December 20, 2006
Special Extra Added Attraction: Judy's Ink
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
So there I was, standing on line at 5:15 Monday morning in Manhattan along with any number of teenage boys who had camped out overnight on the sidewalk. We were joined by bleary-eyed Moms and Dads and the usual assortment of kindly souls and desperate lunatics. We were all in this battle together. We were all on a holiday shopping/military maneuver in search of this year's hot game system, the Nintendo Wii. In case you've been hiding under a rock someplace, it is this season's must-have present. With kids who are 17 and 21, I frankly thought I was past this stage. But rarely have both kids really, really wanted the same gift . . . and were willing to share it, no less.
"It's really awesome Mom," said the 17-year-old boy. "Even I love it," added my 21-year-old daughter, never before much of a gamer. OK, I recognized a challenge and foolishly chose to meet it.
So there we all were in line, all of us desperate souls waiting for the desperados to take advantage of us. We traded war stories about all of our exhausting and frustrating previous attempts at scoring this, so far, at least, hidden treasure: the Nintendo Wii Whatever that stands for. Who knows? Who cares? All we knew was that all of us had tried lots of other stores which were mysteriously running out of product . . . only to get mysterious shipments later on that they couldn't ever tell you about, or even take waiting lists. So there we were standing outside the Nintendo store where they were doling these things out, a hundred a day. The people in the store told the rest of us to come back and sleep on the sidewalk the next morning 'till they opened. That seems just plain mean-spirited in the name of marketing.
In retrospect Wii (pronounced "we") probably stands for "Wii are really going to make your life miserable. Wii are going to use the laws of controlled supply and demand to create such a buzz about our product that we'll make billions of dollars and lay waste our competition."
All in the Christmas spirit.
Hey, why not? Nintendo is a Japanese company, as is Sony, promoter of this season's other hot game system, PlayStation 3. The religion in Japan is Shinto, they don't even celebrate Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanzaa!
Now I know this is only the latest in a long line of marketing ploys to create pent-up desire on the part of holiday shoppers. Remember the Cabbage Patch kids??? That is practically ancient history. Who can forget the time John Gotti had his goons go in and make an offer the local Toys 'R Us couldn't refuse in order to score some Tickle Me Elmos? When it takes the Mafia to threaten to break kneecaps in order to get a giggly bunch of plush toys, you know we gotta problem!
And worse yet, what is the message here? Lots of those pimply-faced teenage boys sleeping on the sidewalk were either selling their places on line or scalping the systems on eBay for twice the price. Good lessons in capitalism, right? But what's capitalism got to do with Christmas? Obviously plenty. As one woman who had spent her night sitting on a folding chair pointed out to no one in particular, "This is supposed to be about the birth of Christ."
I wonder if The Three Kings had as much trouble scoring frankincense and myrrh??
By the time I reached the head of the line two and half hours later, I fondly took one last look back at my still-suffering new buddies. And it was then that I noticed just a block away the marquee of Radio City Music Hall announcing this season's spectacular, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas."