Saturday February 16, 2013
Valentine's Day rip-off
I WOULD think that over the past two weeks, those involved in romantic relationships were basically stressing over what to do for their other half for Valentine’s Day.
This would apply to younger couples, especially those who have just started dating and eager to make a good and lasting impression.
The men (or boys) in particular would have felt more pressure trying to come up with the perfect dates, cards, gifts, restaurants, and perfect everything. In other words, the ideally romantic night out with their partners.
I have nothing against Valentine’s Day, really. Romance is a big part of our lives, and I suppose, romance does deserve a day when it can be celebrated.
Having said that, many of my friends feel that Valentine’s Day has become over-commercialised.
Then again, which celebration has not become over-commercialised? Even the tradition of giving ang pow during Chinese New Year, as my colleague recently pointed out in her column, has become somewhat commercialised.
Back to the topic of Valentine’s Day. In addition to all the other festive seasons celebrated in Malaysia, Valentine’s Day has become “that time of the year” when candy makers, florists, soft toy producers, restaurants, hotels, and jewellers take advantage of hopeless romantics to make a quick buck.
Speaking of making a quick buck, how many of you noticed that the roadside stalls that sell everything from soft toys to rose bouquets started popping up early this year? By early I do not mean one or two days before Feb 14, but almost a week before.
I noticed one particular stall run by young Chinese entrepreneurs up and running even on the second day of Chinese New Year.
I never have the guts to actually pull up and walk up to one of these stalls, but my sister told me that the prices of the items they sold were exorbitant, usually at least twice the prices that they would be sold for on normal days.
But then again, even well-established florists raise their prices during Valentine’s Day.
Let us take a stem of rose, for example. On normal days, a single stem of rose usually costs between RM1.50 and RM3, depending on where the roses were imported from.
On Valentine’s Day, a single red rose can cost anywhere from RM10 to RM20. It does not matter if they are sold at the florists or at makeshift roadside stalls.
Curiously, by 10pm on Valentine’s evening, the sellers literally lelong or sell the remaining roses cheaply, at RM5 per stalk. The full bloomed, or wilting ones go for even less.
The same can be said for those plush soft toys encased in nice packaging. What can usually be found in discount stores from RM3 onwards can cost a minimum of RM10 apiece on Valentine’s Day.
Eateries, meanwhile, also come up with dishes that they actually have on their menu every other day, but dressed up with fancy names and served with “aphrodisiac” side dishes (a piece of chocolate here, a mussel there), scented candles on the table, and package them as romantic Valentine’s dinner for two.
Some eateries may even promote a discounted bottle of wine to add to the package. Seriously, nothing is discounted. Every little cost has been accounted for, but presented to the public in such an appealing way, that it seems like a steal of a deal.
Here’s another observation. Most flowers received on Valentine’s Day end up in the trash (or for the more environmentally conscious, in the compost heap), a week or so after they have wilted away.
It has been estimated that 180 million roses end up in the trash each year in the United Kingdom after Valentine’s Day. The survey, run by a private firm in the UK also found that Britons alone spent £880mil (RM4.22bil) last year on Valentine’s celebrations, and 69% of this figure came from the men’s pockets.
In America, the estimated average Va- lentine’s Day spending is US$13.19bil (RM40.17bil), while 196 million roses are most likely to end up in the trash bin.
Closer to home, the Indian Valentine’s Day market is estimated at US$27mil (RM83.48mil).
What’s more interesting about the occasion in India is, just as Indians love their Bollywood love stories, the Valentine’s Day begins a week before Feb 14.
It kicks off (much to retailers’ delight) with Rose Day on Feb 7, followed by Proposal Day (Feb 8), Chocolate Day (Feb 9), Teddy Day (Feb 10), Promise Day (Feb 11), Kiss Day (Feb 12), Hug Day (Feb 13) and finally the big Valentine’s celebration on Feb 14. After all the hugging and kissing, it’s left to one’s imagination what happens next.
And like anywhere else in the world, in India it is said that men spent more than double the amount than women on Valentine’s celebrations. It would be great if someone could actually run the statistics on Malaysians too, each year.
Again, as I clearly indicated at the beginning of this column, I have nothing against those celebrating Valentine’s Day each year.
I just find it amusing (and somewhat disturbing) that a celebration of love has become such big business and encompassing figures that go into the billions, financially.
I suppose, it is a sign of economic health when more people can afford to spend on such trivialities.
I agree that it would not be Feb 14 without the red and pink hearts, overpriced roses, expensive chocolates and furry soft toys.
It is undoubtedly good to celebrate your love for someone, but we do not necessarily have to wait for Valentine’s Day to do so.
We should not have to wait until Feb 14 to treat our loved ones with a little more display of affection. Love is something that should be celebrated all year round, throughout our lives.
If we want to outwit the Valentine’s Day vendors and not risk being ripped off with exorbitant festive prices, we could each create our very own special day to celebrate love with our partners, on any day, any time of the year.
Well here’s wishing everyone a belated Happy Valentine’s Day.
Again, one should be treated the same way every day — not just for a day on Feb 14.
That’s my take on Valentine’s Day.