The Valentine’s Day Massacre: Love may be a battlefield, but Valentine’s Day is a stick up.
I walked down Waverly Avenue on a brisk Syracuse morning headed to CVS. This particular morning I needed a magazine for class. As I made my way in the store, I could barely take five steps forward without running into a wall of people. Young, old, students, doctors, nurses, even two Syracuse police officers were standing in line waiting to pay. They were all holding candy, stuffed animals and greeting cards. It finally occurred to me – it was Valentine’s Day . Thank God the only two women in my life are my mother and grandmother. My mother will be happy if I text her “Happy Valentine’s Day,” and my less tech savvy grandmother will require a five-minute telephone call. I stood in line watching people buy cards, chocolates and flowers. I saw $20, $60 even $100 come up on the register. I wondered how much money people spend on Valentine’s Day. Is Feb. 14 the one day you can truly buy love?
According to the National Retail Federation, the average American will spend $126.03 for Valentine’s Day this year, an 8.5 percent increase from last year when Americans spent an average of $116.21. That’s a 57 percent increase from 2003, when the average was $80.44.
Men will spend almost twice as much as women ($168.74 compared with $85.76). People dating will spend almost twice as much as married couples ($168.65 versus $84.70), and only 28 percent of Americans like myself will get away without spending a dime for Valentine’s Day. As I read these statistics I wondered if these trends were true on the Syracuse University Campus.
I know some of my friends have found their soulmate or the love of their life (substitute any other melodramatic cliché) during their time at SU, but is spending $126.03 on Valentine’s Day the key to finding love?
“Cologne, two boxes of candy, a tie, a gold clip for the tie engraved with his initials, massage oil and underwear,” is what Kyra Murphy bought her boyfriend of two years, Dylan Lustig, for Valentine’s Day. Lustig told Murphy what he wanted. “I spent over 200 dollars, but I didn’t know what exactly to get him,” she said. “He told me a couple things he needed, but I wanted to get him something special too.”
Lustig sent Murphy two dozen pink roses, two boxes of assorted chocolates and two teddy bears. He’s currently studying abroad in France (which probably makes the gifts even more impressive). “Its hard being abroad and not seeing each other,” he wrote in an email. “I spent a lot of money, but since I wasn’t there to spend the day with her I still wanted it to be special.”
Other couples prefer less traditional gifts on Valentine’s Day. “Its not about how much it costs. Its about the thought behind it and memories associated with the gift,” said Mackenzie Lynch. “I didn’t really buy Jon anything. I put a picture of us in a nice frame and am driving four hours to see him.”
Unaware of what she bought him, Jon Culp, Lynch’s boyfriend, also framed a picture of the couple as a gift (obviously a sign they are soulmates). “We are going out to dinner, but we both agreed we wouldn’t spend too much money,” he said. “It puts a lot of pressure on people, but its good for the economy. I think.”
Culp is right. Valentine’s Day spending is estimated to exceed $17 billion this year and give a boost to businesses after the post-Christmas shopping slump. Economist Justin Wolfers calls Valentine’s Day the “Black Friday” for florists and restaurants. 63 percent of Valentine’s Day spending, or $10.71 billion, goes toward the flower and food industries.
The SU Bookstore takes advantage of this market by selling gift packages of both flowers and food for students. “Most of the people who buy these packages are parents,,” said Cherri Williams, a bookstore employee. The store’s biggest sellers are “Crazy for Chocolate” (an assorted box of chocolates that would impress even Forrest Gump) and the “Box of Love,” a box of cookies you can’t get at any dining hall. Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days for the bookstore, and these packages usually sell out by 4 p.m.
The Westcott Florist plans weeks ahead to ensure the store can meet demand. “Its our biggest day of the year,” said Dino Centra, owner of the Westcott Florist. “Valentine’s Day is a florists favorite and most stressful holiday. We bring in another seven drivers and three designers to keep up with orders. It’s hectic for about 24 hours and this is the most orders we have ever received.”
With the sales of flowers, food, wine and even Valentine-themed pet toys reaching an all-time high, the question remains. Why are people spending more money than ever before?
“I think its tradition. There is a lot of pressure on people to buy something romantic for Valentine’s Day. It’s the one day you are expected to buy something to show your love,” said Culp.
“It is a nice way of showing someone that you love them, but it is too commercialized,” said Mackenzie Lynch. “Everything is so expensive. I would rather just stay home and spend time with Jon than get an expensive gift. Some people go crazy buying gifts.”
The SU campus is infected by the Valentine’s Day spending craze. Everywhere from the bookstore to the main desk at any dormitory is engulfed in heart-shaped boxes and flowers. Whatever happened to the days in elementary school when you could cut a heart out of a piece of red construction paper and give someone a small bag of sweethearts?
My mom received her text and I talked to my grandmother on the phone for seven minutes.
- Bridges to Heaven: Loved Ones on the Other Side (omtimes.com)