Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

December 11, 2013

Tablets, mob-like shopping lines and televisions that are smarter than us

— — So what are the big holiday gifts to purchase this Christmas? From what I can tell there doesn’t appear to be one must-have item this year, but instead a well-rounded variety of things that are on the holiday wish list of most folks.

Nowadays, it seems as if everyone must have a tablet, or new table-style phone. I survived a near mob at a local department store on Thanksgiving evening waiting in line for one of these handy gifts. When we arrived at the local big box store, we were told that we had to stand in line in order to have a chance at one of a very limited number of these very-reasonably priced tablets on this particular day. And the line itself was already pretty long. I would have been much closer to the beginning of the tablet line had I not been in an earlier line waiting for a 6 p.m. sale to start. The tablet sale started at 8 p.m. So after making it out of the 6 p.m. line in one piece, I then found myself near the end of the 8 p.m. line. And when you are at the end of such a Black Friday line, odds are you won’t get what you are waiting in line to purchase.

As the countdown to 8 p.m. got closer, the line became less of a line and more of a angry mob-like crowd determined to score a tablet at all costs. I actually made it out of this line with a tablet, and without any bruises or scratches. But it was a near mob setting. It’s a wonder no one got hurt or into a fight over these tablets. The overall experience leads me to believe that tablets are apparently still in-demand items this holiday season.

The same goes for the new Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles. The same department store in question had a large stack of these new video game consoles, and both were apparently sold out in a matter of minutes. This leads me to believe that folks are apparently willing to spend a lot of money when it comes to new gaming consoles this holiday season. That’s because these gaming systems cost $399 (PS4) and $499 (Xbox One) a piece. They are not cheap purchases by any stretch of the imagination. In all, we had four family members at the department store that night — I just ran into two of my cousins not knowing they would be there on this particular night — and this still was not enough family members in order to match all of the individual lines one had to wait in. Thankfully, no one on my shopping list expects me to blow $500 on a new Xbox One system. That is simply too much to pay for a video game console — new or not.

Smart televisions also are apparently growing in popularity this holiday season, but I have no desire at this time for a smart television. When the television becomes smarter than me — and starts selecting programming and shows for me to watch — then we’ve got a problem. So I prefer to stick with unintelligent televisions for the time being. But there are apparently a lot of folks out there who disagree, and who are looking for a television that may be smarter than they are.

Beyond always-in-demand electronics and phones, traditional gifts seem to be making a little bit of a comeback this year as well. No, I’m not talking about fruitcakes. I don’t know anyone who is hoping Santa will bring them a tasty fruitcake this year.

I’m instead talking about clothing and jewelry. Men, of course, aren’t the most skilled of athletes out there when it comes to purchasing clothes. I, for example, have been buying my dress shirts, pants and ties from the same store for years now. But recently this store decided it was going to introduce new brands, discontinue the old styles of shirts and pants I like to wear, and then rearrange everything in the store by brand. But that’s too complicated for most guys. We don’t shop by brand. We buy what we are familiar with and have purchased in the past. So lately I’ve been a bit lost when it comes to buying new dress shirts, pants and ties. Confusion is not good. Jewelry, by comparison, will always be a win-win when it comes to the holidays and women. Beyond those basics, a lot of folks are buying their gifts online this year. So that’s a change as well from past holidays.

As an old-fashioned guy, I prefer to buy my gifts in person — even if it means braving those wild Black Friday crowds. There is just something about seeing and holding an item in person that beats the whole online shopping thing for me. 

So if you are still out there shopping — good luck. I hope you know what you are looking for. There is now only 14 shopping days left before Christmas. So time is slowly running out for those last-minute shoppers and traditional procrastinators.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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