buying-something-the-recipient-might-hate problem in one step: We use Amazon wish lists for everything. You know you're getting someone a gift he/she will like/doesn't already have, you know YOU'RE getting something you'll like, and you don't have to leave the house.

  • Stephanie says:

    I had to vote for "the shopping itself" and it is true, I dislike shopping. But what I particularly hate about Christmas shopping is how *rude* many of the shoppers are. Probably because they are stressed, but still. My mom and I watched some woman be completely awful to a saleswoman at Macy's once and were just aghast. Of course we did the "I can't believe you act that way in public" stare, but it wasn't until after she had walked away that my mom thought up the perfect put down: "Rudeness is *never* in season." (I mean, calling people on their rudeness isn't exactly polite, but this woman was awful. I think we went to a nearby store and bought the saleswoman chocolate and brought it back to her. No one should have to put up with being treated that way.)

  • Rachel says:

    I hate people who FREAK OUT about not having enough time. Xmas is on Dec. 25th EVERY YEAR. Try figuring out when Hanukkah is. The last time a friend of mine wigged out over "Xmas is coming up so fast" I got her a calendar as a gift with Dec. 25th circled, highlighted, and edged in glitter. I mean, f'real. [annoyed sigh with flapping of hands]

  • JennyB says:

    I AM the person who brags about having finished my shopping weeks ago. In my own defence, it's only because I know full well that if I attempt to Christmas shop in the month of December, I'll end up doing 20 to life for murder. Or vehicular manslaughter in the parking lot. It's a public service, really.

  • Annie B. says:

    I am experiencing a new one (for me) this year: having to tell my relatives that my husband and I can't afford to buy gifts for anyone this year. We're giving ourselves the gift of paying the mortgage and utilities. I've never been so glad not to have kids as I am this Christmas.

  • Tarn says:

    Ohhh, parents. My mom didn't make me wrap my gifts myself, at least, but she hated shopping so she and I would do one big mall excursion in December, and if I commented I liked something, she would say "Oh, great! Now go away so I can get it and surprise you." Um.

    Gah, the pre-Black Friday news stories. And the pre-Black Friday Black Friday ads online that make Black Friday even more ridiculous and irrelevant than it already is. Haaaaate. And I hate even more that Black Friday is starting on Thursday evening now. Last year the outlet mall between my dad's house and mine opened at midnight on Thursday night. This year it opened at 10pm Thursday, and traffic was backed up for miles to get in there as I drove home that night. You can have your crappy consumerism for the entire Christmas season, but let me have my nice peaceful home-oriented Thanksgiving and leave the mall closed dammit!

  • attica says:

    I totally woulda voted for anything Black Friday related. I have whittled my circle down to exclude anyone who thinks it's fun to shop for anything on that whole weekend; we clearly have divergent worldviews and cannot be friends.

  • Amanda says:

    How about working as a lowly associate at one of the biggest and oldest hoity-toity department stores in the country and having to pull nine- and ten-hour days in the two months leading up to Christmas, outwardly smiling and helpful while inwardly BRANDISHING A FIERY SWORD OF HATRED.

    The hatred for humanity and socializing that my job instills in me means I do all my shopping online and either make whoever I'm ordering from do the gift-wrapping or I do it myself in gift bags. And I am lazy and if it's too late to order something, or I don't know what to get, I give cash or gift cards.

    So, in short, the most annoying thing about holiday shopping for me is other people.

  • Lynda says:

    For me, the worst part of Christmas is my mom asking me endless times what I want for Christmas and insisting that "gift cards are NOT a gift! I want to buy you *something*!"

    So then I give her ideas — *exact* ideas. Like last year, I asked for a green sweater from Kohl's. I told her the brand, the color, the location in the store, the price, that it was on *sale* that week… For Christmas, I got a bright red top (totally different style and neckline, too).

    I told her that I loved it (BIG lie), and she said "I looked for that green sweater that you wanted, but they didn't have any left! Besides, green isn't your color." When I returned the red top, I found a whole rack of the green sweaters that I wanted. (And I have gotten complimented on my beautiful green sweater everytime I wear it, btw.)

  • Mary says:

    This is probably more appropriate for the family division voting, but I have a large family with a long tradition of gift-giving/picking names/etc. We're all in our 40s now and cannot agree on the tradition going forward — some want to change, some want to drop it, some want to keep it. But we can't have a productive discussion because nobody wants to say out loud what they really want, for fear of hurting feelings/stepping on toes. I am tired of trying to pry people's wishes out of them, so I've passive agressively adopted a family to buy presents for and am waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    Why don't we hibernate through the winter like bears? That would solve a lot of my problems.

