Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tis the season to be Entitled

A while back, I was having a discussion with some colleagues about the "Culture Wars" that pop up every now and again in the news (the springboard was the Mojave cross on which Pat Boone so brilliantly missed the point). Some of my fellow teachers were saying that a lot of the craziness and cultural exclusion/supremacy is promoted by retailers. I added that some retailers have been leaning secular the past few years, but then they get attacked for it. Case in point: Lowe's had the audacity to sell "holiday trees" (then, "family trees") and Fox News exploded. So the problem is actually on two fronts- some stores are pushing Christmas everything because they think it will boost sales, and when others go the other direction to reach out to secular or non-Christian customers, they get gored by the Christian right for "selling out" Christmas.

One of my colleagues, Lena, a Jewish Soviet emigre, challenged me on this, and asked why people shouldn't be allowed to call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree, why it was necessary to change the name. She said that as a Jew she wasn't planning on buying one anyway, so why change it? I didn't get a chance to respond, but my thoughts at the time and since have been that a tree itself doesn't seem to be the point. You can call it whatever you want. But in the past few years there seem to be signs that various groups of people from different backgrounds enjoy having certain trappings of Christmas (or the Christmas season) in their homes without necessarily celebrating Christmas itself. I would assume that part of changing the name of the tree is to make it more appealing/palatable to those groups. I don't have a Christmas tree, either, and don't intend to get one anytime soon. However I can see how labeling it a holiday tree might make it more enticing for some people.

All of this is relevant, by the way, because it's a nice lead-in to this ridiculous campaign: as much as Bill O'Reilly likes to stir up trouble with his legions of mindless minions, it doesn't have quite the same punch as when the wholesome hordes of the Christian right get to articulate all the ways that they feel they are personally being discriminated against. Good thing Focus on the Family is here.

Shoppers fed up with stores swapping "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays" for the more traditional "Merry Christmas" have a place to vent their frustrations this December and a resource for identifying those shops that still honor Jesus' birth as the reason for the season.

The Retailer Ratings system at StandForChristmas.com provides an up-to-the-second summary of how customers have rated 29 of the nation's largest store chains – from American Eagle Outfitters to Wal-Mart – on their acknowledgment of Christmas.

"Millions upon millions in our nation deeply value the great truths of Christmas and the holiday's inspiring place in American life and culture," the website states. "We're asking you to decide which retailers are 'Christmas-friendly.' They want your patronage and your gift-shopping dollars, but do they openly recognize Christmas?"

The ratings system is a project of Focus on the Family and Focus on the Family Action.

In the past, Focus has created a shopping guide to rate retailers on their "Christmas-friendliness," but this year the organization has turned the ratings over to customers themselves.

"We're placing shoppers in the driver's seat," the website explains. "Through this site, customers can provide feedback directly to retailers and share their experiences with fellow shoppers!"

"There's nothing more effective than hearing from the customer," said Carrie Earll, director of issues analysis for Focus on the Family action. "The customer's always right."

Really? Let's take a look at some of the uber-entitled complaints on the site:

American Eagle:

- sad. this retailer wants to be part of the Christmas season but is unwilling to acknowledge Christ. The more blind retailers get, the less sales they'll make and it won't be for the economy, it will be wise and prudent shoppers who honor Christ as the reason for Christmas and will choose to not spend their money where Christ is not welcomed.

- Was wished a Happy Hanukkah as I left the store. When I stopped and explained I was Christian, the lady at the counter told me 'Happy Holidays!' This was very offensive!

Maybe a slight point here. Better way to do it would be to have a standard "Happy Holidays" greeting and then whip out Christmas if people get huffy. On the other hand, lady, welcome to the freaking club.

Toys R Us:

- I visited Babies R Us today. No mention was made of Christmas when checking out.

Maybe they were too busy, I don't know, checking you out?

- I did not see one thing that mentioned Christmas when I was at the store. I have been there several time over the last few days. IT is very disturbing.. profit millions off of one of the most sacred holidays of my faith and not mention Christmas.. SHAMEFUL!

What's really disturbing is bitching about people making millions off "your faith" while you continue to hand over your money like a zombie and support them in doing it, and then get miffed because they won't say the magic words. Is having a Christmas tree out front really the answer?

- the cashier said"happy holiday" I told him have a nice merry christmas. he still said happy holiday back to me so I said back to him have a nice merry christmas".

Yeah, that'll show him. Take that, you overworked, underpaid, bitched-at-all day Christmas-hating wage slave. Bastard.

Barnes & Noble:

- The in store gift wrappers said Happy Holidays to everyone as they entered the store and left the store instead of Merry Christmas.

How dare they not shove Christmas down the throat of every single one of their patrons? Ooh, the outrage!

- Website has HOLIDAY section,but no mention of Christmas, but do offer a gift card that says Merry Christmas. Looks like that want the sales but not willing to mention the real reason for the season!


Hang on... there are retail stores out there with nativity scenes? Really?

- Barnes & Noble offers a "Merry Christmas" gift card, but it has a picture of Santa Claus! The Happy Hannukah card has a Jewish religious symbol. I spoke with the Store Manager, and politely made my complaint. He gave me the corporate Customer Service tele number, which I will call. He told me he's not allowed to tell me what he thinks, but seemed sympathetic.

