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Ramblings - Jumping The (Shopping) Gun
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Black Friday has come and gone but it roused more emotions this year because many stores decided to jump the gun and start their sales at midnight on Thanksgiving Day instead of some ungodly hour the next morning.

The Christmas shopping season has been coming earlier and earlier for years but starting it on Thanksgiving is ridiculous. On that point, I had to agree with a young woman who writes a financial column for a metropolitan newspaper.

Ordinarily, I don't read the financial sections of newspapers. I'm not interested. But this writer's masthead shows an extraordinarily pretty young woman (yes, I know such pictures are often way out of date) and I figure she must be intelligent as well to write on financial matters.

So I read her column regularly and often find I agree with her. Recently she was criticizing banks, as have most of us. This time she deplored encouraging people to shop on Thanksgiving Day which Americans, she said, created to count their blessings and spend with their families not to take an early leap into the commercialism of Christmas. And I thoroughly agree.

Shopping and I do not agree anyway and this time of year brings an orgy of shopping. Down with shopping, I say.

I loved the final paragraph deriding the big stores publicists' claim people could save by shopping earlier.

The columnist pointed out the simple fact that, basically, "you never save when you spend" and it doesn't matter when you go, whether it's after the leftover turkey has been put away and you should be sleeping or if you get up before the rooster crows to hit the stores.

The only way to save is to not spend money in the first place.

I want my middle son - the only one of the three to make good money and spend it fast on shopping - to ponder that last sentence. He calls buying anything over $100 an investment whereas I would reserve that term for spending on something you intend to, and are able to, sell at a higher price than you paid.

Shopping, as aforesaid, is difficult for me. With auto repair and hardware stores, I can face the trauma because something has broken in the house or car and it must be fixed. I can march straight in, secure the part, and leave within 10 minutes, tops. The same with grocery stores because food is an essential.

But browsing in any store is a sinful word. It implies loitering with intent to spend.

Clothes buying, in particular, is a miserable experience for me. Firstly, the store doesn't have my size or style. Then I must go through the tedious business of trying clothes on for fit. Then, feeling tired and duped into half-hearted compromise, I must pay out hard earned money for stuff that will hang in the closet for several weeks or months until I summon up the courage to actually wear it.

I like to "grow into" clothes and then wear them until they are in tatters. It takes me several weeks to feel comfortable and confident in new clothes. My favorite garments are several years old. I wear them again and again until the collars are so frayed that strangers take me for a bum or the pants are ripping in critical places.

Then there are sales and storekeepers' claims they are selling bargains at far below the normal price.

How do you know what's normal? The shopkeeper probably far overpriced his merchandise in the first place so he could lower it to an almost fair price in a sale. Me, cynical? No way!

And even when on sale, is it worth the price? That depends on how much you want it. The price of anything varies with the demand. They say a man dying of thirst in the desert will sell his soul for a drink of muddy water he wouldn't touch in happier days.

Now we are verging into philosophy and the difference between needs and wants. And that could be the substance of a whole new column.

Maybe next time.

Until then, happy holiday shopping to you and yours!

John Branch is editor of The Riverbank News and a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or 847-3021.