  • CIndy says:

    I thought I was the only person in the world who hated those f-ing Salvation Army bell ringers. On the rare occasion that I've mentioned my feelings to someone, they always react as if I said I was planning to dine on baby harp seals tonight.

    Ironically, I tend to drop money in their buckets just because I feel guilty about my non-holiday-spirited feelings.

  • Rebecca u says:

    I picked tracking shipments as a generality. Luckily internet tracking has made this easier.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    @Ferretrick, A-MEN. My husband is impossible!to!buy!for! He keeps insisting he doesn't need anything, and then when I say fine, nothing for you then, he gets all pouty! And he goes on CONSTANTLY about how much we spend–I have, for the ten years we've been together, gotten him multiple thoughtful gifts every year that do not exceed a total of a hundred bucks, but he doesn't seem to grasp this.

    Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit faster than pinning down my beloved spouse and screaming "tell me what tokens you want of my love and devotion before I BEAT IT OUT OF YOU!!"

  • Krissa says:

    Best idea ever on the internet (I stole it from someone on Fark): The bell-ringers have a new campaign: "Silence is Golden." For every dollar (or some amount) donated, the bell is silent for one minute.

    I can't believe the bell-ringers aren't winning this in a landslide.

  • MsC says:

    Re: the impact on going about your daily business…. I work in an office building around the corner from a mall. It takes me on average an extra 20 minutes just to get out of the parking lot at the end of the day during holiday time because traffic is backed up turning the corner to get to the mall. I basically have to wait until someone takes mercy on me and lets me out which can be a long, long wait given what a jolly mood people are in on their way to the mall after work.

  • Kate says:

    Ooh, I second Lucy. I have gotten mutiple lotion/shower gel combos and I have hated every single one. Just because I am A Girl does not mean I want to smell like crappy representations of flowers that I do not much care for anyway in real life.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    We should probably add this in another section, because working in Rockefeller Center at this time of year, eeeee-YIKES. I just refused to come in more than once a week after the tree was lit; don't you people have skating rinks in your own hometowns? Can't you shop in Jersey? Or online? MUST you have a peppermint hot chocolate from THIS Starbucks? And can't you have practiced riding the escalator before you got here?

    A close second: living on the corner of 34th St. for years and years. I have a train to catch, pokey shoppers. MOVE OVER.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Also, I can't believe I forgot "cats fucking up the wrapping/chewing on the ribbons" and "those stick-on pre-made bows that don't stick." Hate.

  • Liz R. says:

    The CROWDS, omg. Large chattering packs of people with big ol' shopping bags that 1. are full of pointy boxes half the time and 2. they can't manage and therefore smack into everything.

  • Hoolia says:

    I love that nearly all my family and friends agree that we do not want any presents. We all have more stuff than we can stand already, so we celebrate the holidays with fun activities and recreational outings. Even during the holidays, the skating rink is not as crowded and migraine-inducing as the mall.

    For me, the worst part of holiday shopping is that my office is right smack in the middle of the main downtown shopping district, and it takes six times as long as it should to make a run to the bank or the drugstore or the bus with all the slow-ambling shoppers who insist on walking side-by-side with their whole clan and block the sidewalk.

  • Mystery Amanda says:

    Like a lot of other people here, I worked in retail for a couple of years through high school and college. The bulk of my experience was at a store I will refer to as The Burgundy Inferno, and generally on Christmas Eve our operating hours were along the lines of 10AM-6PM.

    Inevitably, every year we'd get a handful of people coming in at 5:55PM and being totally aghast that we weren't going to let them browse for forty-five minutes, take another half an hour to actually get up the register, tack on another 15 minutes AT the register, and then amble out of the store. (While I do feel for the people who only got paid on Christmas Eve and weren't able to shop until then, this preeeetty obviously was not the case for probably 99% of the people I saw try this.)

    The last Christmas I worked for the B.I., I had a lady try to behave as described above, with the addition of wanting to return some items while she was there. Being as how it was 6:01 on Christmas Eve, Customer Service was down and the front line registers didn't have the capability to handle most returns (to my knowledge, they still don't).

    Her: [ranting about how she is the customer and it's Christmas Eve and so on and so forth and THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT]
    Me, externally: Ma'am. We were open from 10AM to 6PM.

    Gather around, folks, there's enough Christmas Spirit to go around. (For what it's worth, I was hired for an on-campus job the following May and my appreciation for the holiday season increased at least a hundredfold.)

    I'm kind of surprised Christmas music isn't on the list, actually. My least favorites: "Santa Baby" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside." (Oddly enough, I kind of like "Do They Know It's Christmas," even though the more I think about it the more factually illogical it gets.)

