I've put a price on your child's happiness: $600. That's how much I want for my PlayStation 2 -- opened -- which I bought for $300 a little over a month ago.
Furthermore, I will remind you every step of the way that what I'm selling you isn't worth $600, that it'll be available for half that in just a few months. But that extra $300 you give me (and yes, you will decide that Christmas this year is worth the extra $300) will be totally because the toy zaibatsus have more control over your son or daughter than you do.
I'm not that bad of a guy -- really I'm not. In fact, every year at Christmastime I make a cursory sweep of Kay-Bee Toys to see if they have a Tickle Me Elmo or a Furby I can buy and then give as a present to some deserving (read: on the verge of mental and physical collapse) mom in the parking lot. But I never found any (Furbys, not moms).
This year's situation, I'm telling myself, is totally different. The PlayStation2 isn't a doll, it's the most sophisticated video game machine of all time! It plays DVDs and CDs! It's backward compatible, so all the PlayStation games your kids have will still work on the new model! It's well worth the 300 bucks I spent on it, and for the next few weeks it's worth double that.
I was hoping to sell this to someone other than you. My ideal buyer would be a 35-year-old ponytailed male living in his parents' basement with posters of Lara Croft and "A Clockwork Orange" on the walls. That guy, who was probably behind me in line and missed the cutoff, has no dependents, has loads of discretionary income and has regularly dealt with enough concert scalpers and two-faced pot dealers to know the drill.
But instead of Comic Book Guy, I'm dealing with Marge Simpson. And I have the sneaking suspicion that I'm the bad guy here.
This is the first time I've been on the "Let them eat cake" end of a deal like this. This must be what millionaires feel like: I've got the resources to solve at least one of the world's problems, minor though it may be. Yet I'm holding back, so I can get more money.
No matter what I do, I'll feel guilt. If I keep it, then I've denied kids who'd get much more enjoyment out of it than I will. If I give it away, then I'm out $300 -- and how do I know that the person I give it to won't go ahead and sell it for the $600 I gave up on? And by selling it to you, I'm letting society's pressures press your head against the chopping block. Since this guilt brings me $600, it's an easy choice.
But it's not. I've been putting off whoring it on eBay. And thanks to my local newspaper's classified glosso-legalia, I'd have to pay over $120 to advertise it for a week, instead of the normal 20 bucks. And there are constant news stories warning about people just like me who are selling their PS2s for more money than they're worth, selling empty boxes, not delivering at all, giving away poison candy and razor-bladed apples with every order. See, I'm the real victim here!
OK, I'm not. Part of me, xenophobically, still considers PS2 owners "them" instead of "us." They're characterized as ultragreedy, materialistic, godless cyber-squatters. I hate those guys -- how can I be like them at all? No, so long as someone else can be blamed for the anti-me sentiment in America right now, I'll be OK. And the only person I'll be in business contact with over this will be the mom in her 30s who's partly considering selling what she buys from me to her neighbor Darlene for an extra $75 because Darlene's the one who really lets her kids run over her.
Aw, who'm I kidding? I'm not selling this thing. It's a lodestone of emotions. Even in its blue box it's controlling my life. Like at the end of every three-wishes story, I'm going to end up wishing I never got it and get rid of it somehow. Not for more money -- I'll sell it for cost plus five bucks to a friend. There's too much power and responsibility with this thing.
Besides, I don't want to deal with angry moms. They can spoil Christmas without my help.