PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- It's rarely easier to sell a product than it is around Valentine's Day.
The marketplace is filled with lovelorn suckers who don't want to acknowledge a retail holiday but know they're taking a gamble by not buying into the commodified notion of Love (TM). For those who aren't spreading their thoughtfulness around the rest of the calendar, Valentine's Day is amateur night with a very forgiving audience. For retailers, entertainers and the like, it's like fishing in a stocked swimming pool or hunting on a fenced reservation -- they can just name their price and take their pick of free-spending dopes.
This is the cycle of cynicism Esther Howland and her greeting card industry mafia began when they latched their blood-leeching tentacles onto Valentine's Day's in the late 19th Century. This is how DeBeers wrested two months' salary out of Americans' mitts when engagement rings were far less costly and glittery. This is the kind of monetized thinking that turned Valentine's Day into a $20 billion industry that trails only the $69.2 billion spent during the winter holidays, according to IBISWorld.
That's roughly $3 billion more than what's spent on Mother's Day. Seriously, you're spending more on future exes and spouses you should be appreciating more throughout the year than you're spending on your own mothers -- annually. The childbirth, the patience it takes to raise you, the sheer expense of it all and what do they get for it? You dropping a text and a card in the mail while someone you met at Buffalo Wild Wings during Week 4 of football season gets dinner and presents. Absolutely terrible.
Just about the only thing that prevents people from indulging in this marked-up, overblown, bloated cherub of a "holiday" is a shortfall in their own bank accounts. The National Retail Federation is predicting a modest uptick in spending this Valentine's Day after its consumer survey showed lovestruck shoppers shelling out $133.91 a pop this year, on average, just to keep up appearances. That's up from $130.97 last year, but it's among fewer overall spenders: Last year, 60% of those surveyed said they'd celebrate Valentine's Day. That dropped to 54% this year, with an impressive 46% of U.S. shopper taking a pass on those red boxes of candy and novelty stuffed animals they've been seeing in their supermarket's seasonal aisle since late December.
Those who are falling into the trap this year say they intend to spend $40 on flowers, $162 on jewelry and $74 for a night out. What they're not saying is that they're actually going to spend much of their Valentine's Day investment on whatever crap is left in their drug store's displays during their lunch break the week before the holiday. Market research firm NPD Group sniffed out that bit of ugly truth in its most recent research, which found that 78% of Valentine's Day shoppers wait until the last week to pick something up.
Bad decisions are in high supply around Valentine's Day, and demand for them only increases as they day draws nearer. For those already losing hold of their senses and considering making some ill-advised purchases just hours before the big day, here are the five most lunkheaded things you could possibly spend money on this close to Valentine's Day. You may as well take your significant other by the hand, lead him or her into the nearest rest room, hold a fistful of bills over the nearest toilet and make it rain while flushing at regular intervals. It'll be far more entertaining, or at least memorable, than any of the items listed below.