Advent Calendars: Scam or Pleasure?

Zinna Park, Staff Writer

As the holidays come near so does the anticipation, the exhilarating feeling of counting down the days till the holidays. Nothing can feed on that feeling more than one of the holiday’s biggest traditions, the advent calendar. The advent calendar is just one of the ways people get ready for the holidays. Waking up to open a small gift as a countdown can incite joy at this time of year. What mainly used to be for children to receive sweet treats has evolved into something that adults alike have found to enjoy. CBS News says, “Why should kids have all the fun? Adult Advent calendars are increasingly popular. You can find an Advent calendar for just about any interest: luxury beauty, body and hair care products, wellness essentials, sparkling jewelry, and delectable food and drink (including spirits).” While advent calendars have evolved into a wider range of ages, this cannot contend with the fact that with this variety has come opportunities for luxury brands and beauty companies to dip their toes into this business.
In recent years luxury and big beauty brand companies have made their mark on the holiday industry, marketing their advent calendars as extravagant and luxurious, with their ‘exclusive’ advent calendars ranging from prices of $500 to $1000.  The Washington Post says, “Perhaps the only surprise is how dramatically the market for advent calendars has expanded in recent years. What used to be a simple box of delayed-gratification chocolates to help children countdown to Santa has become a vast selection of luxury goods encompassing high-end makeup, beer and wine, jewelry, “healing” crystals, dog treats, Ariana Grande perfume, and yes, even NFTs.” Freshman Emma Lin agrees when it comes to how companies are profiting off of the holidays, she says, “Even though I would like to buy a luxury advent calendar, there is no doubt that companies make a big deal of holidays to raise the price and make money.” Senior Anusha Rao similarly states,“ I think the holidays are really good money-making ways for companies, so these companies that make advent calendars are using this hype to make more profits.”

However, nothing has fueled this luxury advent calendar business more than social media, the most notable scandal being the 2019 Chanel advent calendar TikTok controversy. On Dec. 3, 2019, Elise Harmon posted a video of herself unboxing the $825 Chanel advent calendar only to be shocked and disappointed by the contents inside. The items ranged from hand creams to key chains to even stickers and she was not impressed. As a result, Chanel received major backlash when Harmon’s video got over 50 million views. And this is not the first instance of brands and companies overpricing their advent calendars. The Washington Post adds, “So how did we get here? A Dior advent calendar costs $650. An Alo Yoga advent calendar ($200) looks minimalist and austere, with none of the holiday trimmings. A Bonne et Filou advent calendar for dogs ($70) has 24 treats for a fur baby who has no concept of Christmas whatsoever and for whom the kitchen garbage can is its own year-round advent calendar. Holiday marketing is kind of like a goldfish in a tank.” This raises the question of why consumers are drawn to these products when they do not seem to live up to the price they are sold at. Lin says, “I think people are drawn to these products because it is a sense of ceremony for people to celebrate a holiday and people would have satisfaction after using it.” Sophomore Jieden Fenderson adds, “The brand obviously. People make out brands to be very luxurious in their heads. Brands also spend billions on advertising to do so. I think in our society people think that because something is expensive therefore it must be high quality.” This can also add to the fact that many people, especially social media influencers, buy products like advent calendars from well-known brands for content as part of their lifestyle. Guardian beauty columnist Sali Hughes says, “The beauty calendars, in particular, have become successful because they work so well on social media.” “Instead of a beauty blogger posting a product once,” says Hughes, “with an advent calendar they are posting pictures every day for 12 or 25 days, so, from a PR point of view, that’s powerful – you’re getting a lot of content out of one product.” It is also important to note that advent calendars can be a guilty pleasure and buying an expensive advent calendar might not be any different than buying a new laptop for some people.

Through Chanel’s controversy, many online have called out the brand for being a ‘scam’ because the contents inside are not considered worth the money paid for it. However, according to the New York Times, “Chanel does lay out all the calendar contents on its website, so it’s not a secret what anybody is getting for their money. It’s not apparent that their offering is any more flimflam than that of other brands.” Fenderson says, “I do not know if it is a ‘scam’ because most people probably knew what they were going to get but made it seem better in their heads. It is super overpriced but a company’s incentive is to make a profit, even if it means ripping off its customers.” In addition, junior Roshy Rajesh had an interesting perspective on the situation. Rajesh says that he does not consider it a scam because there was nothing false about what Chanel was selling and that it is up to the company to do what they want. The New York Times also adds regarding the Chanel advent calendar: “Because it was new, and because it cost so much, and because it was Chanel, with all the mythology built into the name, the stakes and expectations may have been higher. And the sense of betrayal when those expectations were not met, greater — and, it would seem, the desire to publicly pile on in response, irresistible.”

Whether or not advent calendars cost hundreds of dollars, they are still one of the holiday’s favorite pastimes. Even if advent calendars might not be worth the money or it is the company’s fault for creating a product that does not live up to the price it is important to acknowledge that consumers play a huge role in this market. Is it valid for consumers to feel upset about the lack of items they receive? Fenderson says, “Yes and no. Yes because they are getting ripped off. No, because it is obviously not worth the money. Most people who buy it probably did so by impulse.” Even so, advent calendars can provide people with the spirit of the holidays and a fun activity to celebrate, Ph.D. student Kallan Larsen states, December is “a stressful time, especially for students, because it’s exams.” Larsen bought the Bonne Maman calendar for herself and a dog-treat advent calendar for her Australian shepherd, Laska. She adds, “And so it was just kind of an excuse to treat me, to sound cliche.” The holidays are a time of gifting and receiving and advent calendars play a huge role in the holiday. As much as they can give pleasure and relieve stress they are also over-priced by big brands and companies. During this holiday season try to find an advent calendar that is worth your money and one that allows you to enjoy your holiday tradition!