Polar Opposites in Holiday Shopping - 405 Magazine

Polar Opposites in Holiday Shopping

Lauren Hammack tries to sort out scheduling conflicts between advance planners and last-minute holiday shoppers.


If statistics are correct, one in four of you reading this in early November will already have finished your holiday shopping. You’ll calmly sail into the gingerbreaded depths of the fourth quarter with nary a care because you’re a planner. An early bird.

Know this, rare bird: You’re also super annoying to those of us who delay until crunch time. So even if someone asks, you should keep your holiday taskmastery to yourself. You’ll be no fun at parties with that kind of banter.

Who are the other 75 percent, you ask? Most of us navigate the last three months of the year like donkeys on the edge, weaving and heaving frantically about the labyrinth of the holiday hubbub because of what we are: the Waiters.

The Waiters know there’s a deadline looming and a sale on something, somewhere, but we wait because we like to enjoy our holidays one at a time, in chronological order: Labor Day before Halloween; Halloween before Thanksgiving; Thanksgiving before Hanukkah and Christmas.

Call me a purist, but I, for one, can’t be held responsible for any purchasing decisions I might make during the off-season. It’s unnatural to weigh the merits of one sweater over the other in September, when it’s 96° outside and my main concern is my sweat mustache. I must wait.

October, a month that used to devote itself exclusively to Halloween, has officially sold out to Big Retail and disrupted the natural order of things. Last month, during the first week of October – a time that used to mark the entrance of Halloween decorations and costume contests – I was lured into at least a dozen “Pre-Pre-Black Friday” sales online. It was unsettling. Are the retail gods conspiring to turn the Waiters into Early Birds? They’d have better luck turning me into a morning person.

Many retail analysts suggest that the shopper who waits until Black Friday to start holiday shopping will be months behind. Can you imagine what this theory would look like when applied to other holidays? I picture the home shopping channel host, in her most sincere tone, as she explains, “Really, Dan, I encourage all our home shoppers to get those Easter baskets filled before Back-to-School time so they can just relax and enjoy the season with family and friends, without all the rushing around. There’s nothing more disappointing than waiting until the last minute and finding out that the Easter grass selection has been picked over.”

By November, the shopping soul of the Waiter, troubled though it be, begins to stir. The retail universe shrieks, “You MUST buy this now! It’s our lowest price of the season!” The Early Birds chirp in their chirpiest voices, “Well, even though everything is purchased, I don’t start wrapping until November 1.” But it’s still only November and everything about the Waiter says, “Wait!”

Wait! Those might go on sale the week before Christmas.
Wait! Wasn’t that the same TV you saw at Best Buy for $50 less? You should hang on until you know for sure.

Wait! Didn’t you end up with an extra set of those last year? Hold off until you find them.

Wait! As long as you’re here, you should smell every candle until the store closes.

The mere urgency of Black Friday wreaks havoc on the shaky nerves of the Early Birds. That’s why they prefer to pre-empt Black Friday in the first place. The Waiter, on the other hand, is unfazed by the panting desperation of Black Friday; his stress comes from knowing that nothing must stand between him and a holiday deadline … especially the Early Birds. Year after year, they get it all done before Labor Day, yet Early Birds insist on flitting hither and yon, occupying parking spaces at every retail outlet in the five-county metro from Nov. 15 until late December.

Dear Early Birds, stay off the roads and out of the way of Waiters on a mission. Make the most of the few remaining weeks of the year to whip up some cookies, watch old movies, take a long winter’s nap – whatever it takes to bide your time until Dec. 26, when your holiday shopping season begins anew. In other words, Early Birds, just wait.