These last couple of weeks, I have been observing holiday shoppers as they make their purchases. I was at my nearby Target store just this past Saturday. People were leaving the cash registers, the season's red bags of every size in hand. Bags filled with gifts.
What I noticed was not the quantity of the packages, which were many. It was the look on the faces of these shoppers that gave me pause. They looked harried, distracted, and some even somewhat upset. This was true especially for the ones who pulled right out into traffic without looking to notice that I was in their way. All the while clutching their bounty.
The holidays are a time of greater stress as people try to get ready for their celebrations while they carry on with their regular programs. That could be part of the reason many of the shoppers I observed looked upset.
Or maybe the reason is that we live in a consumer-intensive culture where it is felt obligatory to have gifts for everyone and not having had enough time to get to know what everyone wishes, we rely on our best guess. Yes, many of the clever marketing messages we receive every day seduce us into purchasing more than we need. We're still all right with that, by and large.
What we worry about may be that a lot has been put into the marketing of those products, and not enough into the quality of the products themselves. We may worry that the return policies at the store we are making the purchase at will be difficult to navigate when we, or our family and friends, try to return or exchange those gifts later.
A lot has been banked on loading the front end, has enough attention been paid to following through with those promises? Are we seducing customers and then leaving them to fend for themselves once they've made our budgets?