Malls Cave on Charging to See Santa

Malls Cave on Charging to See Santa

In perhaps one of the only legitimate beefs in the so-called “war on Christmas” it appears the good guys actually won one. Malls across the country have attempted to capitalize on the Santa business by installing what they call “the Santa adventure” and charging parents fees from $35 to $50 just to get their children in to see Santa Claus. In the most high profile of these cases Cherry Hill Mall near Philadelphia famous imposed the charges and then faced a brutal customer backlash that went viral on social media. The mall has since made Santa a free attraction, as he has been in the past.

The backdrop to all the Santa controversy comes courtesy of Dream Works who launched an enhanced Santa attraction described as a first-of-its-kind holiday experience that features Shrek, Santa and interactive storytelling with cutting-edge technology.

Shrek and friends take families on an enchanting journey to the North Pole. Five captivating rooms within the Adventure to Santa experience keep families engaged and entertained, including a cinematic adventure featuring a wrap-around screen and motion-based effects sure to excite guests of all ages. Once families complete the activities in each room, Adventure to Santa culminates in a special moment where children and their families enjoy a private visit with Santa.

Dream Works and malls featuring the service have been providing touring school groups with free access in order to build buzz and goodwill about the attraction. The problem comes when a mall allows Dream Works to control access to Santa — where seeing him requires an online reservation, a process that in turn requires the purchase of a photo package at a cost between $35 and $50.

Will the Dream Works attraction catch hold? Will parents actually pay $35 to give their children what amounts to a commercial experience with Santa Claus?

That remains to be seen.

What appears to be settled is that malls will continue to offer free access to Santa for those parents who can do without “the experience” or the cost.

Liberty Counsel Publishes Naughty List of Retailers

Liberty Counsel Publishes Naughty List of Retailers

Liberty Counsel, a staunch defender of Christmas and religious liberty, has published their annual Nice and Naughty list of retailers and their use of the word “Christmas”.

TJ Maxx, The Limited, Radio Shack (which is nearly dead), Old Navy, J Crew, Gap, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and American Eagle round out the list of retailers shunning Christmas this year.

In years past this list was big media news but the fight against retailers being so politically correct has been so effective that the “naughty” portion of the list has diminished significantly. Liberty Counsel’s efforts have to be credited for these changes.

Liberty Counsel’s name frequently gets cited in some of the highest profile cases in the War on Christmas as they jump to the aid of schools, families and individuals whose religious liberties are threatened in their celebrations of Christmas.

It is interesting to note that Liberty Counsel is considered a hate group in some quarters because of their support of traditional marriage and the defense of controversial figures such as Kim Davis.

Houston TV Station Flips Over Christmas on Shelves in July

Houston TV Station Flips Over Christmas on Shelves in July

55773137Houston television station KPRC flipped out over Christmas decorations just beginning to show up on shelves there on July 15th. Ironically, they reported this news during a segment on Amazon’s “Prime Day” which is billed as being bigger than Black Friday. Here’s a brief transcript of their shock over seeing Christmas in July:

THEY AIN’T GOT NOTHING ON HOBBY LOBBY. IF YOU NOTICED, THEY HAVE CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS OUT? OUR PRODUCER, FRANK, SNAPPED THIS PICTURE OVER THE WEEKEND AT THE STAFFORD STORE PUTTING OUT THEIR HOLIDAY GARB, AND WOODLANDS HOBBY LOBBY HAD FALL AND CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS OUT BACK ON MAY 29th, SO IT’S STARTING EARLIER THAN EVER.

Memo to the media: it’s not starting earlier than ever. It has ALWAYS been done this way. This isn’t news and it is not anything to be alarmed about. Christmas is coming, yes, but the world is not going to end. Go back covering the elections that do not happen for another 18 months.

