TEXT OF COMMENTARY
KAI RYSSDAL: The National Retail Federation estimates that we'll spend more than $5 billion this year on candy, costumes, decorations and other assorted paraphernalia for Halloween.
Among those celebrating the holiday, 11 percent will outfit their pets with a costume -- so says the retail federation's Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.
Kids still like the classics: princess, Spider-Man, pirate and witch are the top-ranking costumes this year. Disney's Hannah Montana is making a late push.
But on this edition of The Loh Down, commentator Sandra Tsing Loh says she finds the whole Halloween experience ghoulish.
Sandra Tsing Loh: As a mother of two elementary school-aged children, I'm bracing myself for another Halloween.
The season annually kicks off with an elaborate memo from our school regarding do's and don'ts for the Halloween costume parade: No fake blood, no fake "guts," no fake weapons. Masks only to be worn during the parade.
My second-grader wants to march as Princess Jasmine -- which is fine, as Disney characters have not been banned from school. Yet. And, happy that her needs are so legal, we trot off to the Halloween store at the mall and...
Have you been to a Halloween store recently?
Why do movies have R ratings, but not stores? Even at our local pharmacy, hanging from the ceiling are life-sized skeletons, melting Scream masks, rotting corpses, severed heads, heads with bleeding hatchets driven into the forehead, eyeballs popped out amidst nests of blood clot-matted hair... I think I slipped on some brains in the shampoo aisle.
What's in the next aisle? A live cockfight?
And I'm sorry, but Halloween store purveyors are shifty. It's not just their brutally hand-lettered, slightly-misspelled signs on the register: "NO RETURNS NO EXCHANGES NO REFUNDS NO NO NO NO NO!"
Halloween store managers are always these callow 25-year-old wheeler-dealers yelling into cell phones as they re-arrange the hot pink nylon wigs on mannequins showing costumes for the women...
Which are always: Porno Witch! Vampira Stripper! There is actually D-cup cleavage you can strap over your chest, for females not busty enough to make it through Halloween.
Thirty dollars later, I had scored child-sized harem pants and a plastic tiara -- $5 dollars for materials, $25 for the corporate licensing. Which makes me think next year, for my kids? A simple white sheet! It's free -- hence, for Halloween merchants, truly spooky.
RYSSDAL: Sandra Tsing Loh lives in Los Angeles.