• September 1, 2006
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Gettin' Schooled

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September's here, and it's a busy time in North America. Labor Day, a holiday on which most of us don't labor, kicks off the month. Oddly enough, the only people who are laboring on Labor Day (except delivering mothers) are the folks we actually refer to as laborers--the sort who don't get vacation days--as opposed to workers, but that's not the topic I intend to address this month. No, I'd like to confront another bit of weirdness known as Back to School Sales. Many of you reading this are parents, so you know what it's like from the perspective of the one who has to lay out the money. I only recall it from a kid's point of view, albeit one who wasn't caught up in having the latest Trapper Keeper and a brand new Spider-Man backpack. Let's consider the crowds--this is painful, but it will be cathartic to share it with my readership. Summer is a long stretch of time for the young, filled with nothing to do but bug the parents to entertain them. The desperation on both sides to come up with something to do, even for an hour, is palpable in most homes. Yet the shopping waits until the dog days of August (when dogs don't want to go out) or even the night before school starts anew. This means adults rushing about with their kids, the latter deep in the throes of schoolphobia, fighting all the other families for the last three-ring binder with Fashion Fever Barbie on the cover. Advice: School supplies don't go bad. Buy them in June, when the brats still remember what goes on in a classroom; don't wait for the minuscule savings that the late-summer sales bring. School supplies aren't that expensive until kids are in college, and by then you can usually con them into buying their own textbooks. Clothing always takes a bite out of family finances, so it's best to consider school uniforms. This is true whether or not the school in question has a uniform policy. You can often buy the outfits used, and it's been proven that taunting and mild abuse build character in the young. Back to school sales make sense for some stores--stationery stores and office supply shops make sense, as do those that carry kids' clothing. Why does Toys'R'Us need a back to school sale? Attention spans can already be measured in 30-second spots--why add distractions? I'm waiting to see a deli or motorcycle dealership post back to school sale signs so I can have myself committed; it's not a sane world, and that will be my proof. (Liquor stores are exempt from this: I know too many teachers to expect them all to face September sober.) On the other hand, what's the point in exhausting yourself fighting the crowds before you even have a reliable shopping list? You don't know what you really need before the term starts, except for the basics, so the wrong things wind up in the cart out of habit. I think I moved into my college dorm room with a bottle of glue and the big box of crayons. Contact Senior Editor Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com
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