AFA Takes Aim at Companies that Will Not Say Christmas

AFA Takes Aim at Companies that Will Not Say Christmas

It’s a holiday tradition — er….a Christmas tradition! The American Family Association has published their annual “naughty and nice list” of retailers who won’t use the word Christmas in their advertising or public relations efforts. The big offender this year: Petsmart, a perennial abuser of the holiday versus Christmas tug of war.

When it comes to Christmas retailers just can’t win. Those brave enough to advertise early have to endure charges of Christmas creep. While those who don’t use the word Christmas get labeled for being politically correct or anti-Christian.

This year’s list appears to be similar to the list the AFA has published for years now. Barnes & Noble, Limited Brands, Office Depot — these are the same folks always on this list.

But does the lack of use of the word Christmas make them anti-Christmas? Really?

And what about the word holiday. Does using that word constitute an absence of acknowledgement of sacred days of observance?

And what of those who do liberally make use of the word Christmas in their ads? Can we rightfully say, as the AFA claims, that these companies “celebrate” Christmas? What part of putting the word “Christmas” in an ad is acknowledging the sacred OR secular celebration of Christmas?

We ask these questions not because we don’t support use of the word Christmas. We just think it is continued absurdity to define Christmas so narrowly. The AFA has been at this for years. And while the list of who is naught and who is nice has most decidedly changed — with more moving to the nice list as the AFA has harped on this issue over the years — has it really affected any kind of change?

Has it been helpful in the “war on Christmas”? Has the embracing of Christmas helped those companies who are nice to be successful? Has being on the naughty list adversely affected those who are on it?

The answers to these questions, of course, is no.

The AFA is not promoting the “peace and goodwill” that is Christmas. They continue to be harsh voices in the “war on Christmas” by focusing on the wrong things. They should be promoting the real messages of Christmas: charity, goodwill, peace and understanding.

They appear to be doing just the opposite of that.

Toys R Us Pulls Breaking Bad Action Figures

Toys R Us Pulls Breaking Bad Action Figures

Christmas gets blamed for a lot of stuff. But this is a new one.
breakingbad
Toys R Us sells more at Christmas than any other time of the year. Every fall they get new merchandise they think will sell during the season. This year they got action figures based on the hit show Breaking Bad. The problem? A character in the show is a drug dealer, he has an action figure and he’s accessorized with guns, a bag of cash and some of his signature mix of meth. One reader of Defend Christmas made the giant leap that Christmas is now responsible for glamorizing drug use to children.

Well, everybody can relax now. Toy R Us pulled the toy and Christmas is now, once again, safe for kids.

The whole hubbub began by parents protesting via a Change.org online petition for Toys R Us to remove the ill-conceived toy. (Believe it or not, the toy industry makes this kind of mistake all the time). After more than 8000 signatures Toys R Us got the hint.

At first, Toys R Us claimed that the dolls were in the adult action figure section of the store, and would only be sold to children ages 15 and older.

Apparently, there are adults who buy action figures. Apparently, 15 year olds are adults. But then, looking at a potential loss of sales, Toys R Us caved and took the figures off the shelf entirely.

Those who disagree with this Florida Mom can still buy the figures on Amazon and other online sites not affiliated with Toys R Us. So people can still buy their drug dolls and blame Christmas for it.

Black November to Stir the Anti-Christmas Pot

Black November to Stir the Anti-Christmas Pot

Black Friday is dead and everyone knows it. The fact that holiday shopping “door-buster” sales now kick off Thanksgiving morning is not exactly tradition — and retailers may never give it time to become such. The truth is that Black Friday is now really Black November — a full month or more of serious price promotions to kick start holiday shopping.

This is the real menace of retail people are talking about. This is the real Christmas creep. And it is about to become a part of the conversation in the so-called War on Christmas.

Late-night, early morning and even 24-hour shopping have become so common that many retailers believe they must stay open nearly all the time to keep up with their competitors, reports Richard Feinberg, Purdue professor of retail management.

