By Robert P. Poindexter
It was around 5 o’clock in the morning, cold and blustery, the way you would expect it to be in Southwestern Pennsylvania the day after Thanksgiving.
Snow drifts that had started gathering several weeks ago were now 4 to 5 feet deep, and the prevailing temperatures would guarantee their survival for some time to come. The street lamps in the parking lot illuminated the falling snow as a crowd began to gather across the way.
I was sitting in a cafe, 1,500 hundred miles from home, having breakfast with a buddy of mine who just happened to be going the same way. It was “Black Friday,” and from our vantage point we could see the line forming in front of the department store. We were driving trucks for the same company and decided this was as good a place as any to meet up before heading on to the East Coast. Of course, at the time we had no idea about the show we were getting ready to witness.
If memory serves, that was the year Tickle Me Elmo was on every child’s Christmas list and this particular store promised there were plenty to be had. Now, I’ve never seen one of these dolls in real life, but I had seen pictures, and from what I saw, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t risk frostbite or a mob scene to own one.
I sat there, chatting with my pal, sipping coffee and watching the line grow longer and longer. Soon, the entire parking lot was as full as though it were the middle of the day. Young and old alike, bundled up like Eskimos stood and stood, and waited and waited.
The next thing I know, red and blue strobe lights began speeding into the lot, and what had once been a long single-column line, was now a veritable mosh pit.
The crowd now swarmed around the converging police officers, and you could see people being pushed in all directions. It was an absolute melee of angry shoppers and even angrier cops. Paddy wagons soon started to appear and one by one prospective Tickle Me Elmo owners were drug from the crowd in handcuffs and thrown into the waiting vans.
It took at least another half hour for the bulk of the battle to be over, and by the time the last wagon had been filled, the crowd was beginning to settle back into their former places in line. So much for Christmas Spirit!!
To this day, I’m not exactly sure what happened to cause this fracas. But you can bet there were some pretty disappointed kids on Christmas morning. I mean, not only were they denied their right to own the world’s most popular toy at the time, but the entire family would be eating Christmas dinner at the local hoosegow. How do you explain that to a 4-year-old?
“Listen Baby, the judge said that with good behavior your mother and I could be outta here by your birthday. If that old man in the wheelchair hadn’t tried to cut in front of us, we’d all be at home right now playing with your Tickle Me Elmo. Now hand me that harmonica and I’ll do my best rendition of So This Is Christmas.”
I think about that scene every year since then. From the Tuesday after Labor Day until now, the masses are inundated with promises of special bargains and discounts that can turn even the most timid among us into foaming-at-the-mouth-hell-bent-for-leather-door-crashing-credit-card-wielding-fire-breathing — Santas.
I don’t know what people are standing in line for this year, because I am not the target audience for this type of thing, so I don’t pay much attention to it. But, I’m sure it’s something just as important as a stuffed animal that lets out a computer recorded laugh when the sensors below its fur are manipulated in just the right way. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.
I’M NOT A Scrooge. I love Christmas. I’m just not a fan of maddening crowds, regardless of what time of the year it is.
Without sounding too cynical about the holiday season, I daresay it has become the best marketing animal retailers could have ever unleashed on the buying public.
If your current resume doesn’t have people standing in line to take advantage of what you have to offer, it may be time to look at what the big boys in marketing are doing for their products and apply some of the same strategy to your own career.
Employing the services of a career professional might just have hiring managers fighting for you.
Let the buzz begin and call in the paddy wagons!!