Why Sacrifice Our Only Shared Times for "Gemütlichkeit" for Another Few Franatic Hours of Consumerism?
The fight for Christmas shoppers is in high gear, and three Vienna merchants are gearing up for the holidays with a bid this year to embrace the season with longer opening hours and yes, shopping on Sundays.
The fashion retailers in Vienna’s First District have taken arms against a sea of private-sector union employees, and are fighting for the right to maximize their return at the expense of the only real ‘good’ any of us has – our free time.
For now, they have only secured the three Sundays of Advent, the 3rd, 10th and 17th of December, for Christmas shoppers.
But where does one draw the line? It’s a slippery slope.
A recent visit from an American friend brought home what a consumer-friendly Sunday means. Walking down the Graben last weekend – coffee houses full and punch stands steaming – dodging the occasional group of children and elderly couples on their midday stroll, my companion turned to me and in complete wonderment asked, "What are all these people doing here?"
"Don’t know," I replied. "Looks like they’re taking a walk."
" But all the stores are closed!"
The expression on his face was priceless.
What is it that many Austrians are beginning to want? Longer store hours? Open retailers on Sundays? When is it then that a family of a lawyer father, manager mother, high school daughter working at H&M and a son at Mediamarkt can have a nice family brunch, together without losing a day of work? Never.
If you don’t believe me ask any American, and many British, working class families. Your employer has only to gain by your working longer, but you have a lot to lose, particularly if you refuse – namely your job.
Some of my American relatives can’t celebrate Christmas together because the generations can’t get enough days off together – even during the holiday season – to make the trip worthwhile.
In Austria we still have a luxury unknown to many "developed" countries, which is a practically universal evenings and Sundays off. Exceptions include food stores serving travelers, the odd convenience store, but only until 10pm and of course restaurants, bars and theaters. Everything else can wait until Monday.
No one can convince me of the necessity to buy a couch on Sunday morning or that they would give up the preverbal mélange with friends to wander the halls of the Peek & Kloppenburg.
What is it that we’ll lose? We sacrifice the only wide-spread opportunity for Gemütlichkeit for a few extra hours of consumerism.
I have seen the future and it’s not a pretty picture. When the barriers are lifted, over time, there is no one left to support the films, concerts, plays, museums, parks, restaurants, coffeehouses…
In the end, the only thing left to do in your free time is go to the mall.