  • Suz says:

    I sadly cop to being one of those people. My brother and I were raised to believe it was unspeakably rude to tell anyone what we would specifically like for Christmas. My two "favorite" gifts resulting from this policy both came from my grandmother: a crayon-embellished sweater three sizes too small (that I got when I was a teenager), and a gilded, rotating tree sculpture that played Sinatra's "My Way." I still don't get that second one.

    Being a DC-area resident, my least favorite part of the holiday season is today–the lighting of the National Christmas Tree near the White House. Somehow, every year this is scheduled for 5:00pm on a weeknight. That means terrible traffic due to security road closures, cranky, clueless people taking the metro for the first time (STAND TO THE RIGHT on the escalators for godsakes!), and the government telling me that I have to take time off of my (non-government)job to arrive and see the grand event it's always hyped to be. Major fail. The only time I went was my first year working in the city. And the tree was decorated in colored pie plates. Seriously.

  • ferretrick says:

    @Stephanie: The perfect response when you see a store clerk being abused? Ask them to call the manager-then tell the manager that this person is being completely horrible to their employee, and if they are given their way, the store will lose YOUR business. Works best when you have a lot of purchases.

  • Profreader says:

    The best book I've ever read about customer service said that "The customer is always right" is actually a terrible policy: when followed to the extreme, it results in abuse of employees, thus low morale, high turnover and loss of profits. The best way is a clear store policy, and management who will back up their front-line employees when they are faced with an abusive customer. I've had many encounters with hideous, stressed-out people — I'm sure all of us who have worked retail have those war stories. What makes me most furious is the customer's lack of recognition that the clerk you're screaming at is a) a person and b) not a magician. (Granted, there are plenty of bad salespeople out there and poor customer service, but I still don't think that anyone deserves to be screamed at.)

    Mercifully, my immediate family is not really interested in presents, except for a token gift here or there. It's more about getting together and doing something. My partner's family (very large) used to be much more gift-focused, although that has been changing in the last few years. There was always a "Yankee Swap" which was annoying because I felt like I was the only one trying to come up with something that was a viable entry. One year someone put a car battery in. Not kidding. At that point… why bother? All the dozens of little cousins used to get overloaded with too many gifts: it was a madhouse, and the little ones never remembered who gave what in all the mayhem. They are moving to a "Secret Santa" style game for the kids; they will all get a reasonable number of gifts, which will mean more because they don't get lost in a flood.

    The "I got you a cat poster because you have cats!" thing: when you're into music, you are guaranteed to have gotten every possible thing with a piano-key motif. Piano key scarf? Check. Either that or something with a treble clef on it. I know it's a pain in the neck to find "the perfect gift"; I just wish retailers didn't perpetuate this kind of thing by generating loads of useless knick-knacks with signifying icons on them. "Buy this paperweight with a cat/typewriter/sports logo/music symbol/peace symbol/cross/four leaf clover on it… perfect for that cat person/writer/sports nut… etc."

  • Marie says:

    I'm trying to decide what it says about me that this poll has increased my joy in the holiday season multifold.

    For me, holiday angst begins every year when my sister starts asking for gift ideas the day after Halloween. And she's always done gift shopping by Thanksgiving. At the other end of the spectrum but equally as annoying, my husband will see me shopping on amazon, ask what I want and then ask if I can just add it to the cart since I'm already on the computer. But I do draw the line at wrapping my own gift!

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Sars, YES! on the "Guess what I got you for Christmas, Mom: intestinal surgery!" ribbonocalyse when you have cats. Husband and I don't put ribbons on the gifts we buy, of course, but we still have to police all incoming gifts to make sure our cats don't produce poop on a string. It's bad enough making sure they don't chase each other up the tree or chew the packages for fun.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    @Profreader: yep. My mother made the sad mistake of announcing a fondness for black-and-white cows at one point. Ohhhh, dear. She had to call a verbal halt to all cow items because her house was becoming completely blotchy and she was being turned into the Crazy Cow Woman against her will.

  • Keckler says:

    I can't belieeeeeeve I forgot to add "stupid gift tags with no room to write ANYTHING NOT EVEN A TO OR FROM!"

  • camelama says:

    What used to get me was buying what I thought was a bag of regular bows, only to try to use one and find out it was one of those bizarre "I can give you puncture wounds!" bows with a sharp plastic poking bit. I had no idea for years what those were for, only to learn finally that you were supposed to pose those through the wrapping and the box underneath, and it would stay there. So … to make a bow stick in place, in I guess a world without tape or glue, you maimed the box underneath? What a waste.

