The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 8, 2013

MICHELE M. BENDER | Shop until you drop

Michele M. Bender
For The Tribune-Democrat

NANTY GLO — Is it my imagination, or have advertisers dialed back the Christmas hype this season?

Shaq’s peddling pain meds, Gold Bond everything and Buicks, while Brooke pitches milk, Foster Grants, Lazy Boys and Latisse (“Miracle Gro” for eyelashes), but that’s pretty routine.

K-Mart shows a couple suffering uncontrollable spasms. Neighbors explain they’re “gifting out.” They’re also insulting everybody’s intelligence.

The Miley Cyrus Obscenity Prize goes to “Joe Boxer Underwear.” Six young men sporting tuxedo tops, Santa hats and boxer underwear equipped with bells, gyrate to “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

Advertisers drag out the old reliable stuff when shoppers approach desperation. Only folks in late stages of agitation and frenzy would purchase Clappers, Snuggies (blankets with sleeves and hoods, ideal for cult members), chia pets or the singing fish mounted on his wooden plaque.

Have you seen the ad for the colorful, motion-sensitive talking plastic parrot on his gold perch? The “voice-over” points out his “advantages” too enthusiastically ... actually scary. “No food to buy,” says the voice. “No water, no mess, no cage to clean. Enjoy your pet effortlessly.”

A STEPFORD PARROT!!  Have mercy!

Readers, do you have a senior on your list? Let me, for once, seriously, help with gift ideas!

1. Gripper sox. Readily available, low-priced grips keep seniors snug and safe.

2. Old Brooklyn Lantern. Rarely costing more than $15, this battery-operated gizmo requires no oil, wick, or flame. (I have two!)

3. A copier. We don’t need a multi-tasking unit that scans, faxes, prints and makes breakfast. A simple copier will help us geezers preserve documents, receipts, instructions, RXs and more. An actual copy of something is awesome to prove YOU are not some senile wingnut.

4. A Trac Fone. I have a “landline” and a cell, but my Trac Fone is strictly for emergencies. The phone itself is usually under $20. And, yes, you have to purchase time cards three or four times a year to keep it active.

Consider the alternative: a pricey “life-saver” system. A Trac hour is $20. Three or four times a year adds up to maybe $80. And you only buy the phone once. My gal pal Denice gave me mine eight years ago. It’s always in my walker bag, or in one of those inconspicuous “wristlets” that are popping up everywhere. Men can easily hook one to a belt or pocket.

Teenagers? Give the “Grands” a “Battery Bouquet.” Fill a gift bag with Ds for flashlights, AAs or AAAs for remotes and gadgets, 9V for smoke alarms. The bag can hang somewhere convenient.

Want a HALO? Include home-made gift certificates for services ... grass-cutting, leaf-raking or smaller tasks ... checking that smoke alarm bi-yearly, car wash, planting a geranium.

Do not – I repeat – DO NOT resort to chias and fruitcakes!

And to my family and friends, be warned: If one of those Stepford parrots shows up at this house, I WILL have to hurt someone!

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee. She can be emailed at