I embrace a December with weather cold enough to make a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model reach for a parka and mukluks.
I’m holding out hope that our December temperatures continue to be unfit for sitting around poolside like last Christmas. My Yule-time weather list is for snow, higher heating bills, sure footing on ice and having my chestnuts roasting on a fire, whether it be open or not.
If anyone is taking weather requests, dial us up a little “snowmageddon” and give us a chance for redemption. We’ll do better this time. Besides, icy roads would give me another excuse to avoid malls.
Many have thumbed their noses at staying away from retailers. Big-box stores like Macy’s, where massive job cuts were like a lump of coal in loyal employees’ stockings, are feeling a big pinch. A friend, who was a loyal 23-year employee at the big-box retailer, got his walking papers for Christmas. Not even a red bow-laden bottle of Bailey’s.
Our subdivision needs to hire some traffic enforcement folks to deal with the influx of delivery vehicles whizzing up and down the streets. It’s a certainty that this has become the norm.
Retailers seem to have lost a collective grip on what people want: convenience, excellent customer service, being appreciated and embraced for their patronage. Not too much of those things in abundance.
I recently accompanied Greg to the nearby outlet mall in search of Ugg slippers for him. It was a beautiful (NFL-free in my world) Sunday. We spotted plenty of primo parking in a huge lot right in the middle of the complex.
We parked and were ready to wear out the Amex. Except the first money we were asked to spend was $5 to park in the lot. I laughed at the acne-scarred teenager with his hand extended like a Las Vegas maitre’d.
The interaction was akin to those New York squeegee pests, whose unsolicited efforts to clean your windshield was a blessing, provided you liked not being able to see through the filthy resulting streaks. Oh, and there was the added bonus of being cussed at when you wouldn’t fork over five bucks there, either.
My aforementioned ex-Macy’s friend, when told about the mall’s parking scam, said it best: “I wonder who thought of that one.”
This provides a glimpse of why online shopping is winning the battle for Christmas cash. To put it simply, as I scratch my head: As a customer planning on spending money at the outlet mall’s stores, I am expected to pay to park for (I guess) the privilege of spending money at those stores?
I have no problem with paying to park at the airport, for a ballgame, a concert or even at a hospital. I’ve never had to shell out a dime to sit at my Apple and ace my winter gift-giving exams. That’s a screaming example of mall bosses saying: “We don’t want you.”
Sparse crowds are making malls a fitting haven for the Maytag Man. Instead of Muzak, mall music should have Roy Orbison wailing “Only the Lonely.”
And putting aside the customer-abuse for $5 a parking spot, what about those magical moments when you need to return a gift. Not having a day to devote to righting a wrong purchase by standing in a Disney-style queue, returning online purchases is simple, quick and free.
Santa, too, has bought into this better way of shopping.
We recently ordered a new pair of custom Nikes for Greg. Before being dropped on our doorstep, the shoes originated in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Then they made two stops in Taiwan, had a layover in Anchorage, made their way to Louisville, before finally making it to Cumming.
As has been the case with all my holiday purchases, no matter where the gifts came from, they were all shipped free of charge.
The customer service folks whom I spoke with were pleasant and really were committed to me being happy with what I was ordering.
And not one of them asked me for a fiver for the privilege of speaking with them.
Mike Tasos’ column is published every other Sunday. He plans on growing his own vegetables and raising beef cattle if Publix even thinks about charging him for parking or buggy rental. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Facebook.