We see weird things going on in retail year-round, but the holiday season seems to be particularly fertile ground for some of retail's oddest efforts.
From over-the-top Christmas catalogs and Thanksgiving dinner pants to Halloween costumes that went further than anyone needed them to, we're taking a look back at our favorite retail fumbles this holiday season.
So nestle down with a cup of eggnog, a gingerbread cookie and a healthy dose of skepticism: here are our favorite moments this season.
1. These Halloween costumes are more than just child's play
We saw some bad Halloween costumes this year (and six truly terrible ones), but that's just adult humor, right? Wrong. Several children's Halloween costumes came under fire in October for being too inappropriate or too offensive — especially to be worn by the kid next door.
Take the "Girls Midnight Mischief" costume, for example. Reported by Teen Vogue, the outfit took the general idea of a witch's garb and turned it into something you'd expect to find on a 23-year-old instead of on a grade-school child. Maybe parents were being too sensitive about what girls wear — or maybe they just didn't want to see their kid in a "corset bodice" and "glovelettes" that said "she's up to no good."
Someone would have had to do something really insensitive to make it any worse, right?
Like make a "Fun World Burning Dead Zombie Child" costume just a few months after the Grenfell Tower fire in London. Or turn Anne Frank into a Halloween costume for kids to "play the role of a World War II hero," as press herald reported.
Only one good thing could possibly come from these woefully ill thought-out costumes: Every low-effort parent hiding a pumpkin costume in the closet probably felt way better about their choices than these designers did.
2. Cards Against Humanity heads to Mexico for the holidays
The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, especially retailers. They can lead to angry customers, lost sales or — in the case of Cards Against Humanity — the purchase of a vacant plot of land on the Mexican border.
You read that correctly. Cards Against Humanity bought the land as part of a holiday promotion, CNN reported, asking customers to pay $15 for an "America-saving" gift box and, in return, vowing to make it as difficult as possible for President Donald Trump to build the wall. The website was full of helpful information and suggestions, like, "if you voted for Trump, you might want to sit this one out."
And there was a clearly-defined mission statement as well. What was Cards Against Humanity doing? Saving America from, "injustice, lies, racism, the whole enchilada," according to the site.
For anyone out there thinking about handing over the $15 they had saved up for Girl Scout cookies, think again. The company sold out the holiday promotion within hours of opening it. And for those who already spent the $15 and were disappointed to realize it wasn't just for a new card pack, cancellations are a no-go: "We'd like to cancel the 2016 election, but neither of us is going to get what we want."
Say what you will about strange holiday promotions, but not everyone can bank their fourth quarter sales on a vacant plot of land, a lawyer and a political agenda.
3. All Neiman Marcus wants for Christmas is your hard-earned cash
Department store retailers have been facing plenty of challenges lately, but it seems the only one Neiman Marcus set for itself was to come in first for, "highest number of items you could squander your entire salary on."
And that started with Thanksgiving dinner. While some of us might be convinced that Thanksgiving is all about friendship, family and gratefulness, Neiman Marcus knows it's actually all about serving up a $527 dinner.
Reported by the Los Angeles Times, its luxury Thanksgiving meal allegedly served 12 people and included a turkey, gravy, sausage stuffing, sweet potato casserole, monkey bread, strawberry butter, cranberry relish, farro pilaf or green beans, pecan bread pudding and whiskey sauce. After all, who needs a Thanksgiving dinner cooked with love when you can have one cooked by Neiman Marcus? All you had to do was drop in a KFC fried chicken bath bomb and everyone would have thought you actually made all that food yourself.
The over-priced spending didn't have to stop there, though! Avid Neiman Marcus shoppers might have guessed it already, but we're talking about the latest edition of the upscale retailer's Christmas Book. Reported by the Star Telegram, the Christmas Book was littered with items that cost way more than the last Target-bought gift your sibling got you. Sure, there was a $100 and under section, but there was also a $64,500 Hermes watch, a $15,000 mink jacket and — our favorite section — the "delightfully over-the-top finds."
So what exactly do you buy for the "person who has it all?" According to Neiman Marcus, a $50,000 fridge, a $98,000 Scott West Brooch and a $450 ornament. And if that's for Christmas, why not bid on the next Paul Newman watch to go on sale for New Years? After all, the last one was auctioned off for a cool $17.8 million (roughly the annual salary of 300 middle-class employees).
Looks like the Grinch was wrong: Christmas really does come from a store. And that store is Neiman Marcus.
4. The retailer who stole Christmas
With Christmas so close, retail has reached peak holiday spirit: Malls are decorated with wreaths, store associates are likely wearing earplugs to drown out "Santa Baby" (and the screams of young children) and overpriced retailers are still trying to convince us why holiday decorations are worth cracking open the piggy bank.
First it was Neiman Marcus and then it was Williams-Sonoma's turn to remind us all why Scrooge is the best character to channel when it comes to Christmas shopping. The Williams-Sonoma holiday catalog was certainly less over-the-top than Neiman Marcus', but it did provide many opportunities to blow your monthly budget out of the water (and it also spawned several comical backlash articles).
