I worked retail for many years. I actually really enjoyed it. (and not just because I met the hubby at one of my retail jobs). I remember when I worked at Boston Store in college (mid-west department store) and one of the stores in the mall area (not the mall itself) was open. We all talked a great deal about what this could mean for retail stores in general…and would we ever be open on Thanksgiving. But that was a one year deal and it didn’t happen again….until now. Black Friday has been starting earlier and earlier. It used to be somewhere around 5am. Then each year it seems a store or two would open earlier and earlier. I still remember when midnight was gasp worthy. Now, it is ON Thanksgiving. And the debate begins…how early is too early to open? Should you shop on Thanksgiving or boycott in protest of making retail staff leave their families to work on a holiday?
As a disclaimer before I get going…I am not trying to make an argument for or against this practice. I won’t judge you on when you do or do not shop for Black Friday (Thursday?) deals. Just my thoughts on this subject. First, the biggest thing I think we all need to remember is that we all celebrate holidays differently. Some spend the day with a large extended family. Maybe they play games, maybe they watch football, maybe they watch movies, maybe they all sit around tell stories. Some people spend the time with a more intimate group. And some people don’t celebrate it all, for a variety of reasons. But I think this is an important part of holidays, that every family celebrates differently and we can’t nor should we assume that the holiday has the same meaning for everyone else as it does for ourselves. By opening earlier and earlier, it does allow staff to get more hours in during this time. And often, time and a half on holidays. (Did you know Target is paying their employees time and half on Thursday AND Friday?) Since many of these are college students, extra hours means extra money which is a good thing. Some people are looking for an excuse to get away from their families, so working is not a bad thing. Some really enjoy the rush and craziness that is working during this time.
But really, why are we so upset about asking those in retail to work on the holiday when there are many people who do have to work on holidays including emergency personal, medical personal, wait staff, movie theater staff, gas station staff, and grocery store staff. Those are the obvious, but there are many others that either are working or are on call. There are janitors, cafeteria staff, administrative staff, customer service representatives, pilots, flight attendants, bus drivers, and all the support staff. We had our furnace go out on Thanksgiving a few years ago and a very nice young man spent a great portion of the day at our house working on it. I know when I worked for a staffing company some of our industrial clients had shifts running on holidays. So to say that we are taking people away from their families just to open a retail job…well, that argument does not hold a lot of weight for me as I look at all the other people who are already working. But that is just my opinion.
The biggest argument I have….is the fact that stores start their Black Friday Door Busters on Thursday night with big deals to draw people in, that are only available that night. And because each store only gets a few of any of these big items…you have people lining up for HOURS outside stores. Really? Some TV is worth sitting outside in the cold on a holiday for 5 hours? This is honestly what pulls people away from their families. Having to fight for the best deals and I do mean fight…as you have to be there early, rush to department and grab the 1 of 5 TV’s available at that special low low low price. I mean really, what do you really need that is worth sitting outside for HOURS and missing the family meal or making your family eat at noon so you can go sit in line somewhere. Not deciding to get a head start on your shopping when all your family events are done or winding down and everyone else is passed out in front of the TV from eating so much…just waiting to wake up and hit the left overs for a little midnight snack.
So…should we shop on Thanksgiving or not? I guess that is up to you. Stores are going to be open. Do you protest this concept and avoid the stores altogether? Or do you support the staff who are there to work, support their families, or pay for their own holiday? I don’t think the answer is clear-cut. I think we all have to figure out what feels right for us, what fits our family and our holiday traditions. Because whether we like it or not…stores will be opening on Thanksgiving.