Angels we have heard on high,
Tell us to go out and buy."    Tom Lehrer

The Sunday paper this week was six hundred pages, about half again its usual size during the past couple of months, which can mean only one thing: the Christmas rush is here, two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Eighty-four of those pages were given over to one retailer: the legendary dream merchant Toys "R" Us, who promises, should you use all the proffered coupons, to save you $1700. God only knows how much you'd have to spend to realize those savings; $1700 would have just about paid for my last automobile. Just buying all the Barbie stuff on the first three pages would set you back $636, and that's if you used the coupons. That's more than you can spend on the Nintendo 64 system: the system unit, two controllers, and the three games they claim will actually be available, all combined, come to a comparatively-measly $455. Plus tax, of course and no coupons, either.

It's not just the cult of the new and hotly-hyped that will cost you, either. For $17.99, you can get the 40th Anniversary Collectors' Edition of Yahtzee, a game that seems to go back a lot farther than forty years and seems like it would cost a whole lot less than eighteen bucks, inasmuch as it contains basically five dice and a pre-printed score pad. Oops, my mistake: there's also this spiffy plastic Vegasoid dice tray, and an imitation-something-or-other cup to roll the dice in. Obviously, these items justify the elevated price being asked of the "collectors", and people not as old and cynical as I may well think this is a reasonable price for a game older than dirt, or at least loam. Then again, my daughter's Significant Other draws a pretty mean Yahtzee score pad herself, and she's quite a bit younger than forty, so I'm guessing she won't be buying this one, even at post-Christmas sale prices.

In the tiny print on the back page, there is another offering: the Toys "R" Us Visa card, use of which will presumably earn you free toys. There is, we are assured, no annual fee, and this may even be true. On the other hand, even in blah months like February, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch; come Christmastime, you're springing for dinner for all the relatives, plus the relatives of the guys who own the stores. Hibernation is starting to look like an appealing way to spend the next couple of months.

The Vent

16 November 1996

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 Copyright © 1996 by Charles G. Hill