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Published December 25 2010

Trade Talk: Give givers a hug

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself opening a Christmas present today, do me a favor and give the person who got it for you a nice big hug. Not because they got you a gift (although that was very nice of them), not because the gift is spectacular (I’m sure it is), and not even because it’s expensive (I hope they snipped off the price tag).

No, give them a hug because if that gift came from a brick-and-mortar store and was purchased anytime in the past month, acquiring it for you meant running one of the most harrowing, ruthless gauntlets American consumers can face: the process of holiday shopping.

I got a double dose of the experience this season in the course of my professional responsibilities. In the name of duty, I marched out to the front lines of retail on both Black Friday and Super Saturday. Mercifully, I was off the clock on Dec. 23, the third and perhaps the most desperate of the season’s three tent-pole days.

I mingled with the most hardened of hard-core shoppers – the ones who camped out overnight for the doorbuster deals, the ones who left all of their holiday shopping to complete in one mad dash at the finish line. I gazed into the abyss of a packed-full Best Buy parking lot (indeed, if your Christmas gift came from a big-box store, the giver deserves not just a hug but a medal), and the abyss gazed back.

Like I said, I did it because I get paid to do it. Some people did it because they love it – they feed off the chaos. Somewhere out there, some people probably did it because they love the economy and were intent on moving the needle in a positive direction.

But most people, good readers, did it because they love you. They waded out into the chaos, risking frostbite and trampling, because they wanted to get you something special.

Some people call that commercialism at its worst. But for all the rough patches of the holiday shopping experience – and between the half-mile trek from a parking spot, the 45-minute waits in the checkout line, and the common areas at West Acres that became de facto refugee camps for the weary, I felt beat up just watching – I’d have to call it a little bit beautiful.

There are lots of ways to show you care. Writing down a list of the things your loved ones want and putting yourself through the wringer to get them is definitely one of them.

When you remind yourself about how it’s the thought that counts, don’t give short shrift to the effort. One of the great tricks of Christmas is making it look easy when it’s time for the main event: Come morning, everything’s neatly wrapped, adorned with a bow, and arranged under the tree as if it were deposited by magic overnight.

After covering the shopping season this year, I can assure you that’s not the case. That’s a gift-wrapped labor of love you’re holding in your hands. And if you know somebody who was brave and hardy enough to get it for you, you know somebody who earned that hug.

You can also connect with Trade Talk online at www.tradetalk.areavoices.com.

Readers can reach Forum business reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502