A "Jewish religious symbol," eh? Could this possibly be because there have not been 50+ years of American marketing resources poured into making a fun and child-friendly Hanukkah character (Or, incidentally, chocolate gelt that doesn't taste like wax)? I mean, who are we going to put on it, Judah Maccabee? No matter how much you Disney-fy the Hanukkah story, there's no one who's really all that cuddly. (Maybe we could have Lampy, the talking menorah?)

- "Season's Readings" and having ornaments isn't enough. It needs to say "stocking stuffers" or "Christmas gifts". I want to see the word "Christmas" on the website, not just on the books. It is great how there are 4 Christmas books listed underneath the words "Season's Readings", but I'd like it more if it had the word "Christmas" in the title. Thank you.

And the signs shall be two cubits by four cubits... and Santa Claus shall be crucified by Jesus, just to show who's boss... and if you don't like it, you can go back to where you came from!

Ok, I know what you're thinking-- maybe these people are just a bunch of malcontents. Is there anything they do like? Turns out, yes:

- In last Sunday's paper, it was one of only two retailers who had "Christmas" prominently displayed throughout the entire ad. They have a Christmas village set up inside the store (not a "holiday" or "winter" village), and it's an old-fashioned Christmas village where kids can get a free photo with Santa (who sends a letter to the child in the mail), lots of free games to play, and employees dressed as elves. I give this retailer the highest rating.

- I was recently in the Katy Mills Bass Pro Shop and they have a giant Christmas tree, are playing Christmas carrols and the greeters and employees either welcome you or tell you Merry Christmas.

- On black Friday the store in Lithonia Ga was playing Christmas music throughout the store. I noticed because it was actually an overtly Christian song that said Jesus Christ over and over! The sales ladies were very nice and it was a wonderful experience.

- As we shopped in this Michigan store, Christmas carols played over the PA system proclaiming the birth of Christ. What a refreshing atmosphere! We loved it! Thank you Cabela's!

- This store is very Christmas friendly. It is every where through out the store, everyone is friendly and children love the store. Everyone wishes you a Merry Christmas.

- Love the fact that the stores seem all about Christmas. Their Web site even has Christmas at least in 3 different areas and Santa pictured at the top. The employees say Merry Christmas to anyone that walks in the door.

- I love your store santas village is just the best thing i have ever seen a retailer do! My kids have something positive to do every weekend and FOR FREE! ...Just wanted you to know how great it is that you celebrate not only Christmas but families! You are to be congratulated for reaching out to the WHOLE family! [Whole Christian family?]

-My wife and I were in the Dundee, MI. store Nov.30 for less than an hour and we heard at least two religous Christmas songs that mentioned the name of Jesus!!! I thank God for this store and others like it that are not hindered by political correctness.

- The clerk that waited on me was nice and friendly and loved the fact that I was wearing a Christmas sweater. We discussed that we need to be mindful of this time of year. I for one am glad that I can voice my feelings about my savior Jesus Christ. It is his birthday that we're celebrating and not a holiday. God Bless and Merry Christmas.

- At checkout the clerk asked if I was ready for Christmas. I smiled and said, "No, but I'm just glad Jesus came. She responded, "...and that He is coming again." I agreed ...We then wished each other a Merry Christmas. I left smiling and looking for Christ's second Advent!

-There was a large table with Christmas books and also a large table with Bibles featured prominently in the front entrance of the store. Also, the Starbucks Coffee located in Barnes & Noble sells "Christmas Blend" coffee, not just "Holiday" Blend, which I really appreciate.

Wow, you guys really need to rethink your priorities. Like, a lot.

To be fair, there are a few decent ideas among the SFC crowd:

- It's CHRISTmas not Holliday. Come on. I am so sick of being aware of other religions to the point we are supposed to be ashamed of our own. Have a Hannukah section, have an Islamic section, but don't exclude the Christians.

Fair enough, except that there were also comments from some shoppers ranting that, come what may, they were going to wish "Merry Christmas" to every single clerk in every store they shopped in throughout the month of December (since removed from the website-- sneaky!)

Folks, I understand the retailers are annoying you. Fine. But don't take it out on-- and harass- the grunts. Shiksa Girlfriend works in retail (though this hopefully will be ending soon), and Christmas-time is the biggest pain in the butt of the year. It's exasperating enough to just get through your shift, field everybody's questions and problems, and try to check them out without screaming bloody murder at everyone. They don't need one more thing to worry about. If they say Happy Holidays, it probably has just as much to do with the fact that you're the 200-th customer they've had that morning and they just want you to leave as it does any actual convictions. Here's a secret: the clerks and cashiers don't want to be wished a Merry Christmas. They want a day off. If you're going to go apoplectic over store policies you dislike, at least have the courtesy to bitch at a manager.

Also, it's one thing to be annoyed if people won't wish you Merry Christmas, it's another to demand that stores turn their place of business into a church or Santa's Village. Sure, Christians shouldn't be alienated, but a lot of these people seem like they're just mad that they aren't being exclusively catered to and courted (superficially courted, I might add) as much as they would like. In the meantime, people openly celebrate their ignorance of other cultures and traditions (check out 2:50 mark in video). Maybe we could all benefit from being a little less catered to.

(On a personal note, I consciously try to NOT shop in retail stores, particularly in December. Most of the people on my list got used books, art supplies, or the odd-DVD. Amazon and Ebay are great, and you avoid having to deal with any of this Narishkeit. Of course, these people don't want to avoid being offended in the public square, they want to "take it back." Sounds real Merry.

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