12/15/2014 02:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Just Saying No to Retail Grinches


The holiday season is in full swing, but it's becoming harder and harder recognize it. Retail Grinches somehow wish to relieve us of our money, yet deprive us of some of the simplest joys of the season -- festive decorations and holiday magic.

More and more stores and restaurants are getting their Grinch on when it comes to the holiday season, and it's a sad surprise. I'm old enough to remember when every street was festooned with holiday cheer, as was every store, gas station, restaurant, car dealership, theater, bank, parking lot, and even the country barn. Everyone joined in. You didn't blindly pass strangers on the sidewalk. You nodded and wished them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Now, in lieu of a spoken pleasantry, the best you can hope for is that you don't get flattened to the sidewalk by someone texting and walking.

I know I'm showing my age, and perhaps I've become the parents and grandparents I said I would never be, lamenting about the "good old days". But as the life lessons continue to roll in, I realize that not all progress is a great and wondrous thing. I now understand that my parents and grandparents had more of a clue than I imagined.

I also understand that in our politically correct modern world that favoring one religion over another is considered taboo, even during that religion's period of special celebration. But while I don't expect retailers to erect Nativity scenes, light menorahs in their store windows, or parade Santa through the aisles, if they are not inclined to do so, I find it unwelcome to not offer even a few snowflakes, ribbons, greenery, or Season's Greetings of any innocuous kind. To ignore the holiday season, except for the money it can bring in, is disturbingly one-sided.

A few years ago I became so saddened by the decline in holiday decorating that I began my own little one-woman crusade of protest. Between Thanksgiving and New Years Day I do not shop at any store that does not decorate, nor eat at any restaurant that doesn't offer at least a simple nod to the season. Each year, I end up walking out of stores and restaurants after arriving and discovering that there isn't even so much as a scrawny bow hanging from the cash register.

Do the retailers care that they lost my business? Not likely. Still, it erases some of the blues of their disregard when I know that I've deprived them of what was in my wallet. I had intended to give them my business. I spent my gas to drive there, I entered with every intention of shopping or eating there, but their business-as-usual motif showed me they are too lazy or too "something" to make an effort, so why do they deserve my time, my interest, or my money? Before I leave the facility, I tell management why I am leaving. After all, I can't expect a retailer or a restaurant to read the unhappiness in my mind. So I tell them, then I go.

It doesn't have to be much. My husband and I dined at a restaurant a few days ago where the lobby was beautifully decorated, but the interior had just a few poinsettia plants and one thick strand of lighted greenery. Yet it the interior decorations were sufficient enough to add a bit of joy to the dining experience. There was nothing to harm anyone's sensibilities, but there was a little something for those who cared to enjoy it.

I think stores and restaurants are missing the profit boat. Decorations and holiday music help to put Christmas shoppers, or friends or coworkers sharing a celebratory holiday meal, into a spending mood. Retailers are already acutely aware of the value of ambiance and spend big bucks to design their facilities to make us want to let go of our money. So how can the holiday season arrive at their establishments with all the excitement and fanfare of an Ebenezer Scrooge greeting? Honestly, would a touch of winter wonderland kill any righteous dictates or advertising budget?

I may not change any managerial minds, but as the years march on, I continue my personal stand against retail Grinches, simply because it makes me feel better to do so. I know others don't cherish the holidays as I do, but I'm guessing that a sprig of greenery wrapped in a ribbon isn't going to offend anyone. And if it does, that's sad.

The population at large shouldn't have to hide from the season so that a few who don't embrace it don't have to see it. We shouldn't begrudge celebration. There are holidays that happen throughout the year that I don't personally partake in, but I believe that those who enjoy them are entitled to celebrate as they wish. I'm not offended by seeing decorations for holidays I don't choose to celebrate. Christmas, or any other holiday, should not be shoved under the rug because of the disdain of some.

Retailers, in the name of "the Holidays", have no problem selling everything that isn't nailed down, including piles of holiday decorations, yet they do have a problem supporting the holiday spirit with a simple decoration or two of their own. That makes little sense.

So here's my message to the boards of directors of all retail Grinches. When you convene to crunch the numbers and discuss those holiday sales trends, let it be known that your bottom line would have been at least a tiny bit fatter if your lack of holiday effort hadn't caused me to walk out with my money still in my pocket.

It's never too late. Even the original Grinch, that brilliant creation of Dr. Seuss, ultimately changed his grumpy ways and showed caring for others. Retailers and restaurateurs who find excuses to avoid decorating, or can't seem to wish their customers "Seasons Greetings" in a way that doesn't involve simply taking their money, could learn a valuable lesson from the Grinch's positive awakening.

In the larger scheme of the world's problems, a lack of holiday cheer on the part of retailers and restaurants may seem frivolous. But it's the simple pleasures and joys that give us the will to take on the bigger protests, the bigger issues, and the bigger legacies of life. Sometimes it takes thinking small to live big in all things that matter.

So, I hope your holidays are as cheerful as you wish them to be, and should I not have the pleasure of meeting you on a sidewalk this holiday season, I want to wish you a most sincere...


photo credit ornaments:
photo credit Happy Holidays: