The year-end holiday shopping season is well underway, launched last week on the US retail calendar’s top-selling date. Black Friday seems to be colonising the world. So now is a good time to use that acronym I coined:
LITO – Lucky I’m Too Old!
Battle the crowds at the malls in pursuit of bargains? LITO!
My heart goes out to a grandmother, Mbali Zitha, who was injured in a mob at a shopping mall in Durban, South Africa. If only she had said LITO and stayed home.
“It was a nightmare, I can’t believe how desperate people were to make it to the front.”
– granddaughter as she left Mrs Zitha in the car while she headed back for another Black Friday skirmish
My New Old Self says LITO to all the unrelenting holiday hype that’s in store for the next month. The seasonal shopping cycle starts ever earlier in November with Christmas trees sprouting in malls. The buying season continues well past December 25th into a second round of queuing to exchange unwanted gifts.
Here are some tips on developing a new approach to holiday shopping as you age:
1. Forget FOMO
FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out, is defined as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere”. Surely we are old enough to know by now that there’s no need to feel left out of anything happening at a shopping mall.
2. Don’t believe the hype
The older we get, we not only grow immune to FOMO, but to all the hype around festive season sales and special offers. We may not have attained true wisdom with age, but we know these deals may not be as awesome as advertised. We realise they may not be worth the effort once you factor in travel to the shops, parking lot traffic jams and queues at the tills.
Double-digit percent markdowns do not outweigh the risk to life and limb posed by mob shopping scenes. And be aware that retailers may be letting their prices rise just before mega-sales days in order to make percentage discounts appear greater.
3. Choose QOL – Quality of Life
If at all possible, plan ahead and do holiday shopping well before Christmas. One of the great perks of retirement is that you don’t have shop when everyone else does. Once a 9-to-5 routine ceases to rule your life, you can stop battling the crowds on weekends and peak hours and opt for QOL. If you absolutely cannot avoid a mall trip between late November and early January, then go at midday during the week.
4. Don’t lose human contact
Of course you could switch to buying online and avoid the mall melees. Internet shopping is marketed as a great boon to older people. It certainly has the advantage of saving time and effort, in terms of getting to the shops and back with your purchases.
On the other hand, shopping without human contact could make for more alienation and loneliness – already identified as problems that get worse with age. In addition to efficiency and economics, there is also the aspect of human contact to consider. Retirement, semi-retirement, or just working less can make it all the more important to get out and about and see people. Even if they’re behind a counter. Shopping at quiet times also means you’re more likely to have optimal experience of human contact, e.g. to find a sales assistant to help you.
5. Be vigilant
Speaking of sales agents, please note that not all of them may be on your side. This is especially the case when it comes trusting older customers and profit-driven workers.
Blowing the Whistle on elder-predators
I would like to take this opportunity to honour a sales agent and grandmother, Patricia Williams. This whistle-blower just won a four-year legal fight against the largest time-share operator in the US. A jury in California state court awarded her $20-million for lost earnings, emotional distress and punitive damages.
While Williams was working at Wyndham Vacation Ownership she reported that employees were preying on older time-share owners. She claimed that sales agents lied and made promises that were not in the contracts customers later signed when buying time shares.
Testimony in Williams’s successful court case revealed that Wyndham company staff called their sales policy TAFT – meaning Tell them Any Frigging Thing. So be warned that this is how they see potential clients, especially older ones: as vulnerable, thus easy to confuse and exploit.
When asked by the New York Times if she would blow the whistle again, given that she was fired as a troublemaker and unable to find work despite her experience, Williams said yes without hesitation. It was her goal of “protecting these vulnerable elderly owners” that motivated her to pursue the court case.
“It’s been a long battle. But I had faith every minute that if I got in front of a jury of 12 unbiased people and an unbiased judge, they would see the truth… My soul feels taller.”
– Patricia Williams
The root of the evil: consumerism
Watch this short video from The School of Life on the very recent history of being able to buy more than bare necessities and discover whether the history of consumption can be a guide us to a better shopping future: