Boxing day blues

The Boxing Day sales story is a mainstay for journalists. Each year we see the same footage and read the same words as last year about the same event: shoppers lining up outside department stores the day after Christmas to take advantage of special deals. Usually these pieces revolve around a heaving mass of people pushing at the doors, or victorious punters who scored a $50 flatscreen TV. But aggrieved shoppers also makes for a good yarn.

Confusion reigned at Myer’s flagship store early Friday morning, as poor handwriting on gift cards handed out for the Boxing Day sales left shoppers feeling short-changed.

A dash that resembled a “1” was accidentally placed beside numbers on several “gold ticket” gift cards, causing some shoppers to think they had received $201 vouchers before discovering at the till they were entitled to only $20.

This piece from the post-Christmas weekend’s News Ltd tabloids is not quite the grievance industry I was referring to the other day, but it’s a nice little example of how grievance is leveraged by news organisations to generate content, in the process allowing the aggrieved party to at least partially relieve themselves of the burden.

Among those feeling cheated by the gift card mix-up was Croydon resident Josh Jordan, who lined up outside Myer with his mate David from 10.30pm on Christmas Day.

“I thought I had $201. I was gonna buy an iPad,” he told the Herald Sun.

“I’m not impressed at all.”

While Josh Jordan’s upset at being short-changed is undoubtedly real, the journalist’s leveraging of that grievance is more about being able to put a unique (albeit rather contrived) spin of controversy and injustice on a paint-by-numbers story, than anything to do with the public interest. But it’s a win-win scenario in which the journalist gets a click-worthy story and headline, and Mr Jordan is offered an outlet for his displeasure and a chance to lighten his burden.

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