Update: I ran the following blog post last year in response to the ubiquitous inflatable yard creatures that are found in most neighborhoods. While I thought they may be on the decline, this year there are more than ever…and not just around Christmas time either.
First, let me start by saying I love the free market – whether it be the marketplace of ideas, opinions or goods and services. The marketplace of ideas and beliefs is especially prominent during the holiday season. During this time of year, not a day goes by that the media does not report a spat over the display of holiday symbols, whether at an airport, a school, or the public square. Should we allow religious displays, secular displays, both or none at all? That is not a question I will even attempt to answer here.
But something else in the market is often overlooked and rarely debated this time of year: inflatable yard ornaments. Years ago, just a few light-up inflatable snowmen and Santas subtlely dotted the suburban landscape. Now entire yards are dwarfed by these plastic behemoths, including Thanksgiving turkeys in November, ghosts and goblins in October, Uncle Sam in July, the Easter Bunny in April, leprechauns in March and cupids in February. And no, it’s not enough to have just one figure; now there are complete families of snowmen, women and kids, elves, nativity, leprechauns, whatever…you name it. (In an effort to be inclusive, I’m sure there are also nontraditional snow families, gender-neutral leprechauns and the like).
Call me Scrooge, but I find it particularly troubling that households across America have traded hand-crafted wooden cutouts, luminaries, and traditional traveling multi-colored lights in exchange for inflatable snowmen, Santas and Grinches. Many of them are larger than life, bearing a resemblance to the towering Sta-Puff marshmallow man in the movie, “Ghostbusters.” In fact, some of the smallest yards contain at three or more of these figures, all aglow…smiling…waving…and just waiting to smother an unsuspecting delivery person that comes to the door. On a pleasant evening, the imposing creatures are tolerable. But since most Texas days are not complete without 20 mile-an-hour wind gusts, the inflatables are often convulsing violently, sometimes ending up flat on the ground, only to be revived the next day. Just the other evening, I drove by an inflatable nutcracker, bent forward, staring at the ground, looking as if he was about to vomit a little Christmas cheer from the night before.
What is particularly remarkable is the tolerance of homeowners’ associations for this phenomenon. If I attempted to put a clothesline in my fenced backyard, of which only I could see, I would probably need a permit or risk being tarred and feathered by my neighbors. Yet neighborhoods welcome gargantuan yard creatures that wave, hurl, fall, deflate and implode on themselves two months out of the year.
With a new presidential administration soon to be, I’m sure there will be a market for Trump lawn decorations (or Hillary for those who wish for what could have been). But I don’t want to give marketers any ideas.
Happy Holidays to all!