Scam

It appears that even the most steely chairman of a fund group can become a little moist-eyed over repeated Dickensian presentiments of the grim and financially frosty Christmas to come.

”Seeing this is our last little chat before Christmas, can I look forward to a pleasant stroll through all the seasonal press releases you have received this year?” asked the chairman of the implausibly-sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management as we enjoyed a few pints of Words Almost Fail Me at The Huge Anticlimax Of Settling One’s Legal Contretemps So Late In The Day.

“I don’t think ’heart-warming’ is quite the adjective,” I sighed. “Not this year. I mean, things started off well enough when on November 1 – the very first day on which it is just about acceptable to send out a yuletide press release – the good, good people of International Currency Exchange used Christmas markets and the comparative costs of a glass of glühwein as a way in to talking about exchange rates.

“Things were still ticking along in mid-November when the Charities Aid Foundation offered 12 ways to support charities at Christmas, including one you may find useful, bearing in mind a high percentage of your staff are not terribly human. Apparently, in the UK we spend some £100m a year on Christmas pressies for pets, so we might all like to think about buying them from charities such as The Dogs Trust.

“Then, I am afraid, the wheels started to fall off the wagon, or perhaps the reindeer started detaching from the sleigh. It may be unfair to blame Legal & General but that was the first company I noticed pursuing what became quite a trend – the press release flagging up what a truly rotten Christmas most people were going to have this year as a result of the pressures on consumer and household budgets. (Scam continues below)

“So the group’s MoneyMood survey found 1.6 million British households saying they could not afford to pay for presents and celebrations at Christmas this year while eight out of 10 households said they were planning to spend the same or less on festivities than in 2010, with three out of 10 saying they would definitely be spending less.

“Three days later, Which? upped the stakes with the tidings of comfort and joy, ’Twenty million forced to cut back this Christmas’. The magazine had found four in 10 people would be spending less this Christmas while half were worried about the cost of presents. Furthermore, one in four plan to buy presents for fewer people than last year and others could not even afford a Christmas tree.

“Since then … hang on – is that a tear in your eye?” “Of course not,” lied the chairman, sniffing into his pint. “You were saying?” “Since then it has been all about the misery of Christmas,” I continued, giving him a funny look. “And, while I do not think anyone has quite managed to scale the heights of those pioneers at Which? and Legal & General, there have been some pretty game attempts.

”Which? upped the stakes with the tidings of comfort and joy, ’Twenty million forced to cut back this Christmas’”

“So, for its part, Equifax found nearly a third of consumers believe they will spend less this year on Christmas gifts and celebrations while Aviva approached things from a slightly different angle, flagging up how half of those aged 55 or older find Christmas a financially stressful time of year even if, bless them, few intended to hold back when it actually came to buying presents for loved ones.

“By early December we were into the seasonal jolliness of families taking out loans to be able to pay for Christmas and by the time I received one from the good, good people of Savingschampion.co.uk this morning that started: ’Christmas is supposed to be a time of cheer and goodwill but it can also be a time of stress and an ever-increasing debt mountain …’, I was more than ready to meet you for a beer.”

“I don’t blame you,” sighed the chairman. “And yet, from all the potential out there, was this really the best pub you could come up with?”

“I did consider a couple of, let’s say, more ambitious possibilities, if I am honest,” I replied. “But I can think of a few lawyers who are already going to be enjoying a festive enough season without my help and defamation is such a tricky game, don’t you think? Merry Christmas.”