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The Service of Shopping Naturally

I used to be one of those people up in the pre-dawn hours standing in the cold waiting for a store to open. Not the kind that would go camping or anything but I would arrive 30 to 45 minutes early, get in line and keep warm with thoughts of getting the door prizes and items on my holiday list for a steal. I would hit several stores before the sun was even up trying to get the list of items I made. It was a rush in my system that was fun and exciting. By noon I’d be home, tired, full of coffee and have the car stacked with holiday gifts to be wrapped. It was rewarding and fulfilling to say holiday shopping was done mostly on one day so I could then focus on other fun stuff.

These days I shop mostly online. Things arrive steadily on my porch in brown boxes I can even wrap directly that way sometimes. It isn’t as aerobic in exertion or dark and cold but I’ve still found I enjoy the process of shopping. Finding that ideal gift, something someone really wanted is wonderful. Online shopping allows me to be a little more selective and even price compare better which also makes me happy. No it isn’t the same as having a mission, stack of fliers, hand written list and a roadmap of pre-dawn Friday shopping blitzes but it has expanded my view of how I shop and where.

Many of us are on a budget. My family definitely sets a holiday budget and we even try to come in under it as there is always something else that will be needed. It’s not a secret holidays are expensive and there is still daily life to pay for too like the one year our heat pump went out the week before Christmas. Life just has that way of keeping things real at times. The budget is often the deciding factor of where to shop for the best deals. That lends nicely to shopping at the big box stores with their sales and special offers to get decent items that work within our budgets.

It is easy to shop those kinds of places. They are organized all the same way, there’s pleasant music playing and plenty of selections. One stop with a metal cart to pus around also has its advantages of convenience and time savings too. Yet all that sterile and bulk look alike items leaves something missing. It doesn’t feel the same and I often find it checks something off a list but that’s all the feeling I get from it. While the gift can still be made to look brilliant and is sure to be appreciated, the experience of shopping for it just isn’t the same. It is just another item in a big box store that looks like the 50 others just like it, that will be wrapped and given this season. Hopefully not re-gifted or returned too.

Maybe it’s the setting or perhaps the item itself but there is this gap in what it feels like to shop and find that thing. The process feels as blah as the piped in music trying to make it into something it can never be. I think personally it is the loss of personal relationship with the lines of self-serve check-outs and bleep of machines reading tags. It is the rush to get in and out so other things can be done. It is the while I’m here let me grab some grocery items or other things that don’t relate to holiday gifts. It is all blended together in overstuffed shelves calling our attention. Those few bucks we’re saving can be used for those items we tossed in the cart anyway.

The Saturday after Black Friday traditionally known as Shop Small Business Saturday speaks to this gap in how we shop. It reminds us of that aspect of finding unique, special gifts that probably also fit our budgets. There is a nudge to revisit what it feels like to browse beautiful stores well arranged and flowing rather than large departments. There is this element of special to it that feels welcoming and unique. It even smells different! There is a happy person greeting us who looks us in the eye and asks if we need any help. There are bags with tissue paper in them to make the purchase we made feel incredible walking out of the store carrying.