Last Saturday, I was out shopping and saw a big sign that read: Only 14 more shopping days until Christmas! I thought this was rather bizarre, to say nothing of ironic. After all, how does one define “shopping day” in a culture where many stores are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
Tesco will operate 555 stores 24 hours a day in the week before Christmas. This includes 205 of the large ‘Extra’ stores, 349 superstores and one Metro.
Asda said 216 of its supermarkets will trade 24 hours a day in the week before Christmas. More than 100 others will open for longer than normal.
Sainsbury’s will open 25 supermarkets around the clock in the week before Christmas.
All 126 M&S stores at BP Connect petrol stations will be open throughout the festive period, including Christmas Day. Most will open 24 hours a day.
And that’s just the UK. North America has no shortage of 24/7 shopping outlets, with Walmart and large grocery and retail chains leading the way.
The old saying “Only ____ more shopping days till Christmas” hearkens back to the caveman era when stores were closed on Sundays and holidays. Many years, court challenges, and human rights cases later, I now realise it’s discriminatory to lock a store for any reason whatever. Though retail shopping can scarcely be considered an emergency sort of service (unlike the police and hospitals), consumers apparently have a right to shop, and business people have a right to conduct commerce whenever they wish. Nevertheless, one can’t help feeling sorry for the sales-personnel who have to work those graveyard shifts, especially since many are poorly paid and in no position to negotiate their own work schedules.
Pardon my naiveté, but I can’t conceive of a single valid reason for needing to go Christmas shopping at three or four o’clock in the morning. But it seems 24/7 shopping is here to stay.
What would Dickens have thought, I wonder? Or Clement C. Moore. Perhaps post-modern bards will have to come up with some new poems and carols. The following is a joint effort with Carolyn Moynihan. (Anyone else who wants to have a go is welcome.)
Twas the night before Christmas, the kids were in bed,
But Dad was at Walmart, still scratching his head;
They’d sold out of zombies, and the Smurfs Village app
Had been panned in the Times, so no question of that.
Justin Bieber Singing Doll? Harry Potter LEGO set?
Dad was in agony, brow beaded with sweat.
Then inspiration struck and he happily babbled –
“I know just the thing — a new set of Scrabble!”
Just then, to Dad’s fevered brain there appeared
Some Twilight werewolves peddling beer!
They winked and they slavered, ere they slunk out of sight —
“Frantic shopping to all, but to none a good night…”