Deck the Hauls: Showing Off or Vicarious Window Shopping?

Now, as they say, ’tis the season, with holiday sales in full swing and frantic consumers, coats discolored with the salt and soot and smog from navigating endless shopping center parking garages, decking the halls of the world’s malls in pursuit of snatching up that very special something or other just in time to wrap and ribbon it up for Christmas (or whatever holiday of choice is being celebrated before the new year hits us all).

If you’re one of those snow-blind, breathless, half-berserk shoppers looking for last minute gift ideas, have you considered decking the hauls? You read that right. “But Bob,” you say, “what the freak is a haul?” Up until Chris and Diana did their Thanksgiving grocery haul last month, I wasn’t quite sure what the freak a haul was, either. But, as a new initiate into the phenomenon, I’m going to attempt to explain what the heck a freaking haul entails.

In a typical haul, a video blogger will present things she — in hauls, it’ll almost always be a she (with this Chris and Diana Thanksgiving haul, we may have one of the Internet’s few exceptions. Well, half exceptions) — has recently gotten. These things may have been purchased from a particular store, or bought for a special occasion, or been received as gifts. Often, along with the rundown of the physical inventory of the haul itself, the video blogger will offer reviews of select items. The audience responds accordingly.

It’s not dissimilar to what geeks might flock around when it’s called an unboxing. This is usually more of an… unbagging.

A simple search on YouTube will show you that there are grocery hauls, birthday hauls, Black Friday hauls, clothing and makeup hauls, holiday hauls, back to school hauls, jewelry hauls, Target hauls, kitchen hauls, bedroom hauls, fragrance hauls, shoe hauls, drug store hauls, lingerie hauls, fall fashion hauls, Sephora hauls, skin care hauls, baby clothes hauls, and so on.

Wikipedia (admittedly a sometimes dubious source, but I’ll trust it in a non-life-or-death situation like this one) tells us that the haul video has been gaining in popularity since 2007. By late 2010, there were “nearly a quarter of a million” of ’em posted to YouTube. I might have gotten a little more tuned in to the whole thing earlier if there were more record store hauls, book hauls, gadget hauls, video game hauls, scotch whisky hauls, thrift store hauls, museum hauls, board game hauls, and American Science & Surplus hauls but, alas, it seems to be more of a “girl” thing. I wouldn’t understand. Maybe if I just went and got my nails did, it would all make more sense…

And that would be a whole ‘nother sort of video. But I digress.

Deck the Hauls: Showing Off or Vicarious Window Shopping?Ever since finding out that there is such a thing, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the concept of the haul. At a time when we First Worlders are barraged with daily, dismal reminders of how crummy our threadbare economy has gotten, and the disenfranchised 99% are rallying against what it sees as the greedy, winner-take-all mindset of the 1%, is the haul a theater of morbid curiosity for those of us who may be on the outside, looking in? Is the haul the epitome of what Adbusters, the global, anti-consumer-culture network, has been soapboxing against for years, or is the haul more like a modern equivalent of window shopping for online buyers and homebodies who prefer to interact with the world at large from behind their keyboards?

I try not to judge, and if people get a kick out of something (as long as it’s not hurting anyone), who am I to say that what they’re doing is pointless — even if I don’t really get it? Aside from soccer and hockey, I don’t really get sports, for instance, and people love the heck out of ’em. Some of my best friends listen to really (in my opinion) horrible music (and they would say the same of me); just because we don’t get the tastes of the other doesn’t mean we think any less of each other. We just avoid going on long car trips together (without headphones of our own, anyway).

So what’s the appeal of the haul?

Blair Fowler, aka JuicyStar07 on YouTube, explains the phenomenon of the haul like so:

“This is not to brag about what I got for my birthday and what my friends and family could afford to buy me, or anything like that; I just think it’s really fun to watch people open their presents.”

She goes on to say that it’s like the part of the birthday party where everyone gathers around the guest of honor to unwrap the big ol’ pile of gifts. It’s a social thing more than a consumer thing.

It’s a gathering, not a brag…ering.

In summary, I think, that’s what it’s haul about.

If you still don’t really get the whole haul video thing, a hilarious take on hauls can be found on YouTube at Haulblog, where host Joey Mack gives recent videos a treatment akin to The Soup and Tosh.0 in the Haul Monitor. Approached from the perspective of humor, all things — even haul videos — become understandable. Or maybe I just get a kick out of it because it’s the haul video sensation as seen through the eyes of fellow boykind.

What do you think? Do you frequent or subscribe to any haul video blogs? Is haul video blogging something that you’ve been keen on following? Have you made your own haul videos? Please leave a comment and let us (and me) know what you get out of the experience. (For the record, I don’t really get unboxings, either. Maybe you can explain that whole world to me, too, while you’re at it!)