By Dennis Carroll, Head Hooligan
My wife and I are very close friends with a couple we have known for 25 years. We were next door neighbors for 12 years when we were raising our kids from toddlers through high school. We have become in many respects closer than family over the years. We love them and we respect them. However, when it comes to the holidays……..they are another cog in my holiday nightmare.
I used to love the Holidays. Something happened to me when I got out of college and started working. I am not sure I can fully explain it. I know it relates back to working at retailers for the first 20 years of my career. For those of you who have never worked at a retail company, it is like being in a gigantic bipolar washing machine. Daily sales are the drug that drives emotions at a retailer. When you hit that retail concept that catches the consumer’s fancy and sales take off, it’s a high for the entire organization. When that trend changes (and it eventually does for every retailer), the organizational low is worse. If winning solves everything, losing exposes the worst in people and companies. To compound the turmoil, most retailers either lose or make very little money for 10 months of the year, with November and December performance determining if the company makes or loses money for the year. Stakes are high for all retailers during the holiday period, which doesn’t help create an environment for holiday memories.
While most of the people in the world are beginning to power down and close out the year (my father in law always took the last two weeks of December and first week of January off…..I was always jealous), those of us in retail were ramping up, trying to make numbers and handling transaction flows that were 4-5 times more than the other months of the year. Not a recipe for a “balanced” life style. Add a poorly performing retailer to the mix and you have the perfect storm of bad financial results and holiday despair…..Joy To The World indeed.
The antonym of despair is joy. When sales are up and operations smooth, the world looks a lot brighter. Unfortunately, even when that is the situation, the “joy” comes so late in the holiday season, you realize it’s Christmas Eve and you haven’t gotten your wife a gift. In fact, you haven’t left the office yet. Working so hard to get consumers to buy your items, leaves little energy to buy your own gifts……wait, somebody get me a tissue, I think I am going to cry. Screw that…somebody slap me. The reality is I spent too much time at work and not enough time trying to get into the holiday spirit (I’m not sure what holiday spirit is, but I definitely never got into it).
I have slightly recovered over the last 15 years since I left retail, but there are some things that will probably be with me the rest of my life, which are kind of weird and funny, such as….
Black Friday/Thanksgiving Weekend-Friday, Saturday, Sunday after Thanksgiving. These are the three most important days for almost every retailer in the country. Good performance during those three days are critical to retailers in order to have successful years. Many, many times I drove to the office on the following Monday from Black Friday weekend at 3am with my heart in my mouth hoping sales had been good (now, I could probably see the results real time on my phone). More times than I care to remember, I opened up a report, saw the sales numbers and physically got sick (yep, went into the bathroom and hurled). Depending on how bad the sales results were, I knew we were cooked for the year or it would take a huge turnaround in the next 20 days (by the way that never happened) to recover. Seeing those sales results before anyone else and being the head financial guy with the deepest understanding of what that would do to our year was like being the only guy on the Titanic who knew it was going to hit an iceberg an hour before it happened. Deadman walking……time to go to a holiday party!
Christmas Music in a Mall-I think I have been in every mall in America (Including the Mall of America…nice amusement park) during my retail years visiting stores during the shopping season. Every mall begins to look the same. In fact, when you are traveling across the country for two straight weeks on a store tour, there are times you find yourself walking through the mall and you simply can’t remember what city or state you are in. As you are walking through the mall, your ears are assaulted by CHRISTMAS MUSIC. It’s the same music, city after city, mall after mall, hour after hour. It burns a hole in your brain. I can’t go shopping in malls during the holiday season. I have tried. I hear the music, I start to sweat. I leave the mall in an all out panic attack. Thank God for on line shopping.
Christmas Decorating-Yes, I have done it. No, I don’t enjoy it. Most people dread cleaning the garage. I like cleaning the garage. It has a purpose and you accomplish something. The only thing I can think about when I am pulling the Christmas decorations out, is when I will need to put them back. I will make a confession…..some years, I just couldn’t muster up the energy to put out the decorations. Don’t judge, it’s not like I committed a crime.
My birthday. I am not sure you could have a worse birthday than January 6. People are partied out, holidayed out and most likely financially red line-ing after the holidays. The last thing anyone wants to do after going back to work from the holiday break is celebrate a birthday. Don’t get me wrong, I have had lots of birthday parties. But, you just know people don’t really want to go to another party (could also have something to do with my general holiday behavior which is fresh in everyone’s mind) after the holidays. Seems like fate that my birthday lands right after the holiday season. Kind of like getting punched one more time after your knocked out.
……pass the Prozac and hold on until Spring.
Oh, and why did I start this rant out with reference to our friends of 25 years? Well they are the yin to my yang of holiday angst. These people are the poster child for holiday bliss…… Please to enjoy; they hold a Christmas craft show every year before Thanksgiving, they personally own over 1,300 Santa’s (that’s not a typo…one thousand, three hundred), they buy a perfect Douglas Fir tree the same day of the year every year, they own more ornaments than Macy’s, they throw a holiday party every year and of course they give gifts to everyone they have ever met. What are the odds that I would end up living next door to Mr. and Mrs. Holiday On Steroids……must have been Old Testament God pulling a prank on me.
As the years have gone by and our “holiday” differences with our friends have become more personified, the jokes about my holiday quirks are actually the highlight of my Holiday Season. Most next door neighbors with such different viewpoints on the holidays usually end up throwing dog shit over the fence at each other…..we just became better friends.
And that is the Love Letter to my Family….if you don’t take yourself too seriously, you can find friends that have radically different viewpoints than you and still be friends. You can tease each other about your quirks and not have to worry about “offending” anyone. It’s my version of the Holiday Spirit!
Thanksgiving is next week……here we go again.