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The Times
  • Peter Costa: The driving force behind holiday crowds

  • I went to the mall recently and had to park in Paraguay.  I thought most people were shopping online this year. What were they doing out there during the work day at the brick-and-mortar stores? Buying on layaway?

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  • I went to the mall recently and had to park in Paraguay.
    Who were these people riding those 21-inch, luxury car rims? I thought most people were shopping online this year. What were they doing out there during the work day at the brick-and-mortar stores? Buying on layaway?
    The experts seem to be wrong once again. People are confident enough to buy on credit in the same way their government is confident the national debt won’t fall down like a rusty old bridge.
    I think the root cause is the frenzy over smart phones. Not only does everyone under 60 have a regular cell phone, but now they have computers that are also phones. There are apps that will do everything for you except take a shot of Novocain. Who knows, there may be a hypnotism app that will make even dentistry painless.
    With the phones comes temptation. One can book a flight to Aruba while buying a gallon of milk at the grocery market or getting the oil changed in your not-yet-paid-for, sleek car.
    More phones require more batteries — a lot more. If you add the cost of batteries to the cost of wireless cellular service, you reach the level of a mortgage payment. I think what is happening at the mall is that people are rushing for phones and accessories like a stampede of wildebeests headed for the last known waterhole.
    It’s amazing to experience it firsthand. The stampede rushes through the heavy glass doors and curves around the ATM machines. Immediately, several hundred head drop out, reluctantly get in line and pull out their cell phones to let their friends know they are waiting in line to get money to buy more cell phones and accessories.
    Oh, and while they are there, they will give into impulsive behavior and buy a utility tractor, an emergency electricity generator, French perfumes and a complete makeup kit that Gisele Bundchen might use. I buy a 5-gallon bucket of detergent.
    Of course, after I walk with it for a block or so, the wire handle starts to cut into my hand. I have miles to go before I can even find the parking garage.
    And wouldn’t you know it, I gave up my cell phone last year. I am a reverse early adaptor. Can someone call me a cab?
    Peter Costa is a columnist for GateHouse Media. His latest book is a novel, "The Priest’s Gamble." It is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
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