    Being unemployed means no one in my family expects a gift from me, so I have avoided all the usual stresses. (I'm trying to find the good sides of unemployment…)

  • Lori says:

    Jewelry commercials. Insipid, overly-saccharine, reused-every-year jewelry commercials. And the worst part about them is that they run from before Christmas until after Mother’s Day.

    Cram it, giggly, “He went to Jareds” girls. And that goes for you too, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and your ridiculous “open heart” necklaces. HAAAAAATE.

  • Keckler says:

    How about family members who totally harsh your gift-giving buzz when they put the present on their lap, look at you, and then triumphantly guess what you gave them.

    Gee, you're soooooo smart! Wanna cookie? Ih, no wait, I JUST GAVE YOU SOMETHING!

    I do excuse kids from that, though. I will probably think it's cute when Bug does it in the future (this year, I'm so relieved he's still too young to know what's going on) but it's NOT cute when my Mom aka The Most Impossible Person to Shop For Because She Buys Everything Herself All Year does it.

  • Soylent Green says:

    For the cat/dog thing I can substitute, and I'm sure Sars can too and perhaps has even written about it, those really fancy leather-bound or similarly extravagant notebooks "because you're a writer" that I never know what to do with because nothing I write deserves a forum that fancy and half the time the paper isn't even ruled. Also: it's 2010, I write in a Macbook.

    Hell, my handwriting has deteriorated to the point where half the time I can't even read what I wrote on the shopping list Cumin? Cinnamon? Hoisin?

    On the other hand, I do like getting the cream and soap gift baskets especially if it's Body Shop or something. Just not anything for the face, because I have my products that don't do bad things to my skin there and I ain't budging from them

  • TashiAnn says:

    @Suz – I'm in DC too and the guy on NPR was just raving about how wonderful it was out there and all the people waiting to see the tree lit. Is it really that big of a deal? All those people who probably drove in and have no idea how to drive out of the city combined with people who just want to go home. This is one of the worst traffic days in DC of the year and heaven forbid that it rain or snow.

    Impact on daily life and the horrors of dealing with parking get my votes. One year I just drove in one side of a mall parking lot and out the other, the traffic was so bad in the lot and people were so rude I just left.

  • mo pie says:

    I didn't know how to vote on "shopping." On the one hand, online shopping is glorious and has made my life much easier. On the other hand, in-person shopping is a nightmare. If there was an option for "Shopping malls during the holidays," I would have voted for it times a million.


    Shopping malls.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Lori! Baby Jesus in His Manger, remember that commercial that shows the guy getting up in the middle of the night to sneak a jewelry box under his partner's pillow? They run it a lot at this time of year.

    Okay, somebody please explain the following:

    The commercial starts with an exterior shot of cold, snowy, holiday weather. Then they show the man and woman in bed asleep. The man wakes up and stealthily climbs out of bed, moves over to the window, and SHUTS IT.

    Why, in the name of Rudolph's nose, is the window open?? It's the middle of the night and it's SNOWING OUTSIDE!! Who the hell leaves their bedroom window open in the middle of winter in North America in a snowstorm?!

    Just my own little piece of Christmas Crazy, which I'm glad to share with all of you.

  • Jennifer says:

    I have some suggestions for this:

    (a) the people who want things for Christmas that you cannot afford. I have one friend who gave me a wish list where 99% of the stuff on it was around $300. WTF? Sorry, I'm not rolling in it like you are, apparently.

    (b) the people who WON'T tell you what they want for Christmas, and may even claim that they don't want anything, but they are LYING and they really want a present, but fuck if they will tell you anything about what they want. Do not say "I don't want anything" UNLESS YOU ACTUALLY GODDAMN MEAN THAT. If I wasn't going to hear about The Year I Neglected You At Christmas for the rest of my life (and the drama ain't worth it), I would totally call someone's bluff on this.

    (c) people who will be with you in a random store and when you are looking at something, be all, "You want that for Christmas?" I miss the days when I didn't know what I was getting on the holiday/birthday long before the day.

    (d) UPS. Who broke a gift of mine one year. 'Nuff said.

    (e) people who ask you what you want (let's say, a book) and then complain about that. You know what, I could be so much more difficult about this topic (see a and b), and you're just tired of buying books? Hey, just be glad I didn't say "go find me ten skeins of Cascade 220 yarn in purple" or "Buy me this Harry Potter replica doodad for $300" or something.

    I love this Scrooge thing. LOVE IT.

  • Lucy says:

    Oh, god, the open heart thing. "My hope is that this will become an international symbol of love and peace." If by love and peace you mean narcissistic tacky, go for it. And I don't like fancy jewelry, and I wish the TV would stop telling me my boyfriend doesn't love me if he doesn't drop four digits on sparklies.

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