Greed-Aid: more Jessops than John Lewis

Valdemar Alsop 16 January 2013

Happy New Year and welcome back! Did those presents you gave and received really hit the mark? I hope so.

So what happened? I hear you cry. Well, of the gifts that I bought, only one of them was marked down after boxing day. One! How dare you defy my crafty attempt to trick you Mrs Retailer? Undeterred, and with a family beginning to think that I was merely scamming them owing to my meanness, student poverty or callous disregard for Christmas, I held out, like a twitchy poker player hoping for a five-card trick,, for another week.

After palming away the grumbling protests of my kin, I then went back online last week and, come what may, decided that I would part with my money. This time, however, I seemed to have been thrown an epiphanic favour from the sale-powers-that-be as half of the gifts were reduced in price; one of them was even half the price it was a week ago. The experiment had – sort of – worked.

I am not going to divulge exactly how much money was sent off to a charitable cause as that’s beside the point. What this wee experiment did expose to me were two clear lessons.

Firstly, our boxing day/January sales bonanza period is not quite the predictable beast I thought it would be. I expected it to behave just as Smaug in The Hobbit: lazy and oblivious to my reluctant, adventurous attempts to take it on. But no, it seems the sales are completely a power of their own now. In truth, I feel this reflects the individualistic and tactical cleverness that has already seeped into Christmas gift buying, which is largely encouraged by the internet.

When people can shop for sales on Christmas Day instead of talking to their relatives (who hasn’t thought of, if not just used, that escape route?), and track prices at the touch of the button, there’s simply less of an incentive for sellers to discount. Like Canute, they can see the oncoming tide of smart shoppers. Unlike Canute, they built equally smart pricing methods to ride the tide, rather than be sunk by it. Go UK PLC.

Secondly, Christmas does, despite the Leona Lewis-esque flop of Greed Aid’s donation impact, mean a bit more than the gifts. My family and I, despite the grumbles and rather disappointed looks at the Christmas tree with nothing under it, instead focused on what really matters – socialising with the family. With no presents to lavish all our attention on (or cringe over), we had to make do with one another and, in truth, it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I quite enjoyed it. So is that one up for Greed Aid? I might be biased but I’d call it a score draw.

Does Greed Aid have a future? A decade or two ago, I think this might have really worked. Sadly, like Myspace, it’s simply missed the boat in our information-savvy world. Sod the January diets and pass me a humbug.

Valdemar Alsop