There had never been a more miserly man than John Q. Consumer—better known as, GOUGED. He adopted his nickname for he felt Christmas was no more than another excuse for retailers to pick a man’s pocket. “Season of giving? Bah, humbug!” he was often heard to say.
His abrasive personality and manner of being were forged out of his disdain for the holiday—and for not spending money in general.
Every year—starting around June—he found himself being bombarded with Christmas deals, on television and in print ads, offering holiday sales on everything—from cars to…well… MORE CARS!
Oh sure, advertisers still offered the cheaply made goods as well—like those that would fall apart after only three or four uses, but, GOUGED, had discovered something more devious.
Retailers would often mark goods up in price in advance of the holidays. Only to reduce prices back down to their original OVERPRICED amount in time for Christmas holiday shopping.
Naturally, GOUGED, became as bitter as the cold that accompanied the festive holiday season.
And after finding that those items failed to work when he got them home, he was further frustrated by having to go back and stand in long lines to get his money back. Many times, only to be told of the retailers no return policy.
He felt preyed upon by the mercantile for his hard earned… MINIMUM WAGE.
During the holiday season the “Ladies and gentleman of charity” could be found standing by their little red kettles in front of many retailers places of business.
They would ask him to contribute to those in need of common necessities. Hoping, that he might be willing to give to the less fortunate, and thus offering provisions for the poor and destitute—of which he was one.
Being part of what was formerly known as, The Middle Class, his answer was always the same. “Bah, humbug.”
No one ever had the slightest clue what that meant. But, they figured as long as the old fool cracked loose with some cold hard cash—preferably tens and twenties—let the old geezer babble and speak all the gibberish he wants.
For the record; Bah, humbug actually translated into, “Hey, when are you dummies going to start contributing to my needs?”
So this Christmas Eve, GOUGED, decided things would be different. He launched into a tirade, and asked his detractors why there weren’t more unionized workhouses in operation paying a living wage to their workers?
And, why bankers never considered lowering interest rates? Or, why unemployment offices never honestly tried to provide for those in debtors prison—better known as credit card holders?
“Right.” they would reply, “Well, you see sir, there are many unscrupulous employers operating, along with banking institutions and corporations, and each is corrupt as all get out. They’re always wanting to pay less while raking in more. Bankers raise interest rates constantly to remain highly profitable. And all this comes at the expense of the suckers… uh… laborer’s and shopper’s.”
“And why do they do this?” GOUGED asked. “I’ll tell you why. They want to ‘decrease the surplus population’ that’s why! Then you’ll only have the wealthy to fill your little red kettles at this time of the year.”
And they were all to aware of how the tightfisted wealthy seldom did that.
His rant had caught them off guard. GOUGED sounded inexplicably like he was from the United Kingdom, but they knew him to be American?
Realizing his slip of the tongue as he had recently become an Anglophile—no doubt because he had seen far too many remakes of A Christmas Carol—he decided to pause for effect.
Then—now in broken American English—he continued his rant.
“Employers don’t like having to pay health benefits for what is left of their overworked, underpaid employees. So, in order to increase their hefty profit margin—and still reluctantly pay the health care cost—they slash the wages of the laborer’s who helped make them that tidy profit.”
Oh, it should be noted, that many a laborer hadn’t seen a cost of living increase, in about fifteen years.
And, GOUGED, further knew that those who lost their jobs would likely find themselves navigating a never ending call tree over the phone with the unemployment office.
Those few who did manage to get through, would likely be dismissed as unwilling to work. And this was because they were going to be paid far less than what an illegal alien (immigrant, or is that emigrant) could possibly scrape by on.
The “Ladies and gentleman of charity” warned, GOUGED, that the merchants might be angry if they ever heard his views on the state of the economy. Perhaps they might hire some peasant to go about plastering his car windshield (LITERALLY), with thousands of flyers in an attempt to promote one of their sales.
“Bah, humbug!” he shouted at them, and off he went into the bitterly cold winter night. Seeking out his car in a poorly lit parking lot, only to uncover its windshield—WITH A CHISEL AND A SCRAPER!
GOUGED, finally arrived home close to midnight. He was sitting down to a cup of Campbell’s Beef and Barley soup, when someone came crashing through his front door. It was one, Jacob Marley, his former used car salesman. Who only recently had lost his job at the local Carfax dealership.
Hardly a ghost, but a shell of a human-being all the same. However, GOUGED, didn’t feel this excused, Marley’s, driving through his front door—WHILE INTOXICATED!
It made for a very uncomfortable encounter; “Take heed, GOUGED” Marley began, “for I have it on good authority—I think it was a guy down in front of Macy’s ringing some sleigh bells—that you have forged in life a chain of debt, far less than that of my own!”
GOUGED, cowered over his checkbook—surrogate to his empty bank account.
“Beware GOUGED” Marley intoned, “beware, for you will soon be visited by The 3 Spirits of Madison Avenue over the course of the next 72 to 96 hours. “Beware!” he warbled.
Then he faded from view—while handcuffed in the back seat of a squad car, as he was taken off to jail for a DUI.
GOUGED, thinking, Marley, was a man given to drink and likely suffering from the DT’s, decided to ignore the whole incident.
But, not before he called his State Farm Insurance agent about the damage to his front door. His agent was wearing Khaki’s at the time and sitting at his desk at 1:00 AM in the morning, just waiting for a business call. Not that any of that is important to the story.
