Starbucks shuts down criticism of its holiday cup design

Well, looks like I goofed. In a previous post I called the Starbucks cup design the holiday re-design and apparently it was not. That design was more election-related, though most of what I wrote about Starbucks being in the center of controversy stands.

Grubstreet recently reported on the real Starbucks holiday cup design, and while “critic-proof” is by no means an absolute, it is interesting how they arrived at the 2016 holiday season designs.

Those who wanted to saw the gradient/ombre cups of 2015 as a “war on Christmas.” They even discarded the reality that most of the symbols people associate with Christmas were appropriated from earlier pagan festivals such as Saturnalia to arrive at this conclusion. I think I’ve said plenty about the alleged “war on Christmas” already but I think some of it bears repeating. There are many different observances between the American Thanksgiving and the beginning of the new year: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Grav-mass/Newtonmas, Yule, Yalda, Boxing Day, Dongzhi Festival, Quaid-e-Azam’s Day, Chalica, Soyal, Pancha Ganapati, Festivus… just to name a few.

Anyway, before I go too far off on that tangent, Starbucks took 13 of the best designs drawn on the 2015 cups, and used them as designs for the 2016 cups. The 2016 cups don’t appear to have the actual ombre/gradient background from 2015, though (I happen to be at a Starbucks as I write this so I can glance over and look). Even more interesting, Starbucks has made a winter design for the clear plastic cups used for cold drinks, since those still get ordered down south in cities like Houston (and not just the weirdo geek writing this that orders iced tea at Starbucks 10½ to 11 months out of the year).

The assertion of “critic-proof” has yet to be proven. But to those who are going to call a “war on Christmas” based on not including things like snowflakes, trees, or other symbols of wintertime: make a note of where they come from. Even Santa Claus has his origins in Yule, not Christmas.

Maybe it’s time I call a “war on Yule and Saturnalia” given that so much “Christmas” decorations have been appropriated from those two holidays.

Disney’s cloud-based video subscription shenanigans

Is it just me, or is the whole point of buying seasonal videos (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Yule, etc) to watch them during that season?

In a recent story on TorrentFreak (originally reported on BoingBoing) which I unfortunately missed during the holiday season, it was reported that Disney temporarily pulled several Christmas-themed videos from the Amazon Instant Video service during the holiday season. The reason? So the videos would be exclusively available on Disney’s cable TV channels.

From the article, quoting a customer only identified as Bill:

“Amazon has explained to me that Disney can pull their content at any time and ‘at this time they’ve pulled that show for exclusivity on their own channel.’ In other words, Amazon sold me a Christmas special my kids can’t watch during the run up to Christmas,” Bill notes.

“It’ll be available in July though!” he adds.

I think Disney has hit a new low here and has unintentionally brought a whole new meaning to the term “Mickey Mouse operation.” It defies pretty much any type of logic to sell a video intended for viewing during the holiday season, and then make it unavailable during said holiday season. In essence, it’s “thank you for your money, now subscribe to the Disney Channel which will require even more money.”

Disney needs to apologize profusely for this, if they have not already done so. Should Disney fail to do so, I can count at least one Star Wars fan who will not give Disney one red cent to watch the new Star Wars films. (I do plan to watch them; it’s a question of whether or not Disney gets any money from me when I do. How I watch some movies without paying for them is left as an exercise to the reader.)

Amazon has disappointed me as well. I would rather have seen Amazon not budge and tell Disney where to stick their “we can revoke access at any time” clause in the contract. Maybe that means that Disney’s holiday-themed videos wouldn’t be available anywhere (I am assuming Netflix didn’t have them). And maybe that’s a good thing, as it is paramount to giving Disney the figurative shotgun and shells to figuratively blast themselves in the foot.

Moral of the story: if you want to be sure it’s there when you’re ready to watch, don’t trust the cloud. Get a physical disc or DRM-free download.

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and holiday shopping

I’m not going to cite a specific news article for this post, because the news on this one is rather widespread and should easily be found. There has been a huge controversy over the past couple of weeks about retailers starting their Black Friday sales as early as 8pm Thanksgiving Day, effectively cutting into their employees’ Thanksgiving dinner time and complicating any travel plans they may have had to visit family in other cities.

This wouldn’t be so bad except for one thing. I, personally, have noticed a trend in recent years for seasonal merchandise to be out earlier and earlier. The Halloween season starts not all that long after Labor Day in September, and the Christmas/Yule merchandise is already out the first week of November. I’m all for marketing, in general, but it’s no secret that retailers profit handily during the Christmas/Yule shopping season and the greed inherent in promoting the season a whole two months in advance is quite palpable.

It comes down to basic economics. The retailers will not start Black “Friday” sales as far back as Thursday evening, or even Friday at midnight, if the demand isn’t there. It only takes one time for a retailer’s management to get burned by unnecessary labor costs on top of the headache of finding employees willing to blow off their Thanksgiving dinner to work (which, even in retail, is not quite as easy as it sounds), to realize they made a mistake. Hitting a retailer’s bottom line will make a much more profound and meaningful statement than a petition ever will. On the other hand, as long as there are enough people attending the early Black “Friday” sales the evening of Thanksgiving Day, they’ll be here to stay. Again, it’s all about supply and demand.