Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let The Races Begin!

"There will now be a 30% discount at the Levi's store for the next 5 minutes," the voice crackles over the loudspeaker. Nothing short of an Argentine stampede rumbles through the mall, seeking out the sound of a bugler blasting out "Camptown Races" in front of the Levis store. "Hurry, hurry, you've only 5 minutes to get in before the sale ends!" cries a tuxedo-clad chamuyero with a megaphone. Little Argentine pixies in flourescent wigs shake their tushies in front as the tux man supervises organized chaos.

It's business as usual every Dec. 23rd in Alto Rosario, a shopping mall in the bourgeois part of town. The 23rd is sort of like their equivalent of "Black Friday," except that it's encouraging excessive spending before the holiday. Every store remains open until midnite, all offering a 20% discount until tuxman makes an annoucement of where the next 30-40% bargain will be for the next 5-15 minutes. For a country that has faulted excessive capitalism (well, American style capitalism) for many of their economic woes, they seem to bring a massive jolt of hyper-consumerism come the holidays.

Trying to bargain hunt in this climate was a bit of a nightmare, so I grabbed a coffee and watched the mayhem unfold. It was fairly organized, some light pushing and shoving; I even saw mall security to separate two brawling boys over a pair of Adidas sneakers. For imported products especially, this day allows Argentines to splurge a little more than usual. I checked the tag of some Levis jeans: 289 pesos, which is like $80 in the US. Granted, some designer jeans in the U.S. cost $200, but Levis? I got mine for $30. The kicker for me was that the every line to get into the sale stores AND the line for ice cream were all longer than the line to meet Santa, which was never more than 2 or 3 people waiting.

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