With consumer pocketbooks stretched thin, shoppers will be looking for deals, according to Feinberg. That means most of the large, non-luxury retailers will be offering heavy promotions and constant sales. Retailers will rely on “flash” and limited-time sales because they create a sense of urgency and shoppers respond to them. Shoppers will also see more signs of holiday creep as “Black Friday” – the day after Thanksgiving that used to mark the first day of the Christmas shopping season – has transformed into “Black November.”

Black Friday backed further into Thanksgiving in 2013, as stores including Target, Younkers, Sears and J.C. Penney opened at 8 p.m. Thursday, and others even earlier. Walmart, open 24 hours, released Black Friday deals at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and sold some Black Friday merchandise as early as Nov. 1.

For stores that were open, shoppers followed, with 45 million people shopping online or in stores on Thanksgiving 2013, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s up from 35 million in 2012 and 29 million in 2011.

The sad truth despite these facts? Sales were DOWN for what is called “Black Friday” — by 2.9 percent.

The other sad truth is that many people protest now the presence of Christmas-themed shopping on Thanksgiving Day. Workers threaten to strike, campaigns to boycott retailers on Thanksgiving are launched and editorials run amok with anti-Christmas rhetoric.

It isn’t so much about Christmas, really. But Christmas gets blamed for creating the frenzy and urging retailers to “sell, sell, sell” in an effort to generate more revenue than they did the year before.

Media Starts War on Christmas in Germany

Media Starts War on Christmas in Germany

There’s a movement against Christmas afoot — in Germany. It is being waged mostly by the media.

About 1000 people responded to an online survey in Germany last month that concluded German citizens were fed up with early sales of Christmas items and wanted a law imposed restricting sales of Christmas goods no sooner than November 30th of each year.

How many people said this? Some media outlets say “most”. The survey results actually say about a third.

Of course, Germany is home to traditional Chriskindelsmariks, or Christmas markets. How could a country central to the rise of Christmas Markets in Europe come to this point?

The truth is, they haven’t. Christmas is as popular as ever in Germany. The media there and all over Europe, however, is active in speaking out against Christmas in any way possible.

Many traditional symbols and icons of the season worldwide originated in Germany and Christmas is a beloved season of the year. Could Germans really be put off by seeing Christmas in stores three months before Christmas?

Not really.

The backdrop of this survey doesn’t take into account current economic conditions. Supermarkets and large box retailers world wide are mostly guilty of the early Christmas marketing and nothing they are doing this year is new. In fact, other recent media reports suggest that supermarkets worldwide are struggling and retailers are looking for any edge they can find. The early sales of Christmas isn’t new and may, in fact, be more pronounced this year.

In other words, Christmas in stores in Germany, like in stores in America, has been a long standing tradition. If people were really against it, they would not be buying it.

So why then these surveys?

Because the media continues to hammer anti-Christian and anti-religious messaging in any way that they can. Political correctness has run rampant in Germany in recent years as evidenced by the outright banning of Christmas in parts of Berlin last year. Observers fully expect more of the same this holiday season.

Anti-Christmas Protests to Launch Thanksgiving Morning

Anti-Christmas Protests to Launch Thanksgiving Morning

As news begins to trickle in of retailers planning to open in the wee hours of Thanksgiving Day we’re hearing that anti-Christmas protesters are planning to be there, too. It begs the question: Will Thanksgiving Day become the ultimate battleground in the War on Christmas?

The media is already in a tizzy each holiday season over “Christmas creep” — the selling of anything Christmas before Thanksgiving.

But when major retailers shifted Black Friday specials before and after Thanksgiving dinner last year the chorus of anti-Christmas voices blossomed in defense of retail workers forced from their families on Thanksgiving.

Unions organized and in parts of the country Black Friday morning protesters marching against low wages and working on holidays made headlines coast to coast.

Social media campaigns and online petitions were launched to seek out supporters who would not shop those Thanksgiving sales events.

But is all this upset of the shopping frenzy-before-the-feast really about Christmas?

We concur with those critical of retailers capitalizing on Thanksgiving Day. We’re against it. But we don’t blame Christmas. We blame retailers.

