‘Tis the Season…

…to be forced into buying crappy gifts for people just to fulfill an obligation. Fa la la la la la la la.

Before you get your Santa suit in a twist, let me say, I love giving someone a gift I know they will enjoy and appreciate. What I hate is spending time and money to buy something…anything…for an acquaintance, even though they will probably hate it, because it is part of a “fun” gift exchange or because they are getting me something so now I have to get them something, only to be filled with the satisfaction and joy that their inevitable look of poorly stifled disappointment brings:

Credit: fusepilates.com

Credit: fusepilates.com

That just warms your heart.

My gut reaction to that look is, “Okay, fuck you then. You get nothing!” Although, I don’t entirely blame them. They are trying. It is just very, very difficult to pull off the perfect ‘I don’t like this at all but I am going to look so genuinely excited and grateful that you can’t tell’ face. You have to be quick on your feet – if you show even a flash of disappointment before painting on a smile, it’s over. But, in your rush to show excitement and appreciation, be careful not to overdo it – that is also an immediate tell. Your level of excitement must be proportionate to the gift. If someone buys you an ugly pair of Christmas socks, you can’t use excitement to cover up your true feelings. Saying, “Yes, socks! I can’t believe it, I love love love these, OMG this is amazing! I have to Instagram these right now,” could only be perceived as sarcasm.

Yes, there is a lot of thought and skill that goes into pulling off the perfect fake response. I myself can’t do it. I fight a constant battle between not wanting to be rude and not wanting to lie, and this internal conflict manifests in my face. The attempted smile is always pulled back by the ‘Yeah, I don’t want this crap’ face and it ends up looking like this:

Photo credit: amorsthoughts.wordpress.com

Photo credit: amorsthoughts.wordpress.com

How about, instead of buying each other shit we don’t want… we do nothing! Let’s just exchange season’s greetings and call it a day. How about you take the money you were going to spend on me, and buy something you actually want, and I’ll take my money, and buy what I want, which I’ve actually been doing all year, because I am self-sufficient and don’t depend on casual acquaintances to buy me things.

Some might argue that a gift card is a way around the gift exchange dilemma. But at that point, why bother? A gift card is almost like giving someone cash, but with the caveat that they can only spend it where you say so. So it is actually worse than giving someone cash because at best, you’ve exchanged bills out of your wallet, and at worst, you’ve exchanged those bills for a plastic card that you can’t use.

A friend of mine was forced into a gift exchange at work, specifically a gift card exchange.  I consider this to be the height of stupid. They are literally going to stand in a circle and trade $25. Why is that fun? “You’ll never guess what I got at work today – after paying $25, I got $25 back!” You don’t even get to unwrap it, and we all know that is half the fun of presents. I did a lot of online shopping for myself last week and I’m very seriously considering wrapping that stuff up just to open it Christmas morning. Maybe taking this gamble with a gift card exchange is fun in the way that Russian Roulette is fun, but instead of not getting shot in the head, your rush of adrenaline comes from not getting the Olive Garden gift card.

Photo credit: knowyourmeme.com

Photo credit: knowyourmeme.com


Idiot of the Week: An Open Letter to the Old Navy Director of Email Marketing

Dear Sir or Madam:

I regret to inform you that you are truly terrible at your job. Although, I don’t actually regret it, because you really should know better.  I’m sure you have a very fancy degree from a very fancy institution, but you seem to have neglected one basic principle that anyone with an email address could have told you: nobody wants to hear from you every single day. This is called “spamming the shit out of people.” You may recall that term from business school. I admit, I have no formal training in marketing like you surely do, but I do have an extensive background as a consumer and receiver of emails. And I can tell you that this approach of inundation is not effective.

Fun fact: did you know that our noses appear constantly in our field of vision, but our brains choose to ignore them because they are irrelevant? That is also what’s happened with your emails. They are such a standard fixture in my inbox that my brain has taken the liberty of erasing them from my field of vision. I don’t even see them, and I definitely don’t open them, read them, or visit your website because of them. Your subject line could read, “Marisa, I can’t believe you just laid down on your bed in the same clothes you wore on the metro, that is disgusting. How did I know that? I am watching you from your window!” and I wouldn’t bat an eye.

In addition to “playing it cool,” instead of contacting me with the tenacity of a jealous ex-boyfriend,  another concept you have failed to value is “the element of surprise.” If there is one thing I have learned after years of daily email notifications, it’s that you have a sale every day! Congratulations, you’ve just dissolved all sense of urgency for visiting your site. Why would I rush to take advantage of this sale when I know that a new one will start tomorrow? You aren’t even trying to pretend that there is a reason for your sales anymore. It used to be only on holidays – Black Friday Sale! Then you extended it to  seasons – Spring has Sprung Sale! Now you will have a sale for literally anything. This week I got an email from you saying “Happy Wednesday! 25% off!” Wednesday, really? Apparently regularly scheduled days of the week are cause for a sale now. What’s next? I Just Saved a Ton of Money on My Car Insurance Sale? I Pooped Today Sale?

Photo credit: zazzle.com

Photo credit: zazzle.com

Not only have you succeeded in making a sale old hat, but you have been feeding me scores of data for a trend analysis. Thanks to your daily emails, I have subconsciously observed patterns in your promotions, upon which I now base my shopping behavior; I know the count, and I know when to hit and when to stand. A 15% off sale? You’re joking right? 20% off? Better, but I’ll wait. 25% off and free shipping? It’s time to pounce. And if not, that’s okay too. Because in a few days, the sale will be back on to celebrate Tuesday or the sky being blue or something else earth-shattering.

This is yet another item to add to the list of things you should understand but obviously don’t: “Why Sales Work.” A sale drives business because people think they are getting a bargain. “This shirt is worth $25 but I am getting it for $17! I have beaten the system!” But when you have a sale every day, you devalue your product. Your customers, stupid as we are, will eventually catch on that maybe that shirt is only worth $17 in the first place if you are selling it for $17 every damn day. And that maybe you never even intended for it to be sold at the full retail price because it isn’t worth the full retail price, and only made the full retail price $25 so you could mark it down and trick customers into thinking they are getting that high $25 quality for a low $17 price. Eventually, when the adrenaline from saving $8 wears off, customers will realize that the system has been beating them this whole time.  Aren’t you the least bit worried what could happen when masses of customers grow wise to this mistreatment and decide to fight back, or have you not seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes?

While you consider this, you should also warn your cronies at the outlet mall because they are running the same game. Do you know how excited people get when they see a sign in a store window that says, “All stock 60% off!” Let me just tell you it is a near shit-your-pants level of excitement. You picture yourself looting the store and tossing the cashier $13 as you leave dragging a giant sack of merchandise behind you. So can you imagine how disappointed people get when they go inside to find that a t-shirt still costs $40 after that hefty discount because everything in the store has been marked up 100% so it could be marked down 60% at the register? Or did you think we wouldn’t notice? That kind of up and down can make for a very emotionally unstable customer.

I don’t know how you’ve managed to make so many mistakes, but I beseech you, correct some of them before we have a riot on our hands.

All the best,