Nevertheless, a few hours later, the first spirit of Madison Avenue arrived.
“GOUGED!” it bellowed from the glimmering light of the television screen. “Who is that?” asked GOUGED, grabbing his 12 gauge shotgun.
“I am the ghost of Black Friday past.” replied the voice from the TV. The spirit floated through the disrupted cable signal (which GOUGED paid through the nose for on a monthly basis) and into his living room.
Fearsome indeed was she. Battered of face with clothing torn asunder, the ghost was the full embodiment of a Black Friday shopper. A real Walking Dead zombie! She implored, GOUGED, screaming at the top of her lungs…
“Remember… anything for the deal, anything for the deal!”
The thirty second, million dollar spot—paid for by advertisers—was over. The spirit had vanished, but, not before GOUGED had emptied his 12 gauge into the screen in a blind panic.
“Now I’m going to need a new Samsung 110 inch TV for Christmas.” he frustratingly thought to himself—a sad price to pay for being a gun-toting ARA member.
Now, left with only being able to watch YouTube on his desktop, he gradually nodded off to sleep again.
24 hours had passed, when suddenly a voice echoed from the monitor in front of him. “GOUGED” the voice asked searchingly, “are you there?” He sought refuge under his pegged together, IKEA desk.
“I am the ghost of Small Business Saturday.” it continued. GOUGED, recognized the voice.
“Bob, Bob Cratchet? Is that you?” GOUGED asked.
Bob was the owner of The Rug Emporium down the street. He was always going out of business for one reason or another, only to reopen a month or so later, but usually with a relative taking over as new owner.
However, old Mr. Fizziwig recently bought him out, or so Bob claimed.
“You have never seen the likes of me, have you GOUGED? For you’ve never shopped locally on Small Business Saturday, have you? In fact, you never shop at all, do you, GOUGED?” asked, Bob.
GOUGED replied “True, and I can’t see you now either, but I recently WINDOW SHOPPED your former store. Which I believe is now under new management by old man Fizziwig, is it not?”
“Window shopping doesn’t count, GOUGED. Ignorance and want, that’s what counts these days. But, I tell you what, my son, Tiny Tim (who stood 25 stone), has bought the store back from old man Fizziwig, and he’ll make you a right fine deal on some new Persian rugs. Whad’ya say?”
GOUGED, thought for a moment and replied…
“Okay… I promise to buy some rugs—NOT! Look, I’m going to need a new computer monitor more than those stupid rugs. See, this monitor appears to be shot!” (and a bang rang out)
And with that, GOUGED, was out of ammo.
Another 24 hours went by. Soon, GOUGED (who practically overdosed on sleeping pills), heard a buzz on his cell phone. He picked it up and clicked on the smart phone only to be met with a reminder, that the third spirit had finally arrived.
It was the ghost of Cyber Monday.
“Am I in the presence of the ghost of Cyber Monday yet to come?” asked, GOUGED, reluctantly. His smart phone beeped in the affirmative. “Oh spirit” GOUGED continued, “I fear you most of all. For I am technologically challenged and do not have a PayPal account. Should I Google how to get one?”
The phone beeped and an image appeared. It was the photo of an H&R Block. Followed by the words “Spend…or else!”
GOUGED thought for a moment, and then asked, “Or else…what?” Another beep, and a picture of Tiny Tim’s Rug Emporium appeared with the words “Closing, everything must go. Going out of business.”
Gouged asked, “Spirit, are these the shadowy signs of what might be, or what has actually happened? Because, Cratchet is always claiming he’s going to be going out of business.”
The phone beeped once again and the screen on his phone read…
“GOUGED, I fear if you do not start spending money—LOT’S AND LOT’S OF MONEY, AND SOON—Tiny Tim’s Rug Emporium will be no more. And, I suspect a visit from the IRS might be in order.”
“No not an audit!” cried GOUGED.
“Please spirit, I promise I’ll exhaust my savings (all two cents worth), I’ll even spend money I don’t have, max out my credit cards, get a lone from a bank—well at least exhaust my savings, spend money I don’t have, and max out all my credit cards.”
“Can’t do much about the bank loan thing though…banks don’t loan money anymore. But, I swear on my former used car salesman’s liver, I’ll do the rest!”
The phone beeps stopped. GOUGED, figured he’d better sell out to the spirit of Cyber Monday—but FAST!
“Hey… I don’t mind being gouged for the money, honest I don’t!” he screamed, “I promise, I’ll do all the other stuff just like I said. Just please… don’t send the IRS to my door to conduct an audit. I can’t afford a law firm!”
GOUGED, dropped to his hands and knees—and reached under his bed for an an old shoe box full of receipts—just in case. Then he rushed outside and practically drove over a jaywalker carrying a small turkey to get to the closest ATM and withdraw his savings.
GOUGED, proved to be better than his word, though. He gave all his cash until the little red kettles swelled with money. And he bought those Persian rugs, just like he promised he would from, Tiny Tim’s Carpet Emporium.
Of course… he eventually was arrested and put in prison for the embezzling of funds, writing bad checks, and for committing grand larceny.
But, he did keep Tiny Tim’s Rug Emporium from going out of business. Plus, he kept Tim out of debt, all while still keeping Tiny Tim’s Rug Emporium flush with cash.
And after all, isn’t that what the true spirit of Christmas is all about? The spirit of giving—until it hurts?
(Soon to be a Major Motion Picture from some big name studio starring Tom Hanks—then I woke up.)