Out with the trees and in with the eggs

Ho ho ho, Meeeerry Easter. Wait, what?

In this over commercialised world in which we live, it seems that the second the mad Christmas rush is over, the shops sneak a small (well, relatively small) amount of Easter eggs into their stores. This causes people to fly into rages about how disgraceful such shameless money-making techniques are, before promptly grabbing a Cadbury Creme Egg to eat before it clicks into the New Year and their weight-loss resolutions begin. In fact, anybody who has worked in a supermarket will know that essentially Christmas builds up from September to December, then Easter from January to April, leaving only four months of the year to fill with other promotions – usually something connected to the seasons (here in Australia it’s usually winter – so basically selling ridiculous amounts of soup – genius). There are a number of arguments about why this happens, and who’s fault it is that this happens, so I’m going to look at some of these arguments, before I more than likely blame everybody for it (hey I might not, I haven’t decided yet).

Before I go into the arguments though, I have to explain something. Though I am now a teacher and aspiring writer, up until last May I had worked in retail for six years, in a large local supermarket. Having worked in most departments and a variety of roles there, I think I came to grips with how retail works behind the scenes, and yes, I did come to the conclusion that really it’s just a giant soul sucking monster. But the point is, regardless of how I felt about things that happened in the store, and in retail in general, it was my job and I had to go along with it. I remember this time last year, being the unlucky one who had to put out the first display of Easter eggs, and it was a huge display too. As I was building it, customer after customer walked by, many audibly gasping, complaining or commenting on what was taking place before them, and fortunately I was in the position of knowing most of the customers, and was able to deflect most of their disgust and anger by making smart arsed comments and jokes in return (to be honest, I think that’s how I survived working in retail at all). But the response was undeniable – nobody was impressed.

Despite this, many of the eggs sold, and fast. One particular type of egg sold out in January, and I know for a fact we had a lot of stock for that egg when it first came in. Even those of us working there were a little bit surprised at how fast some of these eggs sold, considering the amount of complaints that poured in about it, and the fact that Christmas had only just ended and most people probably still had extra food (or extra weight) leftover from the festive season. This phenomenon leads to the main argument supplied by the retailers themselves – the reason that they sell Easter chocolate and hot cross buns so early in the year is due to customer demand. Indeed, a lot of the way stores are even laid out is supposedly due to customer demand – the reason chocolate in general occupies so much shelf space in stores is because it is one of the highest selling items in supermarkets.

However, there is a counter-argument to this, and one which extinguishes any sense of genuine concern for the public that supermarkets may try to express. Supermarkets create this demand. They have teams of people who specifically work at finding new ways to influence people’s shopping habits. Many people in Australia will have noticed in recent years that the aisles have been shifted around to a more or less uniform pattern across the supermarket spectrum – chocolate, chips, biscuits, and other junk foods that are more likely to be bought on impulse have been moved to the front of the store, closer to the checkouts, so that while people are waiting for their shopping to be put through the checkout, they give in to some last minute impulse shopping. The Easter eggs issue is precisely the same. People love chocolate – you just need to dangle it in front of them for long enough and they cave in. I don’t mean this to be condescending towards people – I myself give in pretty easily. But retailers know how to tempt shoppers to buy things, with Easter it’s an overabundance of chocolate, with Christmas it’s the whole “beat the rush” mindframe.

On top of all of this, of course, there is the much more real reason that all this happens – money. People don’t buy things for Christmas and Easter to replace things they normally buy – they buy things on top of their normal lists. Quite simply, everything related to these two holidays is extra money for retailers. Ever feel that when you go into a lot of shops these days they seem more and more cluttered, as if every possible space that could be used to try and sell something is being used to try and sell something? It’s because that is exactly what happens. The more they can find “themes” to connect these displays all over their shop, the easier it makes it, the more it drills into the minds of the shoppers that they apparently want or need to buy this product. So smothering shoppers with Christmas and Easter promotions for a total of eight months of the year means extra sales for the majority of the year. Nothing new, but it works.

So, it’s terrible. It’s immoral. Retailers trick us into buying things against our wishes, because it’s how they make money in this day and age, and we all like to act outraged, despite the growing number of people who actually don’t believe in the original meaning behind these holidays. But this really is symbolic of so much of the commercial world, and what really surprises me is that people still act surprised by it all. It’s nothing new – this definitely happened the whole time I was working in the retail world, and each year people acted like it was a sign of the end of the world – I almost expected them to say “this time you’ve gone too far!” If you really are outraged by it, then don’t support it. Don’t buy Easter eggs until April. Resist the temptation. If nobody bought eggs in January, stores would actually stop putting them out so early and find another way to make money instead. If we, as the shopping community, cave in and buy this stuff, then we’re only going to encourage them. So don’t just resist the temptation, but help your friends and family resist it. Group together and turn your backs on it, and it will go away. Or just keep buying it and let the monster grow.

As Captain Planet would say, “the power is yours!”