Travis Black - December 2018

My family moved to Northern California in 1992, in the first part of November. Our neighbors told us about this place called Apple Hill and about the fun of exploring the many great apple orchards, and sampling the apple pies and freshly baked donuts. We also learned that everyone would cut their own Christmas trees! In Southern California, Christmas trees were purchased in grocery store parking lots, so this was a new experience for us! If you purchased a tree after Thanksgiving, you would have a pile of brown needles on the floor before Christmas. That was the norm! Our new tradition was to take our truck up to Apple Hill and spend a whole day looking for the perfect tree! Of course, we would have to stop for our hot apple cider and donuts. The first year, our son, Ryan, was eight years old, and we left it up to him to find his tree. As soon as we parked, Ryan and his yellow Labrador retriever, Josh, would take off running into the trees. We followed, and we would hear him talking to his dog about the trees he would find. His mom would carry red ribbons with her so that she could mark the trees that he found. Every year was a different adventure with heated debates about the perfect tree. Several years we got snow. One year it snowed so hard we didn’t spend a lot of time picking trees, but it was a great time. We made enough time to have a snowball fight in the parking lot! Shoppers flock to retailers every Black Friday in hopes of securing the best deals on the year’s hottest products. There are many nasty aspects of Black Friday — the long lines, the overzealous shoppers, the limited stock of items — but phony pricing and fake sales shouldn’t be among them. But that’s exactly what happened to folks in Los Angeles during the 2016 holiday season, leading to the biggest Black Friday lawsuit in history. In December of 2016, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office sued J.C. Penney, Sears, Macy’s, and Kohl’s for a practice called “false reference pricing,” a nefarious tactic whereby retailers lie about the original price of an item to make a discount appear bigger than it actually is. For example, Sears sold a Kenmore washing machine at a “sale price” of $999.99, compared to a “regular price” of $1,179.99. The problem was the so-called sale price was actually the price that product was offered at every day. Therefore, it wasn’t actually on sale. Duping your customers is a bad business practice, but what makes it illegal? Well, California law requires that retailers post a retail price no higher than what the product was sold at within three months FAKE DISCOUNTS AND ANGRY SHOPPERS CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

prior to the ad. “Families today … are striving to get the very most they can get from an extremely hard-earned holiday shopping dollar,” said LA City Attorney Mike Feuer. “They deserve to make an informed decision.” After the suit was brought against them, the retailers all quickly moved to settle, promising to never engage in false reference pricing again. Most retailers offer discounts around the holidays to encourage shoppers to come into their stores or visit their websites. Promotions and sales are great tools in any business’s arsenal, provided they aren’t out to mislead customers. Big-box stores may try to manipulate innocent people, and it’s up to aggrieved customers to hold those corporations accountable. Nearly every year, you’ll read about a class-action lawsuit that develops in response to the shady tactics of businesses eager to secure those holiday shopping dollars. Are there great bargains to be had on Black Friday? Of course. But if something sounds too good to be true, it very well might be. Keep your eyes peeled and don’t let retailers trick you into a purchase you wouldn’t make otherwise.

When we found the perfect tree, Ryan then wanted to cut the tree down by himself. This process lasted about two minutes, until he was tired and would then let me help. Once the tree was cut, wrapped, and put into the truck, we started our drive home. I still have the picture of Ryan curled up on the backseat, sound asleep with his dog. After Ryan went away to college, the Christmas tree tradition sort of stopped. However, a couple of years ago, I got a very pleasant surprise. Ryan, now 34, and his wife came home and wanted to continue the tradition. His wife had never cut a tree before! We set off with my newest Labrador retriever, Ellie, and headed up to Apple Hill! Some things never change! Ryan and his wife went off into the trees with Ellie. You could hear them laughing and debating. We carried the red ribbons, and soon we had our perfect trees. Some things do change, though — now I let my son cut the trees! We stopped for our hot apple cider and headed home.

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