Siena poll takes New Yorkers’ pulse on Christmas shopping, fruitcake

The good news out of the Siena College Research Institute’s holiday spending poll depends on what industry you represent.

Retailers will be happy to hear that one-fifth of New Yorkers plan to spend $1,000 or more on gifts. But brick-and-mortar stores may not be so happy to learn that 40 percent of shoppers intend to do at least half their shopping online, an increase over last year’s 35 percent of shoppers who shop that way.

While shopping may increase, giving seems to be down. Respondents to the Siena poll suggested 68 percent of New Yorkers plan to donate money, food or gifts to organizations that focus on the needy, when 76 percent did that last year. And volunteering during the holidays is also declining, from 36 percent in 2017 to 31 percent this year.

Fruitcake bakeries will undoubtedly not be surprised that the debate still rages over whether their specialty is seen as delicious or a doorstop substitute. Just one-third of New Yorkers think fruitcake is great, while 44 percent think it’s awful. Age seems to be playing a role in that opinion, Siena notes, with almost half of all those 65 and older giving fruitcake a thumbs up, and more than half of those 35 to 64 giving it a thumbs down.

Regardless, there’s plenty of Christmas and other holiday activity.

“Two-thirds are excited about the holiday, and one in 10 say that they never stop holiday shopping. Another 12 percent started right after Halloween,” said SCRI Director Don Levy.

The economy seems to be impacting many New Yorkers negatively.

“Still half of New Yorkers say that their finances are about the same as a year ago and nearly a quarter tell us that their financial condition has worsened since last holiday season. It’s not surprising that many hope to keep holiday spending about the same. But with 15 percent planning to up the budget and 19 percent earmarking at least $1,000, make room for plenty of presents under the tree,” Levy said.

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Schumer battles toy-shopping bots

Echoing 2016 legislation that outlawed use of bots that gobble up concert and theater tickets, Sen. Charles E. Schumer this week is proposing a ban on bots that collect the hottest toys, causing both a shortage and a market for outrageously marked-up playthings.

Citing research by Consumer Reports, Schumer said spikes of bot activity has been detected in online holiday shopping, allowing high-tech shoppers to corner the market on such toys as Wow Wee Fingerlings, L.O.L. Surprise Dolls, Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition, and the Barbie Hello Dreamhouse. The toys, which can sell for as little as $10 in retail stores, are offered at resale sites for tens, hundreds and even thousands more than their original prices.

Fingerlings, by Wow Wee, are one of the hot collectible toys bots are seeking out, according to Sen. Charles E. Schumer. Photo supplied by Wow Wee
Fingerlings, by Wow Wee, are one of the hot collectible toys that bots are seeking out, according to Sen. Charles E. Schumer. Photo supplied by Wow Wee

“The average New York holiday shopper is unable to compete with the light speed of the all-too-common Grinch bot, and are then held at ransom by scalpers and third-party resellers when trying to buy holiday presents. No New Yorker should have to fork over hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars to buy Christmas and holiday gifts for their children and loved ones,” Schumer said.

Previously, Schumer was successful in getting the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act passed into law. The Stopping Grinch Bots Act of 2018 and would ban toy market practices similar to the ones that had forced theater and concert fans to buy overpriced tickets on the resale market.   

“These cyber-scalpers use Grinch bots—the same technology ticket scalpers employed—to purchase at lightning speed the hottest Christmas toys en masse, create a false shortage and then resell them to desperate parents and grandparents—at obscene mark-ups” Schumer said. “It is a cynical rip-off pure and simple, and we should put the clamp-down on these predatory scammers ASAP.”

Schumer and colleagues Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), introduced The Stopping Grinch Bots Act of 2018 the day after Thanksgiving. The legislation would use a framework similar to the BOTS act but apply it to sales of popular consumer items.

Schumer said bots can detect sales even before consumers know about them and fill out online orders in fractions of seconds, allowing them to purchase mass quantities before consumers even have a chance to shop.

“When it comes to speed-of-purchase of hot holiday gifts, your average consumer is bringing a knife to a gun fight,” said Schumer.  

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Rochester Public Market to add one more Holidays at the Market event Dec. 17

Shoppers have a bonus Holidays at the Market event Sunday, Dec. 17, at the City of Rochester Public Market.

By popular request a fourth day was added to the original schedule of three Sundays when market patrons can shop for Christmas trees and wreaths, take horse-drawn carriage rides with Santa Claus, and enjoy food and other holiday shopping. Hours at the free event are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Mayor Lovely A. Warren said, “During this busy time of year, this event provides a wonderful opportunity for families to spend some quality time together shopping, having fun, and enjoying all of the festive foods and merchandise our many vendors have to offer.”

According to city officials, the popularity of the 22-year-old event, along with requests to hold the special shopping days both over Thanksgiving weekend and closer to Christmas inspired the addition of a fourth Sunday.

Through carriage rides at the market are free, a limited number of rides are available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free tickets are offered in the new indoor B shed  starting at 10 a.m. The shed will feature many of the regular Saturday vendors, too. The indoor space will also host stations for free holiday cookie decorating and making art. Many prepared food vendors will be open in the market and immediately surrounding area.

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