Let the Shopping Begin

I admit it. I procrastinate a lot when it comes to holiday shopping, so I find it hard to believe that people are half done with theirs already. But I'll take Bill LaPierre's word for it when he tells us that his clients at Millard have 40 percent to 50 percent of their holiday sales in (see story, page 1). As usual, it's questionable whether retailers will be happy this year. A new poll from Gallup says consumers will spend 4.5 percent more money on gifts this year, while the National Retail Federation even raised its projections because of falling gas prices. Others aren't as joyous; the Boston Consulting Group, for one, predicts that 40 percent of consumers will spend less. The Conference Board is less optimistic, too.

Even my credit card company is in the holiday mood this year, as evidenced by a letter I received the other day reminding me to get out there and shop. For data security reasons, I'm leaving out the company's name.

“Like you, we at BLANK are reflecting on what's important this holiday season. (Yeah, like spending money and charging it to my credit cards is what's important this holiday season.) It's the perfect time to thank you for being our Customer – and to remind you of some of the valuable services that come with your credit card. (Again, go spend money. Now!)

“For your peace of mind, we give you free protection against fraudulent use (hey, isn't that required by law for unauthorized charges over $50?) – including 24-hour account monitoring, which tracks and analyzes every transaction. (Hmm, if a person were looking through my recent purchase information and not a computer, I might not be all that happy.) Should fraud occur, we will assume total liability for any unauthorized charges.” (Again, they basically have to do this.)

The letter mentioned other “valuable” features including free emergency card replacement; free 24-hour assistance for holiday shopping and entertaining; and a free service that “creates an alternate account number for online purchases so your real account number never travels the Internet.” Aha! Finally, something worth mentioning, though after doing some Internet research, it turns out that this service has been around for a few years, which leads to the question: Why isn't my credit card company doing a better job to promote it?

Too bad the letter didn't offer something of real value, like a lower interest rate or a longer grace period. It seems that might be asking too much. Still, why do I have the urge to go buy something?

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