Regardless, the anti-Christmas forces of the FFRF and other atheist-driven organizations smell opportunity and will use the abuse of Thanksgiving to preach their anti-Christmas gospel.

DefendChristmas.com has been told that protests and banners this year will bear criticism of Christmas as well as retailers. In their view, none of this madness would be happening if not for Christmas. They will claim the sanctity of home, family and tradition are actually being spoiled by…Christmas.

It is a pretty compelling argument. We wonder where it will lead. And we wonder if it just might be enough to begin to turn the tide against culturally popular secular Christmas traditions such as Christmas shopping.

We can’t help but think a more frugal Christmas would be a good thing for everybody. We can’t help but agree the “rush to buy” is an absurd byproduct of an otherwise cherished season. By embracing an anti-Christmas strategy on Thanksgiving the FFRF just might swell their ranks overall.

Retailers War on Christmas

Retailers War on Christmas

Time for a discussion about a real battleground on Christmas: the store.

It does not matter where that store is — online or offline, it is the same. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking retailers of today or retailers a century ago. Past or present, the only real war that has been waged relative to Christmas has been the one for the dollars.

The cry this year stems from retailers who have forgotten that Black Friday falls on a Friday or that a day-after-Thanksgiving sale can’t be called that if it takes place on Thanksgiving.

When some protest evolved last year, culminating with a threatened strike that fizzled at Walmart, retailers took the cue that there’s really nothing about Thanksgiving as a holiday that is sacred: except that it is a great time to hold a sale, all in the name of Christmas.

Kmart used to own the Thanksgiving day shopping business. Opening early in the morning, closing for afternoon “Turkey time” and re-opening during the evening hours had been a Kmart tradition for several years. Now they have to compete with Walmart, Target, JCPenney and even Macy’s, who are approaching the 100 year anniversary of hosting the annual Thanksgiving Day parade, and all of which now tout Thanksgiving day and evening as the start of their Black Friday sales.

It used to be folks would line up for 4am sales at these stores. If they wait until then this year, they will miss it.

Retailers say two things about these trends: first, this is what the customer wants. Indeed, the protests this year are smaller and we’re betting the media will cover the elbow-throwing of Thanksgiving night better than they have of Black Friday morning over the years.

But retailers also claim they have no choice but to do this because the computer, tablet and smart phone never stop selling. The “e-Tailers” of the world (Amazon, Apple, etc) can sell on Thanksgiving without controversy and have done so now for years. Old fashioned stores say they have to do this to compete.

But it goes oh so deeper than that.

Winding its way through Congress right now is a bill called the Marketplace Fairness Act.

We have to be careful with how they name these new laws. Does anyone ever call Obamacare by the “Affordable” Care Act anymore? It’s the same thing with the innocent sounding Marketplace Fairness Act — a wolf in sheep’s clothing if there ever was one.

The bill would require any business, large or small, selling product at retail online to collect taxes for all 50 states.

Think about that for a minute. You go to Amazon on Thanksgiving Day to get one of their big deals and depending upon where you say you live — or, rather, where your credit card reveals where you live — you will pay more for an item than it is listed.

Big deal, right? Sales taxes are a part of life, correct?

Not if you’re living in Newport Beach where you’ll pay about 10 percent more for that great deal than say, anyone in Delaware — which doesn’t have sales tax at all.

What are sales taxes used for? Well, any city or state will tell you that sales taxes go to support the infrastructure where that business is located.

This, says retail groups, is fair.

What they don’t say is that an Internet based retailer working from the middle of nowhere in low-cost Nevada will have to hire expensive attorneys and accountants to defend itself from auditors from…oh, all fifty states. Those doing business online will have to report sales from each zip code and prove to auditors they are being truthful about the taxes they collect. What is that going to cost and who is going to pay for it?

And what about those big boys — such as Walmart, Kmart, Target, JCPenney, Sears, etc — who have both online and offline operations? Won’t they, in fact, just get stronger?

