_ It says: Sale.
Citizens of the United States will not understand the significance of this four-letter word, because one never goes very long or far without spotting one in the Land of the Mall and the Home of Credit Card Debt.
Germany, on the other hand, is different (duh!). In the past, clearance sales were permitted only two times per year: winter close-out, starting at the end of January, and summer close-out in July. There was an obscure clause permitting businesses to have a going-out-of-business sale, which was abused by Persian carpet sellers and other shady characters. These people would open a shop, run it for a few months, go out of business, and move down the street to a new location.
Anyways, that’s not the story here. Regulations regarding sales have been loosening slowly. They are still restricted to seasonal close-outs, but the times have become elastic, and more exceptions have been invented. Some stores start early with close-outs by writing to “valued” customers; advertising is not allowed. Many put price tags with red numbers in the window. Savvy shoppers know to look for these signs.
This year, sales have started to sprout up already weeks before Christmas, which is a long way from the traditional February window. Retailers must be in trouble and want to lure reluctant shoppers into spending money. Or they have been following the economic news and believe that times are tough.
Of course, I do not pity the high-end retailers. Even if they knock 40 to 50% off their exorbitant prices, they will still make money. Once again, the middle and the bottom of the retail pyramid could suffer, if shoppers stay home or cut back. Christmas should be a time of excess, and words, such as Sale or Save, should never be uttered or heard.
That said, I bought a present today, the price of which was marked down. Not unlike every other year, I had been watching for the first signs of creeping bargains...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.