Monday, November 29, 2010

'Anonymous' Holiday Shopping Letter featured in Newsday

Oyster Bay offers 'stroll' for local shopping
Thursday November 25, 2010 12:45 PM By T.C. McCarthy

Oyster Bay is using a cheeky campaign to encourage its residents to shop locally this holiday season.

In a humorous letter distributed to drum up attention for the hamlet’s first annual Holiday Shopping Stroll, an “unknown shopper” discussed the monotony of rushing to packed shopping malls and encouraged residents to go to local stores throughout the hamlet for their holiday gifts.

The stroll begins Thursday, Dec. 2, when local shops will extend their business hours, according to a news release. Shops will be open longer on Dec. 9 and Dec. 16 as well. Tourist destinations like Raynham Hall and the Oyster Bay Historical Society will also be open until 7 p.m. offering free admission for visitors.

“We’re sending a message to the malls and big box stores that they can’t compete with us for unique gifts and a great shopping experience,” said Michele Browner, Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce president.

The campaign also supplied residents with a convenient and “scientifically accurate” chart that compares a holiday shopping experience at the mall to shopping at local stores. The chart breaks the experience down into the time it takes to shop, the items that would be available at each location and the atmosphere at each venue.

The anonymous shopper's full letter and associated chart are below.

Every year many of us gas up the family car and work our way through traffic, packed parking lots and long lines to do our holiday shopping. Somehow the malls have convinced us that it makes sense to drive passed our own local stores to partake in an annual shopping frenzy. Like bears picking off salmon, they have us blithely swim upstream participating in an unfulfilling, exhausting ritual. Is anyone looking at the gas prices when they leave town or the monotony of the mass marketed gifts in their trunks when they return?….and, by the way, how was that square burger and the dull cacophony of packaged “holiday” music? When did we lose the holiday spirit and succumb to the production line mentality? Here’s my answer. Let’s all put down the cell phone, take off the headphones to the MP3 player, turn off the GPS and drive slowly through the Hamlet….or better yet, walk and take a close look. Yes Dorothy, we do have quite a selection of stores now. Owned and operated by that good old fashioned institution: entrepreneurs. Collectively, it’s actually a brilliant cross section of unique gifts that make you feel like you’re actually passing on the spirit of the holiday versus filling your quota. We have art, antiques, crafts, confections, collectibles, jewelry, toys, etc. etc. etc. and a couple of chain stores to satisfy any lingering sense of guilt for enjoying the old fashioned hamlet shopping experience. We have a great little hamlet….great shops, great restaurants and it’s ours…and don’t forget the historical sites.

So here’s the dilemma. Embark on a journey to the mall (or big box store, for simplicity, we’ll call it the abyss) or shop right around the corner? For the efficiency experts out there, add up the time travelling to the abyss, finding (and possibly waiting) for a parking spot and walking to the entry of the abyss (take a reading on the stopwatch). Now go into the abyss and search out merchant units with the appropriate SKU’s; hope that whatever you’re looking for is there (admit it, you planned ahead) and wait on the line. After you purchased that item, stop the watch. Now multiply that times each merchant unit visit and add the time it took you to get there to begin with (you can drop the decimals for simplicity or round up or down if you’re feeling giddy). Rather daunting. And don’t forget to buy something, otherwise, like in the game of Monopoly, you can get sent back to the beginning and start all over again….and did I mention returns? OK, the fitness crowd will tell you it’s great for your quads…they got me on that one.

You have something in common with Teddy Roosevelt, Billy Joel and all your neighbors…you chose to live in the Oyster Bay area. We know the first two also set up shop in the hamlet. Maybe they know something? Come home to the hamlet this holiday shopping season. You’ll be glad you did. Go to the Chamber of Commerce ( or Main Street Association ( web sites (or Facebook) to find out what’s going on.

Apologies to Paul Blart and the gas stations.

The Unknown Shopper
(Name withheld to protect author from retribution from big box and mall reprisals)

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