Yes, there is a real battle going on here and at the very center of it is the tiny little holiday they claim makes all this necessary.

And until consumers learn the simple lessons of Dr. Seuss the madness only deepens.

The Gap Caves, Will Say Merry Christmas

The Gap Caves, Will Say Merry Christmas

For years the battle has raged: the American Family Association targeted The Gap and associated companies and brands for not using the words “Merry Christmas” in its advertising and signage. After eight years the battle is over: The Gap concedes and will begin using the dreaded C-word again:

As we near the holiday season I want to update you on how Gap, Inc.’s family of brands will celebrate the Christmas season. As a global retailer, we embrace the diversity of our customers and respect a variety of traditions and faith during the holidays, including Christmas.

Starting today, every Gap Outlet window will have signs that say “Merry Christmas” along with Christmas trees and wreaths throughout their stores.

So says Bill Chandler, a Vice-President-in-Charge-of-This-Kind-of-Stuff for The Gap, in an open letter to the AFA that NO major media has bothered to cover.

Chandler said in the letter that a “special Christmas-themed event” was being planned for all of its Old Navy stores in mid-December, adding that the stores’ websites will also include “Christmas-related products.”

American Family Association President Tim Wildmon said in an email to supporters that eight years ago, nearly 80 percent of retailers abandoned Christmas for a non-offensive, generic holiday approach. The group attributes some retailers’ turnaround to the grassroots pressure the assocation’s supports have put on companies waging a “war on Christmas.”

“AFA began working with GAP Inc. about five years ago when it adamantly refused to use the term ‘Christmas’ in any of its seasonal advertising,” Wildmon said in the email. “For that reason, AFA asked you to boycott Gap stores during the Christmas shopping season last year. Your efforts have paid off.”

We now return you to your regularly scheduled war on Christmas featuring schools and court houses.

Backlash Growing Over Thanksgiving Retailers

Backlash Growing Over Thanksgiving Retailers

Macy’s announced a change in tradition by declaring their 800 stores will open on Thanksgiving Day. JCPenney quickly followed suit. These announcements have given rise to open revolts online by employees and shoppers who would rather keep Thanksgiving a day where stores are closed.

Nearly 7,000 people have signed on to a Facebook page declaring opposition to Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving Day.

Similar efforts were launched last year and some employees threatened to strike retailers who scheduled them to work the holiday. The effort fizzled and stores enjoyed record sales on Thanksgiving Day 2012, which was very heavily promoted.

While some contend the department stores such as Macy’s are merely squeezing an extra day out of a short holiday selling season (Thanksgiving falls on November 28th this year) others say they are merely following discounters such as Walmart and Kmart who have pushed the trend of Thanksgiving operations in recent years.

American Family Association Doesn’t Want You to Shop at Christmas-less Gap

The American Family Association — a name as familiar in the War on the War on Christmas as the Freedom from Religion Foundation — really doesn’t want you to shop at The Gap or any of the stores associated with them (Banana Republic, Old Navy, etc).

Their crime? Shunning the word “Christmas”.

Sure enough, a quick look at websites and ads by these stores reveals a liberal use of the word “holiday” and a seeming drought for the word “Christmas”. It is almost like they purposely have scrub all reference to Christmas from everything associated with them. For this the AFA doesn’t want you buying any of your Christmas presents from The Gap.

The boycott does not appear to be affecting things much at The Gap. They recently announced encouraging results for the 3rd Quarter. And while exact Black Friday results have not yet been shared all faces are smiling at Gap offices in San Francisco (offices that are not, by the way, decorated for Christmas).

So what does this all mean? Does it mean the Gap can lower their expectations for the 4th quarter because their “holiday” sales will lag because of a boycott? Or does it mean the American Family Association is becoming less and less relevant as a focus on Christmas?

