The pile of ads sitting in my living room is large enough to build a small couch. They offer everything a person could want, need, doesn't have, should have, could have.
I'm not crazy about shopping and never have been. But I know a lot of people who love to shop, to search, and to drag home that deeply discounted, one-of-a-kind, last-on-the-shelf, mistakenly under-priced "find." This holiday shopping season is their favorite time of the year. I'm just not one of them.
So it's with casual interest that I flip through page after page after page of pictures, prices, promises. Then one of them catches my eye. It guarantees "the perfect shopping experience." Reading on I learn that this store's definition of "the perfect shopping experience" involves good prices, convenient store hours, and friendly clerks.
Someone's clearly having an imagination famine here.
Any store can offer good prices, store hours and service. In fact, looking through these ads, most do. No, the "perfect shopping experience" would be so very different...
You wake up when you want to, with none of that get up at midnight or never actually go to bed nonsense. None of that wrapping up in your coat, gloves, hat, and boots pulled over thick socks to go out to scrape your car. You just wake up, lie there in bed for a little while, and smile because this is the day you're going to have "the perfect shopping experience." That thought finally pulls you out of bed.
You head to the store and drive up to the front door. There's no gigantic line stretching out to the next state, no Occupy Walmart camping chair city squatting at the entrance. An empty parking stall three feet from the front door awaits you, and some fellow stops collecting carts long enough to offer to park your car.
You saunter into the store. There's no rush, no running, and most of all, no inconsiderate band of jerks pushing up to the entrance from the other direction to butt in front of you and everyone else who's been waiting out there in the cold for several hours.
Inside, a smiling clerk greets you. He hands you a list of all the people you should buy something for (including the ones you always forget until Christmas Eve) and suggestions for the right gift for each person on the list. He then walks you up and down the aisles to show you where all this stuff is located. And when you arrive at the place where it's supposed to be, it's actually there. In large quantities.
You're almost alone in the store. There are just enough other shoppers to make it interesting. It's quiet, peaceful, and mostly all yours. No crowds, no mad stampedes, no grabbing or pushing, no punching, no pepper spray, no tasering. You can hear the Christmas music playing over the speaker, and it's all your favorite tunes, not a dog-barking version of "Jingle Bells" or Elvis' "Blue, blue, blue Christmas" or Mariah Carey screaming out something about Bethlehem.
You slowly fill your cart while your clerk hovers conveniently at your elbow. If you need something, he's there. If you don't, he's at a respectful distance. When you decide you don't want something after all, he cheerfully takes it back to the shelf for you.
You finally head for the checkout where a clerk is waiting just for you. Your personal clerk unloads your cartful onto the conveyor belt, while you pass the time small talking with the checkout clerk. She rings up your purchases, then reaches into her till and starts fishing out all sorts of coupons for everything in your pile. She punches them all into the register, finishing it off with a 90 percent off your entire purchase gift card.
"Well," she tells you brightly, "it looks like we owe you five dollars. Do you want paper or plastic?"
This is the season of miracles. Maybe a true "perfect shopping experience" could be one of them.
At least the stores know what to aim for.
You can contact Louise Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her editor at 801-625-4223.