Knowing Your Job From The Other Side!!

In this cause and effect world we live in, virtually everyone’s job interacts with another human being. Sometimes, however, as the receiver, it’s very obvious to you, that the person on the other end, has zero concept of the effect they have on your life. I always try to put myself in the other person’s shoes and understand how my actions affect them, but some just don’t!

Back in another life, when I was still working at WABC and commuting five days a week via the Long Island Rail Road from Mineola to Penn Station, I had a theory that nobody should be able to get a job as a conductor on the LIRR until they’d served a certain amount of time as a passenger. That theory was born from years of experience, and the realization that while most conductors did a good job of doing their job without overly affecting you as the passenger, some of them seemed to do whatever they could to annoy you! Be it doing horrible WC Field’s impressions on the PA as you were sleepily heading into the city, or waiting to collect tickets on the way home, till after most regular riders had closed their eyes for a brief “I’m done with work” nap!

So, today my rant is directed at the guys and gals from Wise, Lays, Utz, and Herrs and all the other folks that stock the chip aisle in our local grocery stores. Now, I am well aware that shelf real estate in your local grocery, be it a huge Wegmans or a small Mom and Pop neighborhood store, is a scarce commodity, and that to be effective, shelves must be fully stocked. Chips, however, unlike cookies, crackers, cereal, and other fragile items, are not manufactured in boxes or even inside plastic sleeves. They are packed at the factory in a plastic bag, (except Pringles) with their only cushioning element being air!

I am so tired of on the extreme occasion when a bag of chips enters our house, to open it, and discover that beyond 8 or 10 nice chips, the rest are broken pieces! And it is so obvious why that’s the case, if you have ever walked down the chip aisle in the store when one of the above mentioned folks are “packing” the shelves! As I said before, I know that shelf real estate is a scarce commodity, and to get the most packages of chips in their allotted space, they push, push, and push, but then the results for the poor consumer is a bag with mostly broken chips! Lots of fun with a dip…just saying!

I know it’s not a first world problem, and in this age of Covid and the associated issues, probably means next to nothing to most, but that rare bag of chips in our house is a real treat….until you open the bag! Back when we ate anything and everything, we’d taken to buying our chips at Costco. Not because the bag was the size of a small child (that was however an added incentive), but for the fact that they loaded, shipped, and displayed the chips for sale in a very well designed and bolstered carton. When you bought one of those bags, fully 90+ % of the chips were beautiful and whole. Come on guys….nobody wants to eat a handful of potato chip pieces!

Okay…rant over… please return to your regularly scheduled programing!

Pushing the Calendar

Jimmy Buffett has a song on his Christmas album ’Tis The Season called, Santa Stole Thanksgiving. His lyrics clearly depict the feeling that many have that the retail world keeps pushing the seasons on us earlier and earlier.

Ooh, ooh
Santa stole Thanksgiving for Christmas
Dragged Plymouth Rock to the North Pole with his sled
Pilgrims never saw him coming
The Wampanoags they kept drumming
That Thursday in November
Gob-gobble about December

The next verse is even more telling…

Santa stole Thanksgiving for Christmas
It was such a happy holiday
No more laid-back relaxation
It’s Black Friday degradation
Seems Santa sold Thanksgiving to the mall

Back in the dark ages, when we were kids, the Christmas season didn’t start till Santa showed up at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Although many give lip service to that premise, the truth is that many in the retail world go from Labor Day right to Christmas! See for yourself! On Wednesday September 8th, at the Costco in Stafford Township, New Jersey, the Christmas Department was already set up!

For another example of how far we have come, let’s turn to the classic song We Need a Little Christmas, from the 1966 Broadway Musical Mame, with words and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Mame and her household staff sing this song at a particularly down time, starting off with this uplifting verse:

Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before
My spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things
But deck the halls again now

For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry

So there are a couple of clues there that they are, in their minds, early for Christmas! Like when Mame sings, “I may be rushing things,” or that last line, “It hasn’t snowed a single flurry, But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry.” Even more indication that they are early, when later in the song, young Patrick Denison has this line:

But Auntie Mame!
It’s one week from Thanksgiving Day now

Remember, a pivotal part of the Mame story, was the stock market crash of 1929, so even in 1966, this was by no means a current story, but I don’t believe in 1966, when I was 16 years old, we had pushed holidays around the calendar for the benefit of the retail world, as much as we find today!

Look, you want a bathing suit for a vacation in August, if you go to the store in August, you are more likely to find sweaters and other fall clothes on the shelves. Want new cushions for your back yard furniture, don’t show up at Lowes or Home Depot in June, because they’ll all be gone! After all, they’ve been in the store since just after they took down their Christmas displays. Speaking of Christmas, need a new set of lights for the tree, head to the stores in October, because that’s when they stock their shelves and you’ll be lucky to find anything in December.

I know, I know…stop being an old fart and lamenting about how the world has changed, right? I’m sorry, but we love Christmas and honestly, we start listening to Christmas music in November (in the car and in our house…but only when we are alone!), but we don’t decorate the outside of the house, or put up the tree until after Thanksgiving! We are traditionalists (that’s a classier way to say old farts) and sorry, but I don’t need to have Pumpkins pushed on us on September 10th, a full 7 Weeks and two days before Halloween, as Shoprite in Somers Point is already doing!

Okay…Enjoy the Holiday…whatever the calendar says it is, because I’ve lost track!
Rant over!

Jimmy Buffett from his album ’Tis the Season with Santa Stole Thanksgiving

Angela Lansbury and the Broadway cast from Mame with We Need a Little Christmas