The American Family Association is one of the regular agitators in the so-called War on Christmas. Give them a media microphone or a television news camera and they will expound on the War on Christmas like it is a Hamas rocket shower on Israel. They will stir the hearts of Christmas purists while at the same time profiting from their passion by selling them yard signs, bumper stickers and t-shirts that say “It’s OK to say Merry Christmas”.

We are bigger believers in letting the market-place decide. Christmas is not what the AFA or The Gap defines it. It is what the Christmas celebrant defines it. If the Gap is not Christmasy enough for the average Christmas shopper, guess what? They won’t go there. But as long as the AFA continues to promote themselves from one position of extreme they will continue to make everything else good that they stand for seem a bit more ridiculous.

America has bigger problems to solve beyond a contrived war on Christmas.

Canadian Banks Refuse to Decorate for Christmas

Feuds of Christmas displayed on public grounds is one thing. But to complain about a bank not decorating for Christmas? Is that really a problem?

To some Canadians, it is.

Customers of a bank called RBC Financial Services are complaining that bank personnel claim it is against company policy this year to decorate for Christmas. A multi-branch check of the situation reveals that yes, indeed, RBC is not decorating for Christmas this year and employees state is it is company policy not to do so.

And why?

They don’t want to offend anyone.

So what’s happened.

Well, people are offended.

A company’s avoidance of “Christmas” isn’t a new thing. In fact, for years in the United States lists have been kept of companies that refuse to use the word “Christmas” in their seasonal advertising, who won’t allow their employees to say “Merry Christmas” or who just don’t decorate at all during the season. But rarely have we seen these types of reports coming from Canada.

As for the bank they say it is all a misunderstanding about a directive to keep holiday decorations tasteful.

We’re not sure how the leap is made from “keep it tasteful” to “keep it non-existent”. And we’re not sure, frankly, just how important it is that a bank decorate for Christmas in the first place. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t appear to be that important.

However, by flat out refusing to decorate and to have that policy forwarded by bank representatives to the public, well, that’s another thing altogether. That IS offensive. After all, if hearts can be plastered on the windows at Valentine’s Day why can’t there be a tree in the lobby? Banks sure process a lot of money during the Christmas season. It would seem prudent to keep that part of the business from being offended.

Fake Christmas Tree Causes Michigan Uproar

In the land of Bronners and a history of epic fights in the war on Christmas Michigan is back in the news on the War on Christmas with a controversy brewing over…a fake Christmas tree?

An upscale Detroit suburb (is there such a place anymore?) spent $30,000 on a new artificial tree festively decorated with more than 20,000 lights. And it is all fake, causing residents and merchants to grumble in social media and to city officials.

See the story here.

BC Shoe Store Promotes Drugs for Christmas

A student publication at a college in British Columbia is reporting on an area shoe store with a wild Christmas display depicting a reindeer doing cocaine and a Christmas tree laden with baggies filled with white powder:

A shop named Steve Johns Shoes Limited has displayed a controversial Christmas advertisement in which a reindeer appears to be taking drugs in the form of white powder. This has sparked a dispute in the city about whether the advertisement is promoting drugs. The store is located on Bernard Avenue with storefront windows saying “ho ho ho, let it blow.” In addition to the white powder on the table, there also appears to be a razor blade as well as a rolled up dollar bill.

In the interior, a Christmas tree is decorated with bags of white powder on its branches. Residents in the city have been infuriated and have stated that it is very inappropriate. When Paul Barrett, a pedestrian walking down Bernard Avenue saw the store’s advertisement, he took pictures of the display. “It was kind of appalling,” Barrett said. “It was basically set up with what looks like cocaine hanging from baggies in a Christmas tree,” said Paul. “Other than the Christmas tree, it has got nothing to do with Christmas. I looked for signs to see if maybe it had some kind of message against drugs and I did not see that. It was more for drugs and about how you do these drugs and I was quite appalled, I do not know what it is advertising but it is certainly not advertising shoes, there are kids that are walking by this. It is a very low window. It is saying basically, this is what you need to do cocaine,” Paul continued.