The collection included $350 crystal trees, $349 cashmere bathrobes and at least five different bar carts, all of which were solidly above $500. As a curveball, the rug that the bar carts were pictured on was actually the most expensive item on that page, coming in at $2,995. If your Grinch-stincts aren't kicking in yet, you could also dish out substantial cash for a "brass jaguar sculpture" ($95), a "banana leaf tray" ($149), "stylized horse objects" ($250) or — our personal favorite — a "Yak horn on stand" ($350).
Sure, we might not be able to buy happiness yet, but according to Williams-Sonoma, all it takes is a few overpriced, unnecessarily bougie decorations to buy Christmas.
5. Trim the tree with KFC
For those who had a tighter budget than Williams-Sonoma shoppers, KFC provided the remedy: a finger lickin' line of products that didn't cost that much more than your average fried chicken purchase.
The fast food chain's holiday collection, reported by Marketing Dive, was targeted at procrastinating holiday shoppers who had a certain chicken-loving someone on their list. The two most festive items in the collection were a $20 "Holiday Colonel Shirt" and a pack of $17 wrapping paper, which included one roll of Colonel Sanders paper and one chicken-wing roll.
The shirt, which had "enough sleeves to cover your whole arm and even your hands if you happen to have short arms," sported a Santa-turned-Colonel Sanders profile, and is already sold out — because who wants to wear the face of a boring white guy when you can sport the face of… another boring white guy.
The prices were actually a reprieve from KFC's usual fare, which as of late included a $10,000 Cyber Monday internet escape pod to help shoppers avoid being "bombarded with a hailstorm of coupons, BOGOs, hot dealz and brand advertising," and a $20,000 zinger meteorite — which someone actually bought.
As a hungry Buddy the elf would say: the best way to spread Christmas cheer is wearing fried chicken couture for all to hear.
6. Starbucks fells the Christmas tree
It wouldn't be the holidays if Starbucks didn't unwrap another festively-flavored drink.
The coffee chain released a limited-edition Christmas Tree Frappuccino, replete with "caramel drizzle garland and candied cranberry ornaments and finished with a strawberry tree topper," Popsugar reported. After the outright opposition to the unicorn frappuccino, not to mention the uninspiring Midnight Mint Mocha, we can only assume Starbucks takes a masochistic pleasure in releasing drinks that seem bound to fail.
As usual, social media latched onto the liquid failure. The Twitterverse heaped abuse on the drink, which was only helped along by wary baristas clearly not looking forward to making it.
Surprisingly, that wasn't the worst holiday trend we saw that week. That award went to Plumr's holiday sweaters, reported by Adweek, which — in a sentence that perfectly summed up the product — were said to offer a "festive butt crack" to buyers.
There really is no place like retail for the holidays.
Y'all please pray for me to make it through work tomorrow. Starbucks is releasing a new Christmas tree Frappuccino— Guppy (@mcauley_gabby) December 7, 2017
Ok but like wtf is a christmas tree frappuccino supposed to even taste like ...— Brooke Jackson (@brookejackson96) December 7, 2017
7. Girls just wanna be donuts for Halloween
In a world where parents have to be wary of sending their children out looking like a sexy witch or an ill-timed "Burning Dead Zombie Child," it's good to know that some kids were really just looking for one thing this Halloween… the permission to dress like a donut.
One mom's viral tweet about her daughter's choice of donut costume, reported on by Yahoo.com, brought to light an issue we would all do well to think about more often — how much kids like food costumes.
Took Layla costume shopping today and she wanted to be a donut.... a freaking donut pic.twitter.com/Ej0hK4P9hO—(@_BrittanyMoniqe) October 22, 2017
As it turns out, other parents were facing equal, if not more excitement from their own kids, who were also looking to dress up as food items — with costumes that ranged from donuts to fries to hot dogs.
Halloween may be the sweetest time of the year, but it can also be savory.
My little cousin with Doose Syndrome (a severe form of epilepsy) just wanted to be fries pic.twitter.com/VA2IWM0R5I— Ashley (@yikezitsashley) October 23, 2017
It's okay I did the same wth my nephew and he really wanted to be a hotdog .... pic.twitter.com/1GLIGrNSHZ— Kim Possible (@alexiidanii) October 23, 2017
same lmfao pic.twitter.com/53uoYkufE6— schlong my (@iammybitch) October 23, 2017
8. Stove Top unbuttons the Thanksgiving dress code
There comes a time in a person's life when khakis and jeans just don't cut it anymore and a good ole' pair of sweatpants is the only thing that will do. According to Stove Top, that time is Thanksgiving (and no, you shouldn't fight it).
For any Thanksgiving celebrators who objected to the formal holiday dress code, Stove Top was there with the ultimate solution: "Thanksgiving dinner pants." These classy trousers looked like maroon jogger pants with an expandable waistband that hinted at maternity wear. Except they weren't aimed at mothers-to-be: they were targeting your average Joe who piled on a bit too much stuffing at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
If we're being honest, who hasn't been there?
"You try to unbutton your pants for relief, but they're too tight! You're trapped!" the brand described in a video promoting the pants. The solution, according to the brand, was a pair of pants with a stretchy waistband that retailed for just $19.98 (that is, until they sold out). Was Stove Top aware of the pun they were making? Yes, yes they were.
"Don't spend your hard-earned money on fancy maternity pants. Let Stove Top Thanksgiving dinner pants handle